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Cat Colors: Facts Behind Different Coat Types and Patterns

Written by: Sarah Psaradelis

Last Updated on May 9, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat stretching front paws

Cat Colors: Facts Behind Different Coat Types and Patterns

Cats are found in a wide range of coat types, colors, and patterns. Although these different coat types could be breed-dependent, they do not necessarily refer to a specific cat breed.

Some cats have short coats and are only one color, while others have elaborate patterns and some are entirely hairless. While certain coat types are rare and highly sought after, others are common in most parts of the world. Cats have numerous impressive coat variations, and breeders continue to work hard at creating more.

This article will discuss the facts behind different types of cat coat colors and patterns.

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Different Types of Cat Coats

Cat coat types
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Before we dive into the different types of cat coat colors and patterns, let’s briefly discuss their coat lengths and textures.

  • Shorthaired: This is a common coat length in felines. Shorthaired cats are generally easy to groom, and their coat gives them a uniform appearance.
  • Medium-haired: This coat length is noticeably longer than shorthaired cats, but not long enough to be considered longhaired. The coat is usually short in some sections with medium-length tufts of hair around the face, ears, and tail.
  • Longhaired: Cats can have noticeably long coat hair that looks impressive with striking patterns. Longhaired cats have more demanding grooming requirements and require regular brushing.
  • Curly-coated: Rex cats have soft, curly hair with no guard hairs. They can have various coat lengths and curl types, with some being partially hairless.
  • Hairless: Not all cats sport a luscious coat and can have a hairless body instead. They make up for their lack of thick hair with a fine covering of fuzz over their bodies instead.
  • Double-Coated: Cats with a double coat have a long and coarse outer coat and a thick undercoat. Both shorthaired and longhaired cats can have a double coat.
  • Wirehaired: Wirehaired cats have coarse, wiry coats with a rough texture.
  • Smooth-coated: Cats with smooth coats have sparse undercoats, giving their coat a shiny and uniform appearance.

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The 15 Types of Cat Coat Colors and Patterns

Cat coat colors
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Cats can have numerous coat colors ranging from black, white, silver, cream, cinnamon, blue, red, lilac, and fawn. These coat colors are generally grouped in patterns such as solid (self), shaded, tabby, bicolored, tricolored, or particolored.

Cats with a solid coat have one distinctive color that covers their entire body, such as an entirely black cat. Bicolored cats have two coat colors, usually in easily distinguishable patches. Particolored cats have more than one coat color, while tricolored (calico) cats have three.

1. Tuxedo

tuxedo cat sitting on cemented ground
Image Credit: Yannick McCabe-Costa, Pixabay

Cats with a tuxedo coat are bicolored and black and white patterning. Most of a tuxedo cats’ coat is black with white markings, making it appear as if they are wearing formal attire. These white markings usually cover their neck, face, and chest. Various cat breeds can sport a tuxedo coat, including the Domestic shorthair, British shorthair, and American shorthair.

2. Calico

Calico Cat laying down on a porch
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Calico cats are characterized by their tricolored cats and tendency to always be female. The X chromosome is responsible for their unique coat pattern, which is a mixture of orange, black, and white. Generally, calico cats are considered to be tortoiseshell cats with piebalding.

For cats to have a calico coat pattern, one X chromosome should carry the orange gene and the other the black gene. It is rare for calico cats to be male, and they are rarely fertile. The few existing male calico cats have a genetic abnormality known as Klinefelter syndrome.

3. Color Point

Image Credit: elen studio, Shutterstock

The color point coat is caused by the dominant mutated gene called the “Siamese allele.” This gene affects the cat’s pigmentation process and is mostly seen in Siamese, Himalayan, and Tonkinese cat breeds.

Color point cats will have lighter-colored coats on the warmer parts of their bodies, while their extremities like their feet and tail are darker. The enzyme tyrosinase is responsible for temperature-sensitive coat coloration.

4. Smoke

Smoke siberian cat
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Cats with smoke coats typically have most of their coloration in the upper half of their guard hairs. The rest of the hair is usually white at the base, which is why it is easier to notice the smoked coloration in longhaired cats. Smoke-coated cats have a white undercoat and can be any recognized solid color. This coat type is rare and appears in breeds such as Persians.

5. Tabby

mackerel siberian tabby cat sitting on the grass
Image Credit: Massimo Cattaneo, Shutterstock

Tabby cats are characterized by the “M” shaped markings on their foreheads. They are not a specific cat breed, as tabby refers to a coat type. Tabby cats can have different coat patterns and colorings, such as mackerel, striped, spotted, and ticked. Agouti hairs are responsible for the light and dark-pigmented bands of a tabby cat’s coat.

Most domestic cat breeds carry the tabby gene as it is a common coat type of their ancestors, the African wildcat and European wildcat.

