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What are cats natural color?

What are cats natural color?

What are cats natural color?

Cats display a vast array of coat colors and patterns. While some believe that the coloring of cats is simply a matter of aesthetic preference, a cat’s natural coloring is indicative of genetics, breed, and even health. By understanding the causes behind different coat colors and patterns in cats, cat owners and breeders can better appreciate the diversity of feline appearances.

Common Cat Coat Colors

The most common coat colors found in cats include:

– Black – A cat with a fully black coat. This coloring is one of the most common in cats.

– White – A cat that has a fully white coat. White cats are fairly uncommon, making up only about 5% of the cat population.

– Orange – Also called red or ginger, an orange coat appears in cats as anything from bright orange to a light peach. Orange coats are sex-linked to the X chromosome and are more common in male cats.

– Cream – Any shade of cream, ranging from off-white to a warmer beige. The dilute version of orange.

– Gray – Commonly called blue, a gray coat appears as a solid silvery color. It is the dilute version of black.

– Brown – Shades range from warm brown to a cooler chocolate hue. Brown coats are the dilute versions of black.

How Cat Coat Colors Develop

A cat’s coat color is determined by the production of melanin pigment in the hair follicles. Melanin comes in two forms:

– **Eumelanin** – A brown/black pigment. The more eumelanin produced, the darker the coat color. Solid black coats have a high concentration of eumelanin.

– **Pheomelanin** – A red/yellow pigment responsible for orange and cream coat colors. High pheomelanin levels produce bright orange fur.

The balance of eumelanin and pheomelanin produces shades like brown, cinnamon, fawn, and white. Additional genes modify these pigments to create dilute colors like gray and cream. The genetics behind coat color are complex, but this explains the basics.

Common Cat Coat Patterns

In addition to color, distinct coat patterns also develop in cat fur. Common patterns include:

– **Tabby** – This is the classic “tiger stripe” pattern of bold vertical stripes on the body with a whirled or mackerel marking on the sides. The most common coat pattern in cats.

– **Tuxedo** – Named for their white chest and paws, which looks like a tuxedo. The rest of the body has black fur.

– **Calico** – A uniquely female pattern of distinct orange, black, and white patches over the body. The coat may display various orange and black ratios.

– **Tortoiseshell** – Similar to calico but without any white. Instead, patches of orange and black cover the coat. Like calicos, this pattern is primarily found in females.

– **Colorpoint** – Body color is lighter, with the face, ears, legs, tail, and extremities being darker. The Siamese and Himalayan breeds display this pattern.

Breeds With Distinct Coat Colors

While many cats display a wide variety of coat colors, some breeds are selectively bred to exhibit specific colors and patterns:

– **Persian** – Can display a massive array of coat colors due to selective breeding. Most common are blue, black, red, cream, chocolate, and lilac.

– **Maine Coon** – Come in nearly all colors though black, white, and brown tabby are prevalent. They may also have colorpoint, tortoiseshell, and calico coats.

– **Siamese** – Mostly found in seal point, chocolate point, blue point, and lilac point variations. The pointed pattern is a defining breed characteristic.

– **Ragdoll** – Bred specifically for their colorpoint pattern. Common colors are blue, chocolate, red, cream, tortie, and lynx points.

– **Turkish Angora** – Traditionally always white, though other color variations are becoming recognized. Always has striking blue or green eyes.

– **Sphynx** – While hairless, skin pigmentation produces tones of ivory, pink, bronze, black, lavender, blue, and more.

Rare Cat Coat Colors

While any coat color is possible in cats, some are far less common than others. Rare color varieties in cats include:

Coat Color Description
Cinnamon A warm brownish tone, like the cinnamon spice. A dilution of chocolate brown.
Lilac A pale, muted gray with a pinkish tint. A dilution of darker brown.
Fawn Beige, pale brown, or light khaki color. Dilution of chocolate brown.
Chinchilla Sparkling silver-white coat with black tipping on each hair shaft.
Smoke Undercoat is white with black/gray tipping that provides a “smoke” effect.
Shaded Coat has a mantle of color shading down from spine to paler underbody.

Genetic quirks can also produce unusual colors like lavender, café-au-lait, amber, or various dilution modifiers. But these are exceptionally rare. Unique coat colors often become highly desired by breeders and collectors.

The Reason for White Spots

You may notice single white spots or patches on cats with otherwise solid coat colors. These markings are not a separate pattern but rather caused by:

– **Dominant White Spotting** – A dominant gene that suppresses pigment production, producing random white areas on the coat. The Turkish Van breed required this gene.

– **Vitiligo** – A condition where melanocyte cells are destroyed, eliminating pigment in patches of skin and fur. harmless to cats.

– **Injuries** – Past injuries that damaged the melanocyte cells lead fur in that spot regrowing white.

– **Birth Defects** – Such as those affecting the neural crest during development. Can produce white spotting if pigment cells fail to properly migrate.

Unless associated with an underlying medical condition, isolated white spots on cats are cosmetic and do not indicate any health issues.

Why Are Male Cats Often Bicolored?

Male cats, especially neutered males, are more prone to having bicolored coats of two colors. There are a few reasons behind this tendency:

– The orange gene is carried on the X chromosome. Females inherit two X’s while males only inherit one. A male only needs one copy of orange to exhibit it in their coat, while a female needs two.

– Random X inactivation in females can suppress orange even if the gene is present. Male cats do not have this issue.

– Testosterone levels in male cats can influence how melanin pigment develops as they mature. Neutering early leads to more bicolored coats.

So genetics, hormones, and random X chromosome expression all contribute to males more easily developing mixed coat colors compared to females.

Do White Cats Have an Increased Risk of Deafness?

Yes, white cats do have a higher incidence of congenital deafness, especially those with blue eyes. The reasons involve both coat coloring and eye pigmentation:

– The dominant white gene, which causes a cat to have an all-white coat, is linked to deafness. The gene prevents pigment cell migration into the inner ear during embryonic development.

– A lack of pigment in the inner ear leads to improper formation of the sound transmission pathway.

– All-white cats with one or two blue eyes are at an even greater risk. These blue eyes indicate another pigment abnormality.

– Around 20% of white cats with one blue eye are deaf in that ear. If both eyes are blue, 65% have complete deafness.

While not all white cats with blue eyes are deaf, their risk is significantly higher than cats with normal eye and coat color. Responsible breeders will screen for deafness in susceptible cats.

Are Black Cats Less Adoptable?

Sadly, yes – black cats tend to be adopted from shelters at a lower rate than cats with other coat colors. Possible reasons for this include:

– Superstition – Black cats are culturally associated with bad luck, witches, and Halloween. This may negatively bias some adopters.

– Visibility – In dim shelter cages, black cats blend into shadows and don’t stand out compared to lighter colors.

– Photography – Black fur can be harder to capture well in photos, leading to less social media interest.

– Adoption trends – In one study, gray cats were adopted quickest, followed by tabbies, with black cats adopted slower.

– Fur shedding – Black fur on clothing may be more visible and undesirable to some adopters.

– Personality myths – Some incorrectly assume black cats have less favorable personalities compared to other colors.

Shelters and rescues should take extra steps to highlight gorgeous black cats to counteract adopter bias. Their fur color makes them no less lovable as pets.


Cats exhibit an amazing diversity in their natural coat colors and patterns. Selective breeding over generations can produce specialized colors in breeds like Siamese and Persians. But even in mixed breed cats, virtually any color can randomly manifