Harlequin (cat)

In the cat world ‘harlequin’ is a word that is occasionally (but rarely today) used to describe the bi-colour coat with more white fur than non-white fur. Bicoloured cats are white plus distinct areas of colour. For the harlequin, the coat should be 50-75 per cent white and 50-25 per cent coloured. This coat type is caused by the piebald (white spotting) gene which removes pigmentation from the hair strands which are ‘white’. They are transparent.

The white areas tend to favour the frontal parts of the cat and the undersides.

The word ‘piebald’ is a merging of the second part of the word ‘magpie’ and the word ‘bald’ which describes a lack of pigment in the while areas of the coat. In this instance ‘bald’ means without colour rather than without hair.

The magpie has a bicolour coloration and in the past piebald cats have sometimes been referred to as ‘magpie cats’. The term ‘bicolour’ or ‘bi-colour’ (American: bi-color) found favour over harlequin.

RELATED: Why do magpies harass cats and do they retaliate?

Useful links
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In 1957 a man by the name of Dechambre wrote this about bicolour cats: “By a pied cat is meant any cat with large patches of colour on a white background”. At that time ‘pied’ was used rather than piebald.

In 1970 ‘white spotting’ was used as an alternative to piebald.

In general usage the word ‘harlequin’ means ‘in varied colours; variegated.’ You can see how the word was adopted by the cat fancy to mean a predominantly white bicolour cat.

Here is an example:

Red harlequin cat
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Red harlequin cat. Picture in the public domain.

Below are some articles on bicolour cat coats:

Adopted feral cat is a real beauty

Stunning beauty: extreme high grade 9 white spotting adopted feral cat

Yes, the title is complicated. Deliberately so to catch the eye as does the cat who was adopted as a ...
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Picture of cat who wears her heart on her sleeve

Picture of a domestic cat who wears her heart on her sleeve

If English is your language, you have probably heard of the phrase "to wear your heart on your sleeve". However, ...
Read More
Black-and-white cat with remarkable large spotted coat

White-and-black cat with remarkably large and even spots

I am unsure if this is a genuine cat. It looks like it because the black spots are made of ...
Read More
Super rare bicolour pattern on off-white cat

Amazing pattern on grade 8 bicolor cat

You've probably never seen a domestic cat coat like this before. The coat is bicolour meaning two colours: white and ...
Read More
Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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