Cat Coat Patterns

Most cats have a coat patterning that reflects to some extent the natural tabby marking of their wild ancestors. Breeders have refined these markings, develping to conform to precise standards. An element of luck is required to produce a cat with an ideal coat pattern. Undesirebale features can also be bred out from the cat, as has occurred in the case of Abyssinian. Its tabby barring has now virtally disappeared, creating the so-called "ticked tabby" pattern. With few exceptions, a cat's coat pattern does not change after birth, although the markings can become more distinctive.

American Curl
Photo by Larysa Johnston

Parti Colors

Parti colors cat coat pattern

Many cats have areas of white fur alongside colored areas. This can vary from the "magpie" appearance of black and white cats, to the Calico with its combination of white, cream, black and red patches.

Calico is a coat pattern with clearly defined patches of black, cream, red and white.

Bicolored In this pattern, the proportion of white fur should cover no more than one half of the entire body area.

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Tortoiseshell cat coat pattern

In the tortoiseshell, the black, cream and red coloration should be evenly intermingled and distributed over the body; a facial blaze of cream and red is desirable in torties.

Blue-cream In these cats, known as Dilute Torties, blue replaces black, and cream replaces red, giving them a distinctive coloration.


Pointed cat coat pattern
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Cats with pointed markings are instantly recognized by the darker coloration on the extremeties of their bodies, namely the face, ears, legs, feet, and tail. The intensity of the color on the points is affected by body temperature, coat length, and climate.


Black tabby cat coat pattern
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Tabby cat caot pattern
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The different types of tabby patterning seen in domestic cats also occur in wild cats. Such marking provide camoufalge, stripes and spots enabling cats to merge easily into their background.

Classic Tabby, sometimes known as blotched tabby, has large black, oyster-shaped areas on each flank, butterfly-shaped shoulder markings, and numerous rings around the tail.

Spotted. The tabby stripes are broken up into a pattern of distinct, oval, round, or rosette-shaped spots on the body, which can extend to the tail.

Patched Tabby and White. This is a tortie tabby, or torbie, showing both tortoiseshell and tabby characteristics, as well as areas of white fur.

Mackerel Tabby and White. This striped pattern is the original form of the tabby variant. Black stripes run vertically down the body, with a narrow, dark, unbroken line along the center of the spine. The stripes are separated by colored areas of ticked (agouti) hair.

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