Guide to Cat Coat Colors and Patterns

by Sarah Hartwell
View Biography

Tabby Colors

Tabby means dark markings (stripes, swirls, spots) on a paler background. The stripe color is solid (goes right to the hair root), but the background color is agouti (each hair is banded with color). Different breeds may use different names for the same color. The tabby colors are:

  • Blue Tabby: cream/ivory-blue base, slate blue markings
  • Brown (Black, Ebony) Tabby: coppery-brown base, black markings
  • Chocolate (Chestnut) Tabby: cream base, milk-chocolate brown markings
  • Cameo Tabby: cream base, pale red markings (aka Red-Silver Tabby)
  • Caramel Tabby: cream base, biscuit-color markings
  • Chestnut Tabby: ivory base, medium-dark brown markings
  • Chocolate Tabby: ivory base, medium-dark brown markings (= Chestnut Tabby)
  • Cinnamon Tabby: pale brown base, cinnamon markings
  • Cream Tabby: pale cream base, fawn/buff markings
  • Fawn Tabby: pale pink-beige base, lilac markings
  • Golden Tabby: tabby on golden undercoat (see chinchilla/shaded section) e.g. Chocolate Golden Tabby
  • Lavender (Lilac) Tabby: milky cream base, frosty gray markings
  • Red Tabby: pale red base, deep red markings
  • Silver Tabby: silver base, black markings, aka Black Silver Tabby. Other Silver Tabbies occur with colored markings on a silvery background e.g.: Blue Silver, Red Silver (aka Cameo Tabby) etc. Other Golden Tabbies with markings on a golden background are possible, but the genetics are not fully understood.

As well as the various permutations of tabby/silver tabby/golden tabby, spotted/silver spotted/golden spotted there are some terms specific to the modified tabby markings and specific colourways of certain breeds.

  • Bronze Spotted (Egyptian Mau): Chocolate Spotted Tabby
  • Bronze:(California Spangled)
  • Charcoal:(California Spangled)
  • Cinnamon-Golden (Bronze) Spotted: (Ocicat) dark Cinnamon on Gold/Honey/Ivory
  • Ebony Leopard: (American Lynx)
  • Gold: (Australian Mist)
  • Gold:(California Spangled)
  • Golden Leopard: (American Lynx)
  • Golden Spotted: (Ocicat) bright Cinnamon on Ivory
  • King Spangled:(California Spangled) pattern like King Cheetah
  • Leopard:(Bengal) black spots/rosettes on orange/tawny background (a form of Brown Tabby)
  • Mink:(Bengal) black spots/rosettes on mahogany
  • Peach: (Australian Mist) a misty pink base with darker markings
  • Pewter Spotted: (Egyptian Mau)
  • Sienna Spotted: (Ocicat) Beige/Ecru on Ivory background
  • Smoke Spotted: (Egyptian Mau)
  • Snow Leopard: (American Lynx)
  • Snow Leopard:(California Spangled), the 'dilution phase'.
  • Snow:(Bengal) beige spots, black leg/tail stripes on pale Ivory (effect of Siamese/Burmese ancestry)
  • Sorrel:(Bengal) chestnut-brown on orange/tawny
  • Tawny Spotted: (Ocicat) Black/Seal on Buff/Ruddy
  • Tawny: (American Lynx)

Ticked/Agouti Colors

Genetically, ticking is a tabby pattern, but visually it looks very different. Since each individual hair has several bands of color, the ticking affects the apparent color of the cat. Some colors are linked to the cat's sex, but you only need to know that if you plan to show or breed. Ticked breeds are the Abyssinian, Somali, Suqutranese, Singapura, Alaskan Snow Cat although there are ticked versions of Orientals and it would be possible to produce ticked versions of other breeds. The background color of tabby cats is ticked, this is most obvious in brown/black tabbies.

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