The Fascinating Facts Behind Cat Colors

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Cat colors, patterns and fur length are a cat's calling card. We include these features when referring to specific types of felines. For example, we would call fictional cat Garfield a red tabby Exotic Shorthair.

Note the color, pattern, coat and coat length in the name. The cat fancy – or the community of feline enthusiasts, cat show judges, breed registries, breeders and others who study and adore felines – gave us these designations to make it easier to identify cats.

This may seem hard to believe, but these are some of the most important things in the world. It almost does not seem fair when you get 15 vivid colors like pink, green, blue, yellow and purple.

"Birds derive from their brilliant coloring because of the chemical structure of their feathers and amino acid modifiers, which is different from that of cat coat textures where pigmentation is based on melanin types," says Joan Miller, the Cat Fanciers' Association's outreach and education chair. and renowned cat expert.

Cat colors – what coat colors can cats have?

A white cat with blue eyes.

Cats basically come in black, white or some combination, dilution or mixture of these. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

Basically, when it comes to cat colors, they are black unless they have inherited the sex-linked orange masking gene, in which case they are red, Miller explains. By red, we mean what is usually called orange.
"The hundreds of colors and patterns displayed in domestic cat coats, which changes these basic colors," she says, giving an example of the dilute gene commonly called gray) and red to cream.

Polygenes, genes which require multiple others of their kind for their effects to be observable, then determine whether the color coat will be a dark steel gray-blue or pale powder blue, she explains. These inherited polygenes are controlled by selective breeding in pedigreed breeds. If you've studied for a long time, you probably know that it is wrong and it is wrong. That's because the orange gene is carried on the sex-linked X chromosome. Because they are XY with only one X chromosome, they can only be black or red (or the variations of each due to modifying factors).

Since females are XX, they can be both black and red. "This is how we get the flashy tortoiseshell-colored females, who have black coats with splashes of red. If the dilute factor is inherited, the female cat will be a blue-cream. Should this also be the case for the white spotting factor, then this female can be a white and white, or calico tricolor cat with large black and red areas on a white coat, "Miller says. Piebalds are spots or patches that are absent of pigmentation, or white.

Read more about cat color and genetics on Paws and Effect >>

The tabby pattern

A brown tabby cat.

When it comes to coat patterns, here's a mind-blowing fact: All cats start as tabbies. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

When it comes to cat colors and coat patterns, here's a mind-blowing fact: All cats are tabbies. "Whether they show their tabby pattern or not depends on whether the cat has inherited the dominant agouti gene or the recessive non-agouti solid color gene," she explains. However, even solid-colored red cats will show tabby pattern because the sex-linked chromosome is not affected by the non-agouti gene. Solid-color kittens will sometimes show their underlying tabby pattern when young before their kitten coat and grows in. Also, when they have an eye to a solid coat of light, their underlying tabby pattern can often be faintly seen.

  • Classic tabbies, also called blotched tabbies, have a combination of stripes, swirls, blouses and what looks like a bull's-eye on the sides of their bodies.
  • Ticked tabbies have banding on each other's hair with a lighter color at the base, which creates an iridescent speckled appearance but without stripes on the body. Abyssinians and Somalis are these types of tabbies.
  • Mackerel tabbies have vertical continuous stripes on both sides of their bodies and shoulders to tail.
  • Spotted tabbies are just that. The size of the spots and the spacing between them vary. Ocicats have large thumbprint spots, Egyptian Maus have high-contrast, randomly placed spots of varied shapes and sizes, and Bengals have rosette spotting, according to Miller, "but random-bred cats will often have broken mackerel or classic striping giving a spotted appearance . "
  • There's also a pattern called patched tabby. These are some of the other tabby patterns that also show additional red-colored patches due to their inherited sex-linked orange gene, Miller explains.

The pointed pattern

In Siamese cat. Photography © studdio22comua | Thinkstock.

The point-restricted pattern gives Siamese and related breeds their pointed pattern, or a light-colored body with darker colors at the extremities. Photography © studdio22comua | Thinkstock.

Here's another cool point about cat colors: The point-restricted pattern gives Siamese and related breeds their pointed pattern, or a light-colored body with darker colors at the extremities. The gene must be carried out for both men and women.

"The reason is temperature sensitive, the cause of extremity of the body – the face, ears, legs, tail and testicles," Miller explains. "It is part of the albino series and modified the color tone so that it appears black seal brown on a light fawn-colored body. The genetic mutation, its color dilution, and its dilute version, lilac, were also seen in the early Siamese cats. "Tonkinese cats, which are a mix of Siamese and Burmese, have a more subtle point contrast called mink coloring.

Siamese cats were named after the ancient kingdom of Siam, where they originated. "These cats were a sensation when first imported to England in the mid-1800s," Miller says. "When the Siamese first came to America in the early 1900s, they quickly became popular as far as the spread of the recessive point-restricted pattern throughout the country. It is still hidden in the genotype of many random-bred cats and surfaces in which the sire and dam are carriers of the gene.

Shading patterns

A shaded Persian cat.

