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Coat color and aggressive behaviors in cats

Stelow EA, Bain MJ, Kass PH. The relationship between coat color and aggressive behaviors in the domestic cat. J Appl Anim Welf Sci.2016 Jan-Mar;19(1):1-15.

Connections to physical conditions are known to exist for various coat colors of animals. Some examples include white coat color in dogs and cats with congenital deafness, and  an association between coat color and aggressive behavior in a number of species including silver foxes and mink. Coat-color pattern genes in the cat fall into four categories that dictate the amount of white (“spotting”); the intensity of pigment (“dilution”); the orange and agouti pelage (“pigment-type switching”); and the patterns of ticked, tabby, and spotted (“pattern”). Behaviors have also been linked to heritability.

This study used an Internet-based survey to collect information on coat color, affiliative behaviors toward cats/humans, agonistic behaviors toward cats/humans, other “problem” behaviors, and cat and guardian demographic data. A total of 1,432 cat guardians completed the online survey; after exclusions based on study protocol, data analysis included 1,274 completed surveys. Guardians reported sex-linkedorange female (tortoiseshells, calicos, and “torbies”), black-and-white, and gray-and-white cats to be more frequently aggressive toward humans in 3 settings: during everyday interactions, during handling, and during veterinary visits.

Despite the statistical significance, the median scores in all three categories of aggression suggest that the differences between sex-linked females, black-and-whites, or gray-and-whites and the other colors are relatively small and could potentially be explained by guardian differences in interpretation of the scoring criteria. It may also be due to the relatively low levels of aggression in cats overall, as evidenced by the low median scores, so that any difference, however small, comes out as significant. This study suggests that coat colors may be associated with aggressive behaviors in the cat but that the differences are relatively minor.  (MK)

See also:
Grahn RA, Lemesch BM, Millon LV, et al. Localizing the X-linked orange colour phenotype using feline resource families. Anim Genet. 2005 Feb;36(1):67-70.