Guide to Cat Coat Colors and Patterns

by Sarah Hartwell
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Some breeds are based on their colors or patterns e.g. Siamese while others exclude certain colors. Some colors occur through careful selection, others appear out of the blue e.g. Lilac (Lavender) appeared in normally blue (gray) Korats due to mutation or recessive (hidden) genes. There are hundreds of possible color permutations; some are not allowed in pedigree cats but you may well see them in random-bred (moggy) cats. Some colors are rarely found in the moggy population as they only show up in selectively bred cats.

These are plain English descriptions and not affiliated to any breed or registry. It is not an authoritative list. Not all colors are recognized by all registries. Some are experimental, some look so similar that they can only be worked out if you know the colors and genetics of the cat's ancestors (this only matters if you are showing or breeding cats). Some color/pattern combinations appear in several places in this article because they are related to other combinations. This article won't mention genetics except in very simple form in one or two places - it is just a plain English guide for cat-lovers!

A word of warning: different colors have different names in different breeds/countries and the same color-name might be used in different breeds/countries for different colors! The inclusion of a description of a color or pattern is no comment on its desirability, just the fact that it exists!

Likewise, omissions are because of lack of information. I've tried to include synonyms and only refer to breeds if necessary to clarify name clashes/conflicts. Some of the terms are old-fashioned or are restricted to certain breeds only. At the end of this file is a list of colors/patterns which haven't yet been documented in cats but which might be possible if the right mutation occurs

Here is a brief, plain-English glossary of the major cat coat colors.

Solid/Self
The cat is a single color; the individual hairs are one color with no agouti banding on the hairs.

Agouti
Refers to the several bands of color on a single hair (e.g. on Abyssinian cats or in the pale areas of a tabby cat). Agouti is also used to mean a ticked tabby cat such as the Abyssinian.

Maltesing
Color dilution e.g. the dilute of black is blue (gray)

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