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How Rare Are Brown Cats? Rarity & Likely Breeds

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

chocolate brown oriental cat on the cat tree

How Rare Are Brown Cats? Rarity & Likely Breeds

When was the last time you spotted a brown cat? If you answered, “I can’t remember…” or “Never!”, you form part of the majority. That’s because brown cats are pretty rare, and you’d be lucky to spot one walking down the alley or perched on your front porch.

Only a handful of the 45 CFA-recognized cat breeds have brown coats, making brown cats a rarity in the cat species1. But just how rare are these earth-colored felines? Well, keep reading to find out.

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What Determines the Cat’s Color?

Your cat’s coat color is primarily determined by genetics (the parents’ gene). Cats’ basic coat colors include white, red, and black, or some variation of these colors. Genes are the basic unit of hereditary traits that contain instructions for the anatomical build of offspring and determine the physical traits and behavioral tendencies of your cat’s babies.

All cats share a common ancestor, the North African and Southwest Asian wild cat. Over generations, these cats developed stripes, patches, and blotches on their coats as camouflage to hide from predators and prey. This phenomenon follows the Darwinian theory of evolution.

The genes that determine color variation in the coats of tabby cats are the same ones that separate regular cheetahs from king cheetahs. The latter is an African cheetah that sports recessive genes, which gives them thick, blotched spots instead of the typical, well-defined spotted patterns of regular cheetahs.

Image Credit: Magnetic Mcc, Shutterstock

The absence of these genes leads to a completely different coat pattern, as seen in the Abyssinian cats. These felines have a blur of color seemingly squished together on their coats, with darker markings scattered all over their orangeish coats. Researchers attribute this to the DKK4 gene absent in the tabby cat.

All in all, genetics plays a central role in determining a cat’s coat. However, this still doesn’t explain why brown cats are so rare.

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What Are the Common Cat Colors and Patterns?

All cat coat varieties boil down to four patterns.

1. Tabby

tabby cat sleeping outside
Image Credit: Ben Kerckx, Pixabay

Tabby is the most common coat pattern in cats, stemming from their North African ancestors. Tabby cats have different swirls, spots, stripes, and patterns on their coats. There are four different types of tabby cats, namely:

  • Mackerels: Mackerel or fishbone tabbies have dark stripes running vertically across their grayish and orange coats. The stripes on the tummies and sides may be distributed, forming gentle spots or bars. Mackerels are the most prevalent type of tabby cat.
  • Blotched: The coats of blotched tabbies are a cacophony of spots, stripes, and color patches. They also have a distinctive mark on each side that almost looks like a bullseye. This pattern closely resembles the cross-section of a marble cake.
  • Spotted: As the name implies, spotted tabbies have spots scattered all over their coats. Depending on the cat’s genetic makeup, these spots may have one or multiple colors.
  • Ticked: With ticked tabbies, each fur follicle boats a different gradient, with thin, barely visible stripes. The base shades are typically lighter than the tip, gradually darkening from the bottom to the top.

2. Solid

group of brown kitten_pxfuel_DMCA

Solid cats, as the name suggests, have a single solid color. These cats don’t have stripes, spots, or blotches on their fur. They have seamless coats in shades of black, red, and white. Most brown cats fall into this category.

3. Bicolor

oriental bicolor kitten
Image Credit: Irina Nedikova, Shutterstock

Bicolor coating is common in mixed-breed cats. These felines have two distinct colors, typically white with another coal. Bicolored cats are also known as tuxedos, vans, or particolored cats.

4. Tricolor

woman brushing calico tortoiseshell Devon Rex
Image Credit: Poppy Pix, Shutterstock

Tricolor or tortoiseshell kitties are usually a mix of orange and black, with diluted variations of the color. They may also have white speckles spread on their coats.

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What About the Pointed Pattern?

Some cats, like Siamese cats, have a special point-restricted pattern gene. This means their entire bodies will have a lighter color but dark extremities. For instance, you could have a white cat with a black face and tail.

The gene responsible for this pattern is part of the “albino” genes, explaining why most cats with a pointed pattern are black and white. It’s also temperature sensitive, so the pigmented gene is restricted to the cooler parts of the body, like the face, tail, and testicles.

seal point siamese cat standing on scratching barrel meowing
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock


Why Are Brown Cats So Rare?

