The agouti cat color refers, in fact, to a coat pattern; a type of cat coat and in fact the most common cat coat. The word “agouti” is the name given to a coat in which individual hair strands are colored with bands of black, brown and yellow. The resulting overall appearance is the classic brown tabby cat which can be either striped, spotted or blotched. The pattern is formed by black or very dark fur. The typical agouti pattern is clearly seen in what is described as the “ticked” coat of the Abyssinian cat. This pattern is caused by the agouti gene.
In the Abyssinian cat breed all the individual hairs are banded as described above. This is an all-agouti cat whereas in the tabby cat the agouti areas are interspersed with darker markings.
The dark patches are superimposed on the agouti hairs. Dr Desmond Morris says that “the yellow bands on the each hair being overlaid with darker pigment, creating what looks to the naked eye like an all-dark hair”.
Having looked at a tabby coat carefully, in my opinion the dark patches are caused by an extension of the size of the black or dark brown band on each individual hair and this banding is at the top of the hair strand. When these hair strands are grouped together they form a blotch, stripe or spot depending upon how the genes have influenced the formation of the coat.
You also get tabby coats in different overall colors such as silver or grey. This obviously due to selective breeding. However, the classic tabby coat is brown. In short, the agouti cat color is a misdescription because it refers to a pattern more than a color and is a reference to the name of the gene that caused it.
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