Cat colors, patterns and coat length are a cat's calling card. We take these traits into account when referring to certain types of cats. For example, we would call the fictional cat Garfield a red tabby Exotic Shorthair.
Note the color, pattern, breed, and coat length in the name. The feline imagination – or the community of cat lovers, cat show judges, breed registries, breeders, and others who study and love cats – gave us these labels to help identify cats.
This may be hard to believe, but cat colors essentially include black, red, white, or a combination, dilution, or mixture of these. It almost doesn't seem fair for birds to get 15 vibrant colors like pink, green, blue, yellow, and purple.
"Birds get their brilliant coloration from the chemical structure of their feathers and amino acid modifiers, which is different from that of cat coat textures, where pigmentation is based on types of melanins," said Joan Miller, director of public relations and education at Cat Fanciers & # 39; Association and renowned cat expert.
Cat colors – what coat colors can cats have?
When it comes to cat colors, cats are basically black unless they have inherited the sex-linked orange masking gene. In this case, they're red, explains Miller. By red we mean what is commonly referred to as orange.
"The hundreds of colors and patterns that appear in house cat coats are due to modifying factors that include both genes and polygenes that change these two primary colors," she says, giving an example of the diluted gene that makes the cat colors from black changes to blue (commonly referred to as gray) and red to cream.
Polygenes, genes that require several others of their kind for their effects to be observed, then determine whether the coat color is a dark steel gray blue or a pale powder blue, she explains. These inherited polygenes are controlled by selective breeding in pedigree breeds. If you've studied cats for a very long time, you probably know that calico and tortoiseshell cats – with both black and red coat colors – are female. This is because the orange gene is transferred on the sex-linked X chromosome. Since males are XY with only one X chromosome, they can only be black or red (or the variations of each due to modifying factors).
Since women are XX, they can be both black and red. “This is how we get the showy tortoiseshell-colored females who have black coats with red splashes. If the diluted factor is inherited, the female cat is a blue cream. If a cat also inherits the piebald white spot factor, that woman could be a turtle and white bicolor cat or a tri-colored calico cat with large black and red areas on a white coat, ”Miller says. Piebalds are spots or spots that have no pigmentation or are white.
Read more about cat color and genetics at Paws and Effect >>
The tabby pattern
When it comes to cat colors and coat patterns, this is an overwhelming fact: all cats are tabbies. "Whether or not they show their tabby pattern depends on whether the cat inherited the dominant agouti gene or the recessive non-agouti full-tone gene," she explains. “Even single-colored red cats, however, show a tabby pattern because the sex-linked chromosome is not affected by the non-agouti gene. Monochromatic kittens sometimes show their underlying tabby pattern when they are young, before their kitten fur peels and adult fur grows. When an adult cat with thick fur is laid out in bright sunlight, its underlying tabby pattern is often faintly visible. "The tabby pattern contains the characteristic" M "mark on the forehead and four basic types:
- Classic tabbies, also called blotchy tabbies, have a combination of stripes, swirls, spots, and what looks like a direct hit on the sides of their bodies.
- Ticked tabbies On each hair shaft there are stripes of a lighter color at the base, creating an iridescent, mottled appearance, but with no stripes on the body. Abyssinians and Somalis are these types of tabbies.
- Mackerel tabbies have vertical continuous stripes on either side of their body and a dark spinal line that extends from their shoulders to their tail.
- Spotted tabbies are just that. The size of the spots and the distance between them vary. Ocicats have large fingerprint spots, Egyptian mice have high-contrast, randomly placed spots of various shapes and sizes, and Bengals have rosette spots, according to Miller. “But cats bred by chance often have broken mackerel or classic stripes that give a spotted look. ”
- There is also a pattern called patched tabby. These are female cats with one of the four tabby patterns, but they have additional red spots due to their inherited sex-linked orange gene, Miller explains.
The pointy pattern
Here's another cool point about cat colors: the point restricted pattern gene gives Siamese and related breeds their pointed pattern or a light body with darker colors on the extremities. The gene must be carried in both men and women in order for one of the kittens to be shown.
“The gene is temperature sensitive, which limits the color to the cooler extremities of the body – the face, ears, legs, tail and testicles,” explains Miller. “It's part of the Albino series and changes the hue so that black appears darkly sealed on a light brown body. The genetic mutation, chocolate color, and the diluted 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 the mink color.
