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7 Cat coat patterns and 6 types of coloring

Mackerel tabby, calico, colorpoint – all these strange terms refer to cat fur patterns. If you’re in the dark about these notions and your knowledge of cat coloring is restricted by ‘black’ and ‘striped’, this definitive guide will provide you with valuable insight. Find out which types of cat fur exist, and what are your cat’s fur colors. 


7 Cat Coat Patterns 

1. Solid color

Solid cat coat color might not be the most widespread one but it looks gorgeous. One color is evenly distributed over the entire body, but if there’s a single spot of a different hue, the pet is no longer “solid-colored”. Some kittens might have hairs of another color, but as they mature, those disappear.

Solid-colored breeds are:

  • Russian blue
  • British
  • Bombay
  • Havana

2. Bicolor

Bicolor fur in cats is displayed in many variations. As a rule, it’s a solid color mixed with tabby or single-colored spots. Interesting to note, each coat pattern has its specific name. For example, all-white cats with a few colored spots are called Harlequin, while black cats with white belly and paws are called “Tuxedo”.

Bi-colored cat patterns are found in:

  • Siberian
  • Angora
  • British
  • Scottish
  • Persian
  • Turkish Van

3. Tricolor

This pattern usually consists of white, black, and orange (or creamy and blue alternative options) and is often referred to as “Calico”. Sometimes, it’s also called “tortoiseshell with white”.

Tricolor cat coat pattern is observed in:

  • Manx
  • Maine Coon
  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Neva Masquerade
  • Persian
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Kurilian Bobtail
  • Exotic Cat

4. Tabby

Tabby coloring divides into four subcategories: striped (mackerel), blotched (marbled), spotted, and ticked (agouti). Being represented by dozens of breeds, this is the most widespread cat coat type.

Tabby breeds are:

  • Ocelot
  • Abyssinian
  • Domestic shorthair
  • American bobtail
  • Oriental
  • American curl
  • Maine Coon

5. Tortoiseshell

With the unique combination of black and orange, this cat fur pattern is more typical of female cats. Unfortunately, such cats are rare and almost always sterile. Some have a tabby pattern on the belly – it’s called “torbie”.

Tortoiseshell cat breeds include:

  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Persian
  • Cornish Rex
  • Ragamuffin
  • Maine Coons

6. Colorpoint

Cats with such patterns have darker head, tail, and paws than the rest of their body. Fun fact: this pattern is conditioned by temperature, which means cooler body parts develop darker colors. Points can be of a different hue, from creamy brown to blue and white.

Colorpoint cats are:

  • Balinese
  • Birman
  • British Shorthair
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Highlander
  • Himalayan
  • Javanese
  • Napoleon

7. Shading

Here, we talk about any colors of cats but with a pure white undercoat and color at the tip of hairs. There are three major types of shading cats: chinchilla shaded and smoke. This pattern is often found in long-haired cats, so make sure to vacuum the shaded cat’s home.

Related guide: Best Vacuum for Pet Hair: 13 Savvy Picks written by Jimmie O’Chutt and fact-checked by Kimberly K. Baumgart

Shaded cat breeds are:

  • British shorthair
  • Persian

Cat coloring: 6 types

Interesting fact: initially, all cats’ fur colors are black but they alter depending on the gender-linked orange masking gene. If the latter is stronger, a cat becomes red. 

Cat colors and patterns are defined by various factors, mostly genes, and polygenes – they change the basic hues. Because of diluted genes, black color may become gray, and red turns to cream. 

So-called polygenes (genes that demand others of their kinds to become visible) determine the tones of cat colorations. They are controlled via selective breeding, that’s why patterns are often gender-specific. For example, calico and tortoiseshell cats with black and orange fur are females because the orange gene is carried on the X chromosome. Since males have one X chromosome, they can only be black or red (or their variations depending on the factors). 

Females, on the opposite, have two X chromosomes, so they can be both black and red. That’s how tortoiseshell-colored females appear. If diluting genes come into play, a female cat can be colored in blue-cream. When the piebald spotting gene factor gets activated, a female cat may be of tortie and white colors or become a calico tricolor with black and red areas on her white coat. 

1. Black

The pure black shade is a rare occasion in cats because it usually comes with tabby marks. In the sunshine, black fur develops a rusty tinge. In the colorpoint pattern, a black color usually transforms into dark brown.

Did you know? There are numerous superstitions that form a wrong perception of a black cat’s behavior. In fact, the cat’s color does not affect its personality at all.

Black cat breeds are:

  • American bobtail
  • American curl
  • American shorthair
  • Bombay
  • British shorthair
  • Cornish Rex
  • Devon Rex
  • Japanese bobtail
  • Oriental
  • Norwegian forest cat

2. Red

Red stands for orange and ginger hues. The red color is often interconnected with the gender: it’s more typical of male cats. Since it’s connected with the tabby pattern, it’s hard to achieve the pure red coloring. 

Red types of cat coats are typical of:

  • Munchkin
  • Persian
  • Maine coon
  • Bengal
  • Abyssinian
  • British shorthair

3. White

This is the only color that comes solid without any tabby marks. Most often, white color comes together with other shades serving as the foundation for bicolor and tricolor types of cat coat. Curious fact: solid white genes might cause deafness in cats. 

Did you know? There is a myth that cats with light hair (white, creamy, etc) are considered to be hypoallergenic? However, this study shows that a cat’s hair color does not correlate with the number of allergens in its body. Read our article about hypoallergenic cats to find out which breeds are better for allergy management.

White cat breeds include:

  • Persian
  • Siamese
  • Turkish angora
  • Japanese bobtail
  • Oriental shorthair
  • Ragdoll
  • Cornish Rex
  • Himalayan

4. Gray (blue)

This is a diluted version of black color and is often called ‘bluish-gray’. It can be observed in many mixed-breed and purebred short-hair cats, for example:

  • Russian blue
  • British
  • Scottish
  • Nebelung
  • Korat
  • Domestic shorthair
  • Chartreux
  • American shorthair

5. Cream

This is a diluted gene of red. When cream cat colors are combined with blue, we can see gorgeous dilute calicos and tortoiseshell patterns. Cream colors are typical of Persian and British breeds.

6. Brown

The solid brown color is not very common and is typical for the Havana Brown medium hair breed. In some breeds, it has more chocolate shades. A light gray-brown with pink overtones is often referred to as a lilac or lavender coat. Also, some domestic cat fur patterns are called ‘cinnamon’ – this is solid light brown with distinct red overtones.

Brown cat breeds are:

  • Abyssinian
  • Havana
  • Burmese
  • Devon rex
  • British
  • Scottish fold

In a word

The wonders of genetic selection have allowed us to create magnificent breeds of various colors from snow-white to cinnamon and pure black. Your cat’s coat is unique just like your pet. And if you don’t have a furry friend yet, now you know which breed you’re likely to choose. Science says that a cat’s character has a correlation with its color. But don’t judge your long-tailed child by its patterns – each cat is beautiful and deserves your love and care. Feel free to explore more cat health and care articles on our website.

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