London - Amongst humans, it has become a magnet for ridicule and discrimination.

But it turns out being ginger is actually quite cool - for cats.

New research shows ginger moggies are cat owners’ favourites, because they are perceived as friendly and lovable.

In contrast, white cats are seen as aloof and distant, tabby cats as intolerant and black cats - as befits their depiction in folklore - as unlucky and mysterious.

The study, by researchers at University of California, Berkeley, set out to examine the reasons why, in previous investigations, it was found that dark cats were more likely to be put down because their owners were unable to cope and that tabby cats were often handed over to shelters because they had too much “attitude”.

The team behind the latest results say they are important because so-called “feline typecasting” can have a negative effect on adoption rates at animal rescue shelters.

Mikel Delgado, a psychology student who led the study, said: “There are serious repercussions for cats if people believe that some cat colours are friendlier than others.

“We hope this will be a starting point for more research into whether there is a genetic or physical basis - such as coat colour - for personality differences in cats.

“Previous research supports the existence of ‘black cat syndrome’, where black and brown cats are less likely to be adopted than cats of other colours.”

The team recruited 189 cat owners in California and asked them to rate, on a scale of one to seven, the personalities of different coloured cats.

The traits they were presented with ranged from active, aloof and bold to shy, friendly and trainable.

The findings, published in the journal Anthrozoos, showed pet owners view ginger cats as friendly and approachable.

White ones were perceived as somewhat aloof, shy, lazy and calm and tabbies intolerant but trainable.

Black cats, on the other hand, had the reputation of being anti-social and mysterious.

Britain has an estimated eight million cats and nearly one in five households has at least one as a pet.

But alarming new figures from the charity Cat Protection suggest increasing numbers of owners are being forced to abandon their animals because they can no longer afford to keep them in the economic crisis.

The charity and the RSPCA receive around 31,000 calls reporting stray cats a year - up a third since 2009.

It’s feared the number of stray cats in Britain is at an all-time high and is being further fuelled by the fact that some owners have become amateur breeders to supplement their income. - Daily Mail