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Open AccessArticle

Coat Color and Cat Outcomes in an Urban U.S. Shelter

1
Department of Sociology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA
2
Department of Sociology, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY 40205, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1720; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101720
Received: 30 August 2020 / Revised: 17 September 2020 / Accepted: 21 September 2020 / Published: 23 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cat Behaviour, Physiology and Welfare)
There is continuing debate as to whether individuals prefer companion cats of varying coat colors, and if so, how color preferences may affect whether cats in shelters are euthanized, adopted, or transferred to another organization. This study analyzed outcomes for nearly 8000 cats admitted to an urban public shelter in Kentucky, USA from 2010 through 2011. While coat color overall was not an important predictor of cat outcomes, a tiered pattern among particular colors was detected. Specifically, black and white cats experienced the highest and lowest chances of euthanasia, respectively, while brown and gray cats experienced more middling chances. Orange cats’ relative chances of euthanasia were more difficult to gauge, but orange and white cats had similar euthanasia and adoption outcomes in the most nuanced model. In addition, there has been persistent speculation that the public’s interest in—and preference for—black cats might spike before Halloween due to cats’ associations with the holiday. However, the present study found that a subsample of more than 1200 entirely black cats did not experience improved chances of adoption or transfer to a rescue organization in October compared to other months. Overall, this study provides weak evidence for what has been termed “Black Cat Bias” by others, and hints that black cats in public shelters should receive extra consideration for rehoming.
Some nonhuman animal shelters have developed rehoming programs for black cats to remedy what they believe are their higher rates of euthanasia and lower rates of adoption. This study reviews humans’ preferences/aversions to cats of various coat colors and uses contingency tables and multinomial logistic regression to test possible differences in outcomes (euthanasia, adoption, or transfer) for 7983 cats that entered an urban public shelter in Kentucky, USA from 2010 through 2011. While coat color overall was negligibly associated with cat outcomes in a contingency table, the pairwise difference between black and white cats was significant (p < 0.05) and nontrivial in strength. Specifically, black cats experienced the highest euthanasia and lowest adoption rates, while white cats had the lowest euthanasia and highest adoption rates. Brown, gray, and orange cats experienced similar outcomes, but middling between those of black and white cats. These patterns by color remained weak but significant after controlling for breed and stray status in regression analysis, with the exception of orange and white, which did not differ significantly. A subsample of 1219 entirely black cats was analyzed to assess whether they had different outcomes during the run-up to Halloween; their October percentages of adoption and transfer were comparable to or lower than all other months of the calendar year. Thus, this study did not find that outcomes improved for black cats during October. Overall, this study provides weak support for what has been termed “Black Cat Bias” by others, and hints that black cats in public shelters should receive extra consideration for rehoming, particularly if such efforts do not substantially redirect resources from other initiatives. View Full-Text
Keywords: shelter euthanasia; shelter adoption; rehoming; coat color; black cat; Halloween shelter euthanasia; shelter adoption; rehoming; coat color; black cat; Halloween
MDPI and ACS Style

Carini, R.M.; Sinski, J.; Weber, J.D. Coat Color and Cat Outcomes in an Urban U.S. Shelter. Animals 2020, 10, 1720.

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