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Cat Coat Colors And Patterns

One of the wonderful things about cats is the vast range of coat colors and patterns that makes each one unique. Genetic mutations can cause the most wonderful combinations of colours and markings, and selective breeding has also produced some beautiful patterns.

These are the main colors that cat varieties come in:

  • White
  • Black
  • Red (Ginger)
  • Blue / Grey
  • Cream
  • Brown
  • Cinnamon
  • Fawn

A inquisitive little tabby cat hiding inside a paper bag
This playful tabby is playing hide and seek with a paper bag

These are the many color coat patterns found amongst our feline friends:


Solid / Self-color

This is the easiest coat type to spot, because they are all one color. If a cat has any other splodge of color on her then she is not considered a solid coat type.


A solid black cat
A solid black cat

Bi-color

Bi-color is when a cat has a white coat with patches of another hue, for example black or tabby. As you would expect there are many different variations. This coat type is caused by the white spotting gene. You will sometimes hear bi-color cats being referred to as having magpie (random spotting), harlequin (random spotting with colored tail), cap and saddle (coloured head, with a colored saddle on their back), or van (colour splashes in-between ears, and colored tail).


A beautiful black and white bicolour cat
Life in black and white: A beautiful bicolor cat

Tabby

This is the most common coat type in cats around the world, harking back to the stripey pattern of the domestic cat's wild ancestors. There are actually four variations on the tabby theme.

  • Striped or mackerel tabby - this is when a cat has vertical stripes running from its spine to its belly.
  • Classic or blotched tabby - this is when there is a swirly pattern, creating a marbled effect.
  • Spotted tabby - as the name suggests this variation has spots.
  • Ticked tabby - these usually have striped legs and tail (but not always), with the rest of the body appearing mottled from the agouti hair. Agouti hair is when each individual hair is more than one color.

A tabby cat with an incredible coat
A tabby cat with a super cool coat

Tortoiseshell

Tortoiseshells are a mixture of red (ginger) and black. They can come in various dilutions, with the most diluted torties being blue and cream. The coat pattern is mainly seen females. Torties can also vary from brindled, where the two colors are well mixed, to having distinct patches. You can get a mixture of a tabby and a tortoiseshell, also known as a ‘torbie’. These have the distinct markings of both coat patterns.


A cat with a Tortoiseshell coat
A Tortoiseshell coat is common amongst feral cats

Tri Color / Calico

This coat pattern consists of red (ginger), black and white colouration. Just like the tortoiseshell, a calico can be diluted, showing grey, cream and white patches.


A beautiful Calico cat walking on the grass
A Calico cat walk - the height of feline fashion

Color Point

This coat pattern is when the coat is darker on the face, paws, and tail. This is thought to be caused by a gene that causes the coolest part of the cat's body to become darker.


A colourpoint cat with a beautifully patterned coat
This colorpoint cat knows where it's at

A colorpoint cat is born without the distinct darker markings but develops them as they grow. Strange but true: Scientific experiments have shown that if colorpoint kittens are kept in a warm room, the darker markings won’t develop.



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Comments

Lesley, 9 September 2019

My mother always called a cat marked with ginger black and white as a daffodil cat. Is there such an expression for this colour Way? Regards lesley


Annie, 23 August 2019

This was really helpful towards my research which is taking me a long while. I would recommend this web page to others.


Sandra, 26 April 2019

I have a tortie colored female. Phoebe's hair is long. Is it okay to get her coat shaved?


Jan, 16 January 2019

I have a black with very small white spot on neck male cat and a black tipped white female cat. Both British shorthair. Would like 1 litter. What colour kittens do you think I might have please?


Gabrielle, 8 September 2018

Hi! You mentioned many alternative names for bi-colour cats who are black and white. I thought you might be amused to know that in Ontario Canada, where many holstein cows are raised that are quite variable in their black and white colouring, such cars are locally referred to as "Cow Cats".

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