Cat Color and Patterns

Cat color and patterns

– all the photographs on this page are copyright Helmi Flick except the Calico cat by fofurafelinas

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats
and the golden shaded Australian Tiffanie by Tatiana Lenton(©Tatiana Lenton). The calico cat is published under published under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs creative commons License  — this site is for charitable purposes in funding cat rescue.

The Tiffanie is published with the express permission of the author and is a cropped version to fit this format.


A number of the links below open a new window and go to a blogger site.

Solid – black and blue

solid cat coats black and blue

Colors: Black, chocolate, blue, lilac, fawn, red, cream, white. See pictures and details here: Solid Cat Coats. As expected, solid color means continuous color. It is not unusual, however, for faint tabby markings to show through, particularly for cream  (dilute red) and red cats. The cats featured are black and blue (Nox and Sky – Ken & Helmi’s cats). 1

tortie cat color

Mosaic of color pigment; eumelanin and phaeomelanin. The amounts are determined at the embryo stage. Colors: chocolate, cinnamon, blue, lilac or fawn tortie (the last 3 are diluted). The preferred pattern is evenly distributed with good delineation between the colors. The nose streak (blaze) is desired. Tortoiseshell cats, Black Tortoiseshell cats. 2

Tabby  – mackerel is one type
tabby cat coat

The most commonly encountered cat color and pattern. See much more here: Cats coats tabby. There are two things going on to make the tabby pattern: the famous agouti gene producing the ticked (banded) hair shafts and the Primary Tabby gene. Patterns: ticked, mackerel, spotted classic and marbled.

Tipped – black smoke is one type

black smoke coat persian cat

This cat color and pattern relates to the fact that the individual hairs are colored at the end, the tip.The lower portion of each individual hair shaft lacks color color due to the inhibitor gene and it is thought, another gene. The amount of the tipping dictates the type either, smoke, shaded or chinchilla. See-Black Smoke Maine Coon

Silver – spotted is one type

silver spotted tabby bengal

The ground color has been “silvered”. It is caused by the inhibitor gene that removes the yellow pigment granules in the hair shafts. The smoke effect above is also caused by this gene but in the case of smoke the yellow pigment in the hair is removed from the lower part only. Examples: chinchilla, spotted tabby, silver torbies.

pointed cat siamese

We all know the Siamese and the pointed coat. Pointing means that the “points” of the body (i.e. extremities, the mask, ears, tail and feet) are darker. There are many variations of pointing, which can be seen here: Cat Coats Pointed.The cat on the left is a Modern Siamese with the classic seal pointing. 6

Solid & White
Solid and White Cornish Rex cat

The Solid and White cat is a solid colored cat with the white spotting or piebald geneproducing the white areas by preventing the migration of the pigment cells during the embryonic stage.The cat on the left is a black and white Cornish Rex.See: Cat Coats Solid and White 7

Tortoiseshell & White
Tortoiseshell and white cat

These are called Calico cats in the USA and as a less technical term in the UK and elsewhere. Tortoiseshell and White cats are, as expected, the result of the presence of the genes that produce the tortie mosaic together with the white spotting genementioned above.This post covers it all: Calico Cats. 8

Tabby & White
Brown classic tabby and white cat

One sees lots of tabby and white cats because they are so popular. The coat color and pattern is caused by the well know piebald or white spotting gene interacting with the genes that produce the tabby pattern, the Primary Tabby gene. This page deals with this coat color and pattern in more detail: Cat Coats Tabby and White. 9

Tipped & White – golden shaded
tipped and white cat

Golden shaded and white is just one example of a tipped cat color and pattern. The cat illustrated is a golden shaded Australian Tiffanie cat called Gastonne.Tipping, as mentioned, is caused by the inhibitor gene. The white areas are caused by the piebald gene.10

Silver & White
Silver and White cat LaPerm

I have already mentioned the silver coat color and how it is formed. In the silver and white cat color and pattern (and curled hair!) the silvered hair is affected once again by the piebald geneto create the white areas.The featured cat is a silver laPerm, one of cat breeds with curly cat coats.

Pointed & White
poined and white cat Snowshoe cat

You can see how the points, the extremities of this Snowshoe cat have been rendered white by the white spotting or piebald gene.See: Cat Coats Pointed for a discussion on the genetics of pointing and this page: Snowshoe cat for more of this very interesting looking cat.

There are no white cat breeds, incidentally. Update: there is one: Khao Manee!

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

12 thoughts on “Cat Color and Patterns”

  1. Michael, greetings. Although the Khao Manee is referred to as a breed in the west, in its native Thailand this is a colour variety of the Maew Boran (the native Thai cat). With the generous help of The Thai International Maew Boran Association, TIMBA ( I put together some information and a colour chart to correct the misconception of what is a breed and what is a colour of the Maew Boran

    Thai cat lovers feel that Western cat fancies are appropriating their much-loved native cats and using them to create breeds instead of preserving the real Thai native breed. Maybe you’d like to contact TIMBA for your own article?

    1. Sarah, I am on your page and above the Khao Manee and other examples of Thai cats you have the heading: Historical Thai Breeds Illustrated or Described in the Tamra Maew.

      I have probably missed something but this states that the Khao Manee is a breed and not a color variety of the Maew Boran.

      1. If you read the entirety, you’ll see that it is considered a breed in the West, but is a colour variety in Thailand (see the section on preserving the Maew Boran). It’s hard for many Western cat fanciers to get their minds around the concept of their “breeds” starting out as colourways of a single Thai breed. It’s a problem of different ways of thinking!

        “In Thailand, there is a single conformation. What Western breeders think of as “breeds” (Siamese, Korat etc) are just colour varieties of the native Thai cat. The different colours can be freely crossed and then given the name of their phenotype: Wichienmaat for colourpointed, Korat for solid blue, Suphalak for solid brown etc. Crossing any of the varieties with a Khao Manee gives a whole litter of Khao Manees, but the offspring’s descendants could revert to being Konja, or Ninlaret or whatever! The separation of the these variities into “pure breeds” in the West is illogical to Thai breeders, but is deeply entrenched in (and insurmountable after a century or more) the Western cat fancy. Some Thai varieties do have special characteristics that Thai breeders preserve through selective breeding. The silver tipping of the Korat is preserved by mating Korat-to-Korat, however it’s seen as perfectly reasonable to use a blue point wichienmaat in a Korat program. Any colourpointed descendants are simply not called Korats! Technically they are not Wichienmaat either, as only the seal-point is recognised as a variety.”

  2. If you’re interested in the huge range of colours and patterns, I’ve compiled a page of charts which I’ve placed the charts in the public domain. The charts show how the colours are related (dense, dilution, caramel, amber, russet), the grades of white spotting and how some of the colours and patterns interact. The page is a live project being updated as new mutations/gene interactions are documented.

      1. Kept me occupied on the rainy days! A group of fanciers needed some charts that they could use on websites & in tutorials, and edit if necessary, without worrying about copyright issues.

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