Finnish salmiak cat coat colouration

The salmiak cat coat is a variation on the tuxedo cat which is essentially a black-and-white (bicolor) cat but predominantly black with white on the chest area. In the salmiak version the black hairs are white at the tip which gives an interesting graded appearance to what would have been black fur – described as “salty licorice” (salmiak) – but for the genetic mutation which was isolated in a recent study called: “A new Finnish flavor of feline coat coloration, “salmiak,” is associated with a 95-kb deletion downstream of the KIT gene“. The lead author is Heidi Anderson. See full citation at base of this page.

Salmiak cat coat from Finland
Bottom picture: Ari Kankainen. Top picture: the cats’ owner. Salmiak cat coat from Finland
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The Finnish salmiak cat coat is a unique fur pattern caused by a recent genetic mutation discovered in Finland. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Appearance: Imagine a tuxedo cat with a twist. The black fur (or any other base color) is only present at the base of the hair, gradually turning white towards the tip. This creates a striking, two-toned effect reminiscent of salmiakki, a popular Finnish candy with a salty licorice flavor.
  • Origin: The mutation first appeared around 2007 in feral cat populations of central Finland. Researchers believe it originated from a single source and has remained relatively rare.
  • Genetics: Scientists identified the responsible gene and named the mutation Wsal. It’s recessive, meaning a cat needs two copies (one from each parent) to have the salmiak coat. Cats with one copy might have some white spotting in their fur. Whole-genome sequencing revealed a large ~95 kb deletion located ~65 kb downstream of the KIT gene in salmiak cats.
  • Name: The name “salmiak” comes from the resemblance to the licorice candy. It perfectly captures the essence of this interesting coat pattern.

Any linked health issues to this genetic mutation?

None stated.

The study does not specifically mention health implications associated with the “salmiak” phenotype in Finnish domestic cats. However, it’s important to note that coat coloration genetics can sometimes be linked to other health-related factors. For instance, mutations in the KIT gene (which is implicated in the salmiak phenotype) have been associated with certain health conditions in cats.

However, without specific data from the study, we cannot definitively conclude any health implications related to the salmiak phenotype. If you have a cat exhibiting this coat coloration, it’s always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian to monitor their overall health and well-being if you want to be cautious. My impression is that there are no health issues but this my opinion.

How common is it?

Not sure!

The prevalence of the “salmiak” phenotype in Finnish domestic cats is not explicitly mentioned in the study. However, the researchers’ discovery of this unique coat coloration suggests that it is a distinct and noteworthy variant. Further studies would be needed to determine its frequency within the cat population. 😺

Here is a typical tuxedo cat for comparison:

Tuxedo cat. This is actually a random bred show cat and the photo was taken at a cat show by Helmi
Tuxedo cat. This is actually a random bred show cat and the photo was taken at a cat show by Helmi

Citation: Heidi Anderson et al, A new Finnish flavor of feline coat coloration, “salmiak,” is associated with a 95‐kb deletion downstream of the KIT gene, Animal Genetics (2024). DOI: 10.1111/age.13438

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