Long-haired, short-haired, no-haired. Plain, striped, tortoiseshell, blotchy. There is a rich variety in cat coats.
The short-furred Cornish Rex is a great choice for allergy sufferers
These include the Sphynx and the Peterbald. They’re not actually hairless – their skin is covered in a suede-like layer of very fine hair. There are also very shorthaired cats such as the Cornish Rex, which are equally good for allergy sufferers. But there are one or two consequences for what is, let’s face it, an unnatural physical trait. Hairless breeds require regular bathing, as their skins become very oily. In other breeds of cat the hair soaks up much of the naturally produced oil. Hairless cats suffer in the cold too – they are, in effect, facing winter without a winter coat. They are also vulnerable to sunburn.
Short Haired Cats
There are several short hair cats breeds, including the British Shorthair, the Burmese, the Manx, the Bengal, and the Savannah. These are breeds with hair no longer than 1.5 inches. They are low maintenance, requiring little or no brushing.
The British Shorthair is a beautiful, low-maintenance cat
Long Haired Cats
Popular breeds in this category include the Maine Coon, Ragdoll, and Persian. Long Hair cats have fur longer than 1.5 inches, but it can grow up to 5 inches, depending on the breed. Their coats need lots of brushing, and they shed all the time. They cough up more fur-balls than shorter-haired breeds, for the obvious reason that they swallow more fur when grooming.
This Persian may look a little aloof, but she's a gentle and friendly breed
Cat Coat Colors and Patterns
Selective breeding has produced some beautiful coat patterns in pedigree cats. Crossbreeds come in an endless variety too.
Having said that, the colour palette is limited to these basics: White, Black, Red (Ginger), Blueish / Grey, Cream, Brown, Cinnamon, Fawn. These combine in subtle variations to produce an amazing variety of color coat patterns:
Solid / Self-color
This is the easiest coat type to spot, being all one color. Cats of this type are surprisingly uncommon – if a cat’s coat has any other splodge of color, no matter how small, it is not a solid / self color.
There are many different variations on the bi-color coat. A cat of this type has a base of white with patches of color. If the spots are random the pattern is referred to as magpie, or the more prosaic “random spotting”. Random spotting with a colored tail is known as harlequin. Colored head and back (saddle) is called cap and saddle. A cat with splashes of color between the ears, with a colored tail, is called van.
This is the classic striped or marbled coat, and is the most common pattern in domestic cats. It harks back to the striped pattern of the ancestral wild cats. There are four tabby variations:
This Striped Tabby cat enjoys lots of attention
- Striped or Mackerel: vertical stripes running from spine to belly.
- Classic or Blotched tabby: no distinct stripes, but a marbled effect.
- Spotted: spots instead of stripes.
- Ticked: each hair is more than one color (known as Agouti hair), often with striped legs and tail too.
Tortoiseshells come in various shades. The commonest is gingery-red and black, but they come in lighter shades (known as dilutions), the lightest being a mixture of blue-grey and cream. The colors are sometimes well mixed (brindled), sometimes in distinct patches.
Like all cats, this Tortoiseshell goes crazy for catnip!
This is a mixture of a tabby and a tortoiseshell. These cats combine the distinct markings of both coat patterns.
Tri Color / Calico
Another common pattern, this coat is a mixture of gingery red, black and white, in endless variations. Like tortoiseshell types, the colors are often diluted, fading down to grey, cream and white.
These cats are basically one color, but darker on the face, paws, and tail. Fascinatingly, experiments involving kittens and heated rooms have shown that if permanently warm, the young cats do not develop the darker extremities. The underlying cause, say the researchers, is a gene that causes the coolest part of the cat's body to become darker. If the markings have not developed in the kitten, they will not occur later when the animal is an adult.