29 June 2013

Cats: Colors and Personalities

I decided it was time for me to do some reading on feline genetics.  I knew some of the basics about genetics, but how the rules applied to coat color or other genetic traits, I was a bit uncertain.  So, I got a copy of Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians, by Roy Robinson.  This is the standard feline genetics book and is used in vet schools and by breeders the world over.  I'm about half-way through it for a second time (skimmed it quickly the first time) and it's fascinating.  But I have one major question left:

Is there a relationship between a cat's coat color and its personality?

Based on this book and on genetics, the answer really should be no.  But when I talk to people, owners, rescue people, and breeders, I get the same answer -- yes, there is a relationship between color and personality.  Here's a few of the color/personalities:
  • Solid red -- shy, easily spooked
  • Red tabby or red bicolor -- clownish
  • Tortoiseshell and calico -- wild, outgoing
  • Silver -- quiet, reserved, sweet
  • Blues -- loyal, calm
So is there a relationship or not?  At some point, someone usually then states that it's how the cats were raised which make a big difference.  And for a while I agreed with this and I still do in part. But,...

This is Kami, a shaded cameo.  She's friendly, outgoing, and somewhat fearless.  She adjusts to new situations easily.  She comes for pets and scratches and did so from day 1.  

This is Khloe, a solid red.  She's very shy, nervous, and scared of lights on the ceiling!  Her method of adjusting to new things is to hide, for days if necessary.  She does like to be petted but you have to slowly reach into her hiding place and pet her.  One week later and she's finally coming out of her cupboard, but only at night.

These two girls are polar opposites in terms of personality, yet both have the 'red gene' and the real interesting part, they are sisters!  They were from the same litter, raised by the same person, and have always lived together.  So, on the nurture vs. nature debate, they had the same 'nurture', which then would suggest it's 'nature'.

But that brings us back to my original question -- are personalities really genetically tied to coat color in some way we have yet to figure out?

1 comment:

Barbara said...

The HoneyBees have the red gene and both are incredibly sociable. They'd greet an ax-murderer at the door and looks for snuggles. Humphrey is more cautious, but is hardly shy. Bogart wears his heart on his fuzzy sleeve. I don't know the answer to your question, but I wonder if there is something to their parents' personalities and the birth order.