How mean is your cat? It depends on the colour of its coat, says science

Posted by
Anna Pollitt

Struggling to befriend those unnaproachable neighbourhood moggies? This new cat coat shade chart may be the answer.

A US study has linked the colour of feline fur to how aggressive the animals are towards humans.

Veterinary scientists at the University of California, Davis, set out to test the theory that female cats with tortoiseshell coats are more likely to get their claws out.

Their study of 1,274 cat owners found that multi-coloured kitties in shades of black and white, tortoiseshell and white or grey and white are “more frequently aggressive toward humans”.

This includes biting, hissing and general "back off pesky human" behaviour.

Grumpy tortoiseshell cat

Don't worry grumpy, we still love you

Published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, the research considers cats' everyday interactions with people and how they respond on visits to the vet.

It found:

  • Black and white cats are least receptive to being handled
  • Grey and white cats are most likely to become aggressive at the vet's
  • Tortoiseshell cats are generally the most hostile to humans 

How cats coats fare on the aggression scale:

Most aggressive

  • Tortoiseshell and white (calico)
  • Black and white
  • Grey and white

Least aggressive:

  • Black
  • Grey
  • White
  • Tabby

But don't write off patterned coat cats entirely. Lead researcher Dr Liz Stellow told The Huffington Post her own cat is tortoiseshell and “is not the least bit aggressive.”

“It's not that your average white cat is an angel and your average calico is a devil,” she explained. “We're looking at a continuum here.”

Join in the discussion on cat behaviour on our Facebook page

Images: Think Stock


Share this article


Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant. The baby is borrowed.

Related Posts