Colours that Stress and Calm Your Cat

A cat’s anatomy and man-made chemical additives may be the reason behind certain feline reactions

We spend literally billions of dollars a year on our pets; $60 billion in 2015 in the US alone. It seems that when it comes to our beloved animal companions, we spare no expense in keeping them healthy and happy. For many of us, that means trying to find the best toy for cats.

The Best Toy for Cats

There’s something we, as cat guardians, continue to do without any real reason other than it makes us feel like better caregivers: buy cat toys. How many of us have unwanted plastic balls with bells inside, catnip-stuffed animals, and discarded mechanical mice laying around the house? So often our cat will take a minute or two, if we’re lucky, to inspect a new toy brought into the house before giving us that look that we’ve failed, that says, “What makes you think I would find this remotely interesting?”

Yet, as soon as you crumple up the receipt from the toy and miss when you try to toss it in the trash, the cat goes nuts for it, playing and pawing it until it gets lost under the couch or refrigerator. It’s gotten to the point that if I’m on the phone and need something to write on quickly, I just reach under the couch and uncrumple a paper ball.

But why do cats like/hate paper balls so much? Is it to torture our sense of needing to feel like a good parent by actually purchasing something we find more interesting for them and failing every time?

What Cats See at the Vet

Turns out that cats actually see into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum by means of their “ocular media … which allows more light to reach the retina.” What that means, according to Heather Lewis, principal of Animal Arts, a design firm that focuses on “animal care environments that reduce stress and promote overall animal wellness and socialization,” is that they see certain white objects as if under a black light.

“Anything that’s like a white bright that has a whitener or brightener in it, like a piece of paper, for example, or a white coat that a veterinarian might wear will look to the cat like it’s glowing,” Lewis said in my interview with her at Purina’s Better With Pets Summit. The reason for this is that man-made optical brighteners that are added to certain products to make them appear brighter absorb light in the UV spectrum. She stressed that we should try to avoid these things that could be frightening to a cat who may experience large white objects or enclosures very intensely. “You wouldn’t want to put your cat in a bright, white, glowing carrier to take them to the vet,” for instance.

Calming Cat Colours

Dr. Marty Becker, Chief Veterinary Correspondent for the American Humane Association, says that when it comes to choosing calming colours for cats, we should “think of Easter with the pastel colours, so literally the pastel blue, the pastel green, the pastel purple.” Great choices for a veterinarian to wear, and you can even choose these for the colours of blankets to keep with your cat in stressful situations.

So while your vet, and even you, may want to avoid wearing white while handling your cat, you can still take advantage of your cat’s abilities and crumple up a piece of white paper, as it’s not only the best toy for cats because it’s naturally stimulating, but also the cheapest. You’ll be doing them and your wallet a big favour.

And I guess that’s why Shorty loved/hated paper so much as a kitten:

9 thoughts on “Colours that Stress and Calm Your Cat

    1. No, it’s always a bit pink, might look different depending on the lighting if it looks like a different chair. Ah, the good ol’ chair!

  1. Hmmm…I see me already offering the vet next time some pastel pink shirt 😉
    Yellow can also be a colour that frightens cat. Got one time a yellow tablemat; my cat turned into a hissing, spitting Furball when seeing it.

  2. Hmmm…Rob, you just gave me an idea.

    Not only is my recliner leather- I know, cat scratching heaven (hey, it was a gift from before I got Sammy). But, it is off white.

    Great- two reasons why it turned into a Very Fancy Scratching Post.

    Gee Thanks Rob for the idea (said in a joking, sarcastic voice 🙂 ).

  3. How come it became about what the adults where are the Vets where instead of thinking about the animal who is stressed out or needs help!

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