The brown color in cats derives from the black pigmentation gene, the female primary gene (B/b/b1). The dominant B gene creates the black pigmentation, while the recessive b gene facilitates the brown coating. This creates a rare cinnamon color only found in specific breeds.

Cat Breeds With Brown Coats

While rare, you can still get your hands on a brown cat if you do your digging. Brown cats are available in pet stores and shelters across the country. If you’re looking for a brown kitty, here are some breeds to consider.

1. Havana Brown

Havana Brown cat
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

The Havana Brown is a mix between the Siamese and domestic black cats, introduced by cat fanciers in England in the 1950s. The breed has a rich chocolatey color (whiskers included) with a glossy coat. Havana Browns are playful but sometimes prefer to be alone. Their emerald eyes and smooth coats make them a sight to behold.

The Havana Brown looks marvelous and also makes for a great household companion. However, it’s one of the rarest cat breeds, with fewer than 1,000 worldwide. The breed was closed off to outbreeding very early, narrowing the gene pool. If you want a Havana Brown, be prepared to dig deep into your pockets.

2. The York Chocolate

York chocolate cat backyard_Ciprian Gherghias_shutterstock
Credit: Ciprian Gherghias, Shutterstock

The York Chocolate has a dark brown coat, resembling the color of dark chocolate. It’s a rare semi-long-haired feline with a tapered tail. Their fur is smooth, luxurious, and irresistible to stroke. First bred in New York, the breed comes from crossbreeding various long-haired domestic cats.

These kitties are loving creatures, bursting with energy and intelligence. They’re also excellent hunters and can help eliminate rodents around your home.

The York Chocolate was initially a show cat and is one of the rarest cat species. Getting your hands on one will set you back between $600 and $1,000.

3. The Burmese

sable burmese cat in black background
Image Credit: Seregraff, Shutterstock

Not all four Burmese cat breeds are brown, but two of them are. The brown Burmese cats are either sable or champagne in color. These short-haired cats are extremely social and get along with humans and other pets, including dogs. Unlike the above breeds, Burmese cats are natural breeds, the only ones in the brown cat category.

Burmese cats have glossy coats with golden eyes and are a sight to behold. They’re easy to groom and love performing tricks. If you’re looking for a fun-loving cat to give you and your family company, then the Burmese cat is just what the vet ordered.

4. The Oriental Shorthair

Oriental Shorthair Cat
Image Credit: Lois Campbell, Flickr

This short-haired feline is a peculiar-looking cat with a slender frame and angular face. Not all Oriental Shorthairs have brown coats. Some have blue, cream, frost, and red hues, sometimes with tortoiseshell and smoke patterns.

The Oriental Shorthair is a talkative cat with a strange meow called a honk. They’re super affectionate and enjoy the company of their family and other pets. As such, they tend to get attached to their owners so much so that they follow them everywhere they go.

5. The Ragamuffin

Brown Ragmuffin Cat
Image Credit: Richard345, Shutterstock

The Ragamuffin comes in various colors, but it’s among the few cat breeds that come in a solid brown. These adorable furballs are large cats with big round eyes and thick fur coats. They have muscled bodies with medium-to-long hair. They also mature very slowly, taking about four years to mature fully.

Ragamuffins are a pleasure to hold, stroke, and cuddle with. However, their thick fur coats require proper grooming or may become matted or untidy. Brown Ragamuffins are pretty rare, so good for you if you can get your hands on one.

6. The Chocolate-Colored Persian

Persian Cat Brown and white coat lying on a towel
Image Credit: pickpik

Chocolate Persians are a rare breed of Persian cats that have chocolate-colored coats. Persians are the most popular pedigreed cat breed in the US, but finding a brown one still proves challenging for most.

Despite their rarity, Persians are an extremely lovable breed with long, thick fur that gives them a chubby appearance. They’re gentle, extremely affectionate felines that love curling with their owners in bed. These kitties love to stay indoors to decrease the likelihood of their thick fur getting tangled with trees and shrubs.

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Final Thoughts

Brown cats are indeed rare, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, appreciate its rarity with undying love and proper care. However, all cats deserve love and attention regardless of their color or look. Feed your feline friend a healthy diet and schedule regular vet visits to keep it in good shape.

See Also

Featured Image Credit: Yuriy Shurchkov, Shutterstock

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