What is a colourpoint cat?

There are two separate topics to discuss under the heading “colourpoint cat”. There are purebred cats of various breeds with pointing. These are all colourpoint cats. So, the term ‘colourpoint cat’ can apply to, for example, a pointed Persian cat called a Himalayan cat or a pointed British Shorthair cat. It’s an umbrella term which applies to all purebred cats with pointing i.e. darker extremities.

Colourpoint Shorthair

The other way to interpret the phrase ‘colourpoint cat’ is to refer to a specific cat breed with the word ‘colorpoint’ (the American spelling) in its name: the Colorpoint Shorthair. This is a specific breed of cat, accepted and registered with the CFA (Cat Fanciers’ Association).

Colorpoint Shorthair - red point
Colorpoint Shorthair – red point. Photo: Larry Johnson.
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The Colourpoint Shorthair is essentially a Siamese cat with no limit on the coloration of the extremities (the pointing). It is an artificially created breed, in that, at the beginning, in the 1940s and 1950s a few breeders decided that it would be a good idea to selectively breed a Siamese with red pointing. They achieved this by crossing a Siamese with a red tabby American shorthair. The CFA say that this is the beginning of the Colourpoint Shorthair breed.

It is essentially a Siamese cat with a wide range of colouring to the points which is not limited by the breed standard of the cat associations. The cat has the same body conformation i.e. body appearance, of the contemporary Siamese cat which is slender and angular shaped. It is just that the pointing that is different.

Colourpoint cats in general

A colourpoint cat has a pale ground colour and darker extremities at the face, feet, ears and tail. The classic colourpoint is the Siamese. The gene which creates the temperature sensitive coat of the Siamese has been ‘injected’ into other breeds creating a wide range of Colourpoint cats.

Javanese is a colourpoint cat
Javanese is a colourpoint cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick. This cat may be a lynx point as well as flame pointed.

The Cat Fanciers’ Association have a page on the Colourpoint Shorthair which they describe as cousins of the Siamese because they are close relatives. They are Siamese cats with different colour pointing. There is some confusion in my view about the use of the term ‘colourpoint’. I believe it is an American term. For example, the seal tabby point or lynx point Siamese is called a Colourpoint Shorthair in the USA.

RELATED: What is a Flame Point Himalayan cat?

You’ll see Colourpoints in longhaired cats such as the Ragdoll which has Siamese cat markings plus variable amounts of white. The close relative of the Ragdoll, the RagaMuffin, has unusual point colours. The Snowshoe has darker extremities with the addition of white spotting on the feet and face.

Old Himalayan cat
Old Himalayan cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick

The Himalayan is a longhaired Persian with pointing. It is therefore a Colourpoint longhaired cat. There is also the Colourpoint British Shorthair which is the popular British Shorthair with Siamese points. There are others so this list is not comprehensive.

This is a lynx point OSH. It could just as well be a lynx pointed Siamese.
Photo copyright Helmi Flick. This is a lynx point OSH. It could just as well be a lynx pointed Siamese.

Of course, the Siamese can be a colourpoint cat too. The gene creates a sensitivity in the pigment producing cells to temperature which results in the warmer parts of the skin (the central areas) creating lighter fur. Geneticists call it the ‘Siamese allele. Its symbol is cs. The Siamese cat is described by the authors of the book Robinson’s Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians as ‘a non-agouti black with the addition of the Siamese allele’. In other words, a black cat with the blackness taken from the cat at the flanks and central parts.

If the lighter fur from the flank is shaved away from a Colourpoint cat because of surgery, initially when the fur grows back it is darker than the surrounding fur as the skin is colder as it is not covered by fur.

There’s a range of colours for the ‘points’ of cats. Whereas the original Siamese is seal coloured – a dark seal brown – over time breeders have created a wide spectrum from blue to chocolate and lilac and more. As mentioned, there is tabby pointing which is called ‘lynx pointing’. The flame point is red pointing which you can see by clicking on this link. The colour at the extremities can sometimes be bred to be diluted. There is also tortoiseshell pointing. It gets quite complicated.

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