Siamese cats were named after the ancient kingdom of Siam, which they came from. "These cats caused a sensation when they were first imported into England in the mid-19th century," says Miller. “When the Siamese first came to America in the early 20th century, they quickly became popular as pets, which led to the spread of the recessive point-restricted pattern across the country. It is still hidden in the genotype of many randomly bred cats and surfaces in litters when both the father and mother are carriers of the gene. "
Another thing to consider when we talk about cat colors? Shade, which is characterized by color on the ends of the hair with a pure white primer. Three types of shaded cats include: chinchilla, shaded, and smoke, each differentiated by the degree of shading of individual hairs.
In chinchillas, only the tip of the protective hair or the outer coat is colored. With the shaded pattern, a quarter of the guard hair that is furthest from the cat's body shows the color. In the smoke pattern, half of the guard hair furthest from the cat's body shows the color. When a cat with a smoke pattern is silent, the coat pattern may appear solid, but if the cat moves or you stroke it, you can see the white undercoat.
Two-tone and three-tone
With cat colors, people like to talk about two-tone cats that are white and any other color. The cat may have some spots, even just a white spot, or it may be mostly white with a little of the other color. The colored area on two-tone cats can also have any of the tabby patterns.
"The two-color and three-color patterns are created by the incomplete dominant piebald white spotting gene," says Miller. "Polygenes help determine the amount of white in the cat's fur. Black bicolor cats with little white, such as a bib, white paws, and possibly a white face flame, are the tuxedo cats. The other extreme is an almost complete one white body with color only on the tail and maybe a patch or two on the head or body. This is known as the "Van" pattern and refers to the cats that were found in the Lake Van area of Turkey centuries ago. "
Calicos are white women with large, solid areas of black and red spots, as well as other colors like blues and creams. You can have a little white, a lot of white, or anything in between.
Tortoiseshell or torties are referred to as specially colored in the cat's imagination. Like calicos, these cats are female, except that they are black with random red spots. The black and red can also be the diluted blue and cream. A thinned tortoiseshell is a bruise woman with patches of solid cream or chocolate with red or lilac with cream. The spots on the tortoiseshell can also be tabby patterned.
Cat color table:
Cat colors and cat personalities
The University of California, Davis, surveyed 1,200 cat guards in 2015 and published the results in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. Respondents were asked to choose a color category that best represented their cat and to answer questions about cat colors and their cats' behavior. The results seemed to confirm the reputation that calicos and torties are lively and unpredictable.
In another survey, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and California State University at East Bay asked 189 cat guards to use the terms "active," "aloof," "brave," "calm," "kind," "intolerant," " Assign shy, stubborn, tolerant, and trainable. to five different cat colors – red, three-colored, white, black and two-colored. The results showed that respondents were more likely to attribute friendliness to orange cats, intolerance to tricolor cats, and restraint to white cats.
Remember, these were human perception surveys, not scientific studies controlling other possible personality influencers such as gender and coat length. Calicos and torties are female, which could play a bigger role in personality than coat color. It is commonly believed that long haired cats are docile while short haired cats are supposedly energetic.
I have two long haired house cats with red tabby that come from the same litter. Some of my friends can't tell them apart and one cat could work as a stunt double for the other. But when it comes to personalities, the two couldn't be more opposing. Everyone who comes to our home is greeted; The other has enough love just for me and my husband.
More study is needed before we can conclude that cat colors affect personality.
Cat eye colors
Another cool point to keep in mind about cat colors – cat eye colors. All kittens are born with blue eyes. By around 6 to 8 weeks of age, "your potential final eye color becomes apparent," Miller says. "Full brilliance is only achieved when a cat is mature." Depending on the breed of cat, full maturity can take one to two years. "There are only three basic eye colors," says Miller. “However, the eye color of domestic cats is striking and very different. 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 all come from the same gene. Years of selective breeding have perfected this extreme eye color spectrum in the breeds. Randomly bred cats usually have a greenish-gold or hazel-brown eye color. However, a colony of free-roaming cats that result from the breeding of natural lines will often develop a golden or lemon yellow eye color. "
Some cat eye colors are associated with coat colors or patterns. For example, white cats can have blue, yellow, gold, or strange eyes. "Any cat that has inherited the Piebald spotting factor can have an odd eye color – one blue eye and one gold, yellow, or greenish eye," Miller says. Cats with the point restricted color pattern like the Siamese have blue eyes due to a gene linked to albinism. Tonkinese often have aqua eyes. "Tonkinese with the deeper Burmese coat colors (sable, blue, champagne, or platinum) has a gold or green eye color," says Miller.
Thumbnail: Photography by Xseon | Shutterstock.
This piece was originally released in 2017.