Three types of shaded cats include: chinchilla, shaded and smoke
the extent of the shading on individual hairs. Photography © Olivia | Thinkstock.

Another thing to consider when we're talking about cat colors? Shading, which is characterized by the color of the hair with a pure white undercoat. Three types of shaded cats include: chinchilla, shaded and smoke, each distinguished by the extent of the shading on individual hairs.

In chinchillas, only the tip of the guard, or outer coat, is colored. With the shaded pattern, a quarter of the guard hair farthest from the cat 's body exhibits the color. In the smoke pattern, half of the guard hair farthest from the cat's body displays the color. When a smoke-patterned cat is still, the coat pattern may appear solid, but when it catches you, you can see the white undercoat.

Bicolors and tricolors

A tortoiseshell cat.

The tortoiseshell, gold tortie, are referred to as particolored. These cats are female, and they are black with random patches of red. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

With cat colors, people love to talk about bicolored cats, which are white and any other color. The cat can have a little spotting, or even a patch of white, or can be mostly white with a little bit of the other color. The colored area in bicolored cats can also feature any of the tabby patterns.

"The bicolor and tricolor patterns are created by the dominant white piebald-spotting gene," Miller says. "Polygenes help determine the amount of white in the cat's coat. Black bicolored cats with only a small amount of white, such as a 'bib,' white paws and perhaps a white facial 'blaze' are the 'tuxedo' cats. The other extreme is an almost entirely white body. This is called the 'Van' pattern referring to the cats found in the Lake Van area of ​​Turkey centuries ago. "

Calicos are white females with large solid areas of black and red patches and other colors like blues and creams thrown in. They can have a little bit of white, a lot of white or anything in between.

Tortoiseshells, or torties, are referred to as particolored in the cat fancy. Like calicos, these cats are female, except they are black with random patches of red. The black and red can also be the dilute blue and cream. A dilute tortie is a blue female with patches of solid cream or chocolate with red gold lilac with cream. The patches on the tortoiseshell can also be tabby patterned.

Cat colors chart:

Cat colors chart. Photography © Thinkstock Images.

Solid coat colors in cats. Photography © Thinkstock Images.

Cat colors and cat personalities

A calico cat.

Calico and tortoiseshell cats are female, because the orange gene is carried on the sex-linked "X" chromosome. Photography by Casey Elise Photography.

The University of California, Davis, surveyed 1,200 cat guardians in 2015 and published the results in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. The questions were asked to answer questions about their behaviors. The results are confirmed to be accurate and accurate.

In another survey, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and California State University, East Bay, asked 189 cat guardians to assign the terms – active, aloof, bold, calm, friendly, intolerant, shy, stubborn, tolerant and trainable – to cats of five different colors – red, tricolored, white, black and bicolored. Cats, intolerance to tricolored cats and aloofness to white cats.

Keep in mind that these were surveys of human perceptions, not scientific studies that controlled for other possible personality influencers, such as gender and coat length. Calicos and torties are female, which could play a greater role in personality than coat color. Longhaired cats are widely believed to be docile, while shorthaired cats are purported to be energetic.

I have two red tabby domestic longhaired cats who came from the same litter. Some of my friends can not tell them apart, But when it comes to personalities, the two could not be more opposite. One greets everyone who comes to our house; the other has enough love for me and my husband.

More studies are needed before we can conclude that cat colors influence personality.

Cat eye colors

An albino cat.

A blue-eyed white cat. Photography by DONOT6_STUDIO / Shutterstock.

Another cool point to consider when it comes to cat colors – cat eye colors. All kittens are born with blue eyes. At about 6 to 8 weeks of age, "their final potential is apparent," Miller says. "Full brilliance is not achieved until a cat reaches maturity." Full maturity can take one to two years, depending on the cat breed. "There are only three basic eye colors," Miller says. "However, eye color of domestic animals is striking and greatly varied. Interestingly, the brilliant copper eye color of a Persian, the deep gold eyes of an Abyssinian or Bombay and the emerald green eyes of a Russian Blue are all derived from the same gene. It is through years of selective breeding that this extreme eye color spectrum has been perfected in the breeds. Random-bred cats usually have greenish gold or hazel eye color; however, a colony of free-roaming cats resulting from natural-line breeding will often develop golden or lemon-yellow eye color. "

Some cat eye colors are linked to coat colors or patterns. For example, white cats can have blue, yellow, gold or odd eyes. "Any cats that have inherited the piebald-spotting factor can have an eye-color – one blue eye and one golden, yellow or greenish eye," Miller says. Cats with the point-restricted color pattern, like the Siamese, have blue eyes because of a gene that is linked to albinism. Tonkinese often have aqua eyes. "Tonkinese showing the deeper Burmese coat colors (sand, blue, champagne or platinum) will have gold or green eye color," Miller says.

Thumbnail: Photography by Xseon | Shutterstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

Editor's note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of ​​your vet's office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

About the author:

Author and Editor Susan Logan-McCracken shares her husband, Mark, and two red tabby domestic longhaired cats, Maddie and Sophie.

Read more about cats and science on Catster.com:



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