By Kim Burress
Cats come in a variety of breeds, each possessing unique traits and characteristics that are seen in both appearance and behavior. Cats also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Some breed standards allow for only one color while others allow for hundreds of different color patterns within the same breed. Mixed breed cats that are allowed to breed freely can produce some unusual and interesting color patterns and coat types.
The majority of cats are of mixed origin. The common term for such a cat is “domestic longhair” (DLH) or “domestic shorthair” (DSH). The length of the hair determines whether or not it is considered a DLH or DSH. Pedigreed cats are often of the long haired variety, with the most common being Persians, Himalayans, Maine Coons, and Ragdolls.
Cat coats can be single, double or triple coated. These coats consist of guard hairs, awn hairs and down hairs. An example of a single coated breed is the Turkish Angora. The absence of downy and awn hairs makes the coat smooth, fine and silky. An example of a double coated breed is the Persian. The Siberian is an example of a triple coated breed.
Red and Black are the two primary colors in cats. All other colors are variations of black and red with the exception of solid white. White is a masking gene. It hides all other color. So a solid white cat is either black or red but the color is hidden by the white. The dominant colors in cats are: Black, Chocolate, Cinnamon and Red, which most people confuse with ‘orange.’ The dilute colors are: Blue—which people confuse with ‘gray’—Lilac, Fawn, and Cream.
There are several groupings of patterns in a cat’s coat. The first is a Tabby. All tabbies have a thin line of pattern on the face, especially around the eyes, and should have the signature “M” pattern on their forehead. There are four different tabby patterns: Mackerel has narrow stripes that run somewhat parallel down the sides of the body. Classic has bold, swirling patterns on its sides and a marked “butterfly” pattern between the shoulder blades. Spotted coats have spots on the torso. The spots are large or small. Ticked coats do not have spots or stripes but tabby markings on the face and agouti hairs on the body which is a striping effect of both light and dark hairs.
When a cat is patched with multiple colors and still has tabby markings it is considered a Patched Tabby. Another color group is the Solid. If a cat is the same color all over, it is solid. If a cat is solid Black or Blue with distinctly white roots it is Smoke. A cat that is randomly patched with different colors and without tabby markings is considered Parti Colored. Another common class is Shaded that has both shaded silver and shaded golden colors in the coat.
A cat that has dark “points” of color only on its face, paws and tail that fade to a lighter color on the body it is a Color Pointed cat. The Siamese, Ragdoll, Himalayan, Balinese, and Birman are examples.
Cats with white only on the paws are “mitted.” An example of a mitted cat is the Ragdoll. If there is white only on the head, tail and one or two spots on the body it is called “van.” The Turkish Van is an example of this and is also known as the “swimming cat;” it loves water.
The diversity of breeds, colors/patterns and coats you see in the feline species is fascinating. Understanding the many different colors and patterns can open the cat fanciers’ eyes to the palettes of feline beauty.
Kim Burress of Calling All Cats can be reached at 828-329-0299 for all your cat grooming needs.