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Rosettes on Cats: What They Are and Why They Happen

Written by: Chantelle Fowler

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Bengal cat like a leopard sneaks Indoor

Rosettes on Cats: What They Are and Why They Happen

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Rosettes are one of the most instantly recognizable coat patterns in cats. You may have never seen a domestic cat with rosettes in real life, but you’re surely familiar with the pattern. Jaguars and leopards are two wild cats that sport these gorgeous markings, but one breed of domestic cat can develop the spots, too.

Bengals are highly coveted pets due in part to their exotic appearance. Not all Bengals develop rosettes, but it is one of the most popular and sought-after patterns. Read on to learn more about rosettes, including why they happen in the first place and the different types to look for.

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What Are Rosettes?

The rosette pattern is marked by two-toned spots with contrasting colors. They stand out against a cat’s main background coat color. While there’s a lot of speculation about what genes cause rosettes, there is no definitive answer yet. The most commonly accepted hypothesis is that they’re caused by an agouti gene variant, the same one responsible for tabby patterns.

brown spotted tabby bengal cat
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

What Is the Purpose of Rosettes?

Rosettes are important to the wild cats that often sport them. Researchers found that wild cats with rosettes display “disruptive coloration,” a form of camouflage where their coats have highly contrasting color patterns to help break up their body outline1. This unique coloration and patterning create fake depth edges within the animal’s body, making it difficult for their prey to assess the speed and direction of the hunting cat.

Rosettes are particularly helpful at providing camouflage in the dappled light of some jungle cat’s woodland habitats. If they can blend into their surroundings effectively, they can hunt anytime and call a wide range of environments home.

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What Are the Different Types of Rosettes?

Detail of the fur pattern of a brown Bengal cat
Image Credit: Eric Isselee, Shutterstock

There are several types of rosette patterns, each of which can be noted in various development stages.

  • Arrowhead Rosetting – a pattern of triangular rosettes. The tip of the “arrow” points toward the back of the body.
  • Clouded Leopard Rosetting – large, full rosettes that fit together like a puzzle. They have an almost snakeskin-like look.
  • Paw Print Rosetting – paw-shaped, with one open side and a different colored center.
  • Donut Rosetting – a rosette that’s nearly completely outlined with a darker color. The inside is a distinctly different color from the background.
  • Cluster Rosetting – small spots form clusters around a second inside color that is distinctly different from the background.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can any cat have rosettes?

These rose-like markings can only be found in the Bengal, and occasionally in Savannahs.  However, rosetted Savannah cats are typically penalized for this feature in the show ring, as the breed standard does not contain this patterning.

Outside of the domestic cat breeds, rosetting is very common and is where breeders got the idea from!  You’ve probably seen big, wild cats like jaguars, clouded leopards, snow leopards and leopards sporting them. Lion cubs sometimes have rosettes on their legs and abdomen, though they usually fade as the cub ages. The coat patterning of ocelots can look like rosettes; however, these big cats are typically considered to have a combination of spots and stripes.

Are rosettes uniform?

No, rosettes are not uniform. Sometimes, two rosettes are close enough to “attach” to one another and create a whole new look. Occasionally, multiple rosettes will bleed together to form a single line. Rosettes can vary in size and color from spot to spot and are randomly distributed throughout the coat.

bengal-cat-sitting-in-catio
Image Credit: TheCats, Shutterstock

Are cats born with their rosettes?

Cats are not always born with their rosettes fully developed. In the case of Bengals, some will be born with their patterning, while others rosette later in life. Some kittens are born with “closed” rosettes that will open and turn lighter several months after birth.

How did Bengals wind up with rosettes?

Bengals didn’t always have rosette patterns, and not all Bengals develop them, but this beautiful patterning comes from the Asian Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).

Are Bengals with rosettes more money?

Bengals are an extremely expensive purebred cat to acquire. They can cost between $1,500 and $4,800 (USD), but the final cost will be determined by several factors, including the kitten’s traits and bloodline. The higher the demand for certain Bengals, the pricier they’ll be. Some coat colors and patterns (like rosettes) may be “trending,” which causes a higher demand and a bigger price tag.

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Conclusion

Rosettes are a fur pattern seen in some wild and domestic cats. They are two-toned spots with contrasting colors that stand out against the cat’s lighter background coat color. Rosettes come in several shapes and are a highly desirable trait in domestic cats like Bengals. Though it’s not known for sure what causes the rosette patterns, it’s clear that this adorable physical feature is highly sought after by cat fanciers.


Featured Image Credit: Alexander_Evgenyevich, Shutterstock

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