6. Buff/Cream

Cream Selkirk Rex
Image Credit: Jaroslaw Kurek, Shutterstock

Cats with buff coats are a cream or pale tan color. This intriguing coat coloration is created by the dilution of red fur. Abyssinian cats are an exception, as their cream-colored coat is known as fawn instead. This is because the Abyssinian’s red gene is technically the cinnamon gene, and fawn is the dilute of cinnamon.

7. Chinchilla

Persian golden chinchilla cat in a grassy garden outdoors
Image Credit: Jacintne Udvarlaki, Shutterstock

Chinchilla refers to a Persian cat’s coat type, which is similar to the fur of the chinchilla rodent. Chinchilla Persians have a striking white undercoat paired with dark hairs which give the coat a silverish appearance.

8. Tortoiseshell

tortoiseshell blue smoke main coon standing outdoors
Image Credit: N Roberts, Shutterstock

Tortoiseshell refers to a bicolored cat coat that is sex-linked. Like calicos, tortoiseshell cats are primarily female. Their coats consist of two colors, with one being red and the other one black. However, the red in their coat appears orange, while the black generally looks chocolate. These colors can be mixed in a bridled or patched pattern.

The bridled pattern makes their coloration look mottled together in small patches, whereas the patched pattern creates larger and more distinguishable patches.

9. Seal Point

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Cats with a seal point coat have an ivory coloration combined with black or brown points. These dark points are seen on their faces, ears, tails, and paws. It is a well-known colorpoint coat type in cats, hence why the darker hair is located on their extremities. Himalayans, Ragdolls, and Birman cat breeds commonly have seal point coats.

10. Cinnamon

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Cinnamon is a unique coat coloration caused by two recessive alleles for black (b1/b1). The cinnamon color appears light brown with hints of gold or orange. Cats breeds such as the Oriental shorthair, British shorthair, and Ocicat can have cinnamon coats.

11. Torbie

Torbie american shorthair
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Torbie is the name for cats with a tortoiseshell tabby coat, which was once called reversed tortie. Torbie cats have a combination of tabby stripes, spots, or ticked fur. They are tricolored cats with white, red (orange), and black colored coats. Orange is usually a dominant color, and their stripes are usually the darkest part of their coat. As with calico and tortoiseshell cats, torbies are mostly female as this coat type is sex-linked. Various cat breeds can have the rare torbie coat.

12. Rosette

Fawn Savannah Cat
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The rosette coat pattern is rare in most domestic felines but commonly seen in wild cats like ocelots. This coat pattern is characterized by dark rose-like markings that encircle a lighter color, giving the cat a leopard-like appearance. Bengal and Savannah cats usually have rosette-patterned coats. Bengals with rosette coats can be found in several tabby colorings, such as brown or silver.

13. Harlequin

Harlequin cat with yellow eyes color lay on the table
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Harlequin-coated cats are bicolored with predominantly white fur. The rest of their fur has patches of solid colors such as red, brown, cream, black, and grey. Their tails are a solid color which matches the color of their patches. Although many cat breeds can have a harlequin coat, it is commonly seen in Persians, Japanese Bobtails, and Turkish Vans. Harlequin cats can be either bicolored or tricolored, but white is generally the dominant coat color.

14. Van-Patterned

grey and white Ragdoll cat under the chair
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Van-patterned cats are bicolored and about 75% or more of their bodies are white. Their primarily white bodies are the result of the piebald or white spotting gene. They have colorful ears and tails, usually with a white stripe separating the colors on their ears.

It’s not unusual for some van-patterned cats to have small colorful patches just before the base of their tails. These colors can range from red, blue, and black. However, the original coloration for van-patterned cats’ extremities was auburn. This coat pattern is seen in the Turkish Van cat breed.

15. Black

black cat reclining on concrete
Image Credit: Emma Louisa, Shutterstock

Black is a common coat coloration for numerous domestic cat breeds. Although you might assume black cats are all the same breed, this is not the case. It’s rare to find an entirely black cat as their whiskers or paw pads are usually a different color.

The melanocortin 1 receptor gene (MC1R) is responsible for a cat’s black coat color. For a cat to have an entirely black coat, they will need to have the non-agouti (a) recessive gene. This is because tabby is a dominant coat pattern in cats and the recessive gene prevents the tabby pattern from showing.

Interestingly, some black cats with a black color gene and tabby gene can have a hidden tabby pattern. You might be able to spot their repressed tabby markings in direct sunlight.

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There are so many fascinating cat coat colors and patterns. Most cat breeds can have several different coat colors and patterns with various coat lengths. There are only a few breed-specific coat patterns, such as the van-patterning in Turkish Van cats or the rosette markings in Bengals. Many coat patterns in cats can be different colors, which further proves how diverse cat coat types are.

Featured Image Credit: svetkor, Shutterstock

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