Guide to Cat Coat Colors and Patterns

by Sarah Hartwell
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Self (Solid) Colors

Colors have different names in different countries and in different breeds. Different breeds/countries may use the same name for different colors! This section describes colors in as non-specific a way as possible.

  • Albino: lack of pigmentation i.e. white with blue eyes; the most extreme form of albino is a cat with pink eyes.
  • Apricot: pink-brown of Foreigns
  • Beige: of Foreigns
  • Black: jet black, called Ebony in Foreigns
  • Blue: blue-gray; the dilute of black
  • Brown: called Sable/Seal in Burmese/Siamese
  • Caramel: of Foreigns, cafe-au-lait color (biscuit color)
  • Champagne: Burmese version of Chocolate
  • Chestnut: medium-dark brown (Oriental version of chocolate)
  • Chocolate: medium-dark brown (Siamese version of chestnut)
  • Cinnamon (Light Brown): milk-chocolate brown
  • Cream : buff (dilute of red)
  • Ebony: of Foreigns (called Black in other breeds)
  • Fawn: "hotter" version of cream
  • Frost: alternate term for Lilac
  • Indigo: (new development, no description available)
  • Lavender: described as warm blue-brown, or pinkish frosty gray
  • Lilac: alternative name for Lavender (dilute of Chocolate)
  • Light Brown: alternative name for cinnamon
  • Light Chocolate: milk-chocolate (of Burmillas)
  • Peach: pink-brown of Russian Shorthair
  • Platinum: Burmese version of Lilac
  • Red: faint tabby markings (ginger)
  • Seal: very dark brown; Foreign/Siamese version of black
  • White: blue/orange/odd eyed varieties, also green-eyed whites.

Red, Fawn and Cream are not true self colors as there will always be faint tabby markings. Breeders work to dissipate the tabby markings and give impression of a non-patterned, self-colored cat.

Tabby Patterns

The usual tabby patterns are Classic (Blotched) Tabby, Mackeral (Striped) Tabby, Spotted Tabby, Ticked Tabby and Ticked/Agouti. In addition there are several modified versions of these patterns which are seen in certain breeds.

  • Classic Tabby: The "blotched" tabby pattern with dark stripes down length of back and dark swirls (bull's-eye) on sides of the body.
  • Leopard: Modified version of Spotted Tabby. Round spots, colored to root of hair, ideally the spots are randomly placed, not vertically aligned. Found in hybrid cats (e.g. Bengal) where the spotted pattern differs from the spotted tabby.
  • Mackerel Tabby: Vertical unbroken thin lines instead of swirls. Narrow spine lines and "necklaces". The stripes should not break up into spots.
  • Marble: Modified version of classic tabby with swirled, clouding effect as the vertical orientation of the tabby pattern is affected by the horizontal oriented clouded pattern of the wild ancestor. Described as Ocelot-like. Found in Bengal breed (hybrid) and naturally occurring in the Marbled Australian Mist.
  • Patched Tabbies/Tortie-tabby/Torbie: Tabby pattern overlaid on a tortie background e.g. deep red markings on red patched areas and black markings on brown patched areas.
  • Rosette: A modified Tabby pattern. Clusters of spots; the center of each cluster is a deeper version of the background color. Found in hybrid breeds such as Bengal and Safari where it is confusingly called tricolor (not the same as calico!).
  • Sokoke Tabby: A modified version of the Classic tabby pattern with agouti (background color) hairs appearing in the solid areas of the coat giving a slightly clouded/marbled effect. Found only in the naturally occurring Sokoke breed which originated in Kenya and is bred in Denmark.
  • Spotted Tabby: The vertical bars of color are broken up into spots on the body. Stripes on leg, tail and face. Spots should be as round as possible, rather than elongated. It is often possible to see the vertical alignment of spots. Spine lines should be broken into spots.
  • Ticked Tabby: Agouti pattern with ticked body, tabby barring on face, legs and tail, at least one necklace, darker dorsal region, pale lower parts. The pattern of the Wild Abyssinian and of poorly marked agouti patterned cats; intermediate between Agouti and Tabby.
  • Ticked/Agouti: Agouti pattern all over, barring to be absent, as far as possible, from any part of the body. The ticked color range parallels the tabby color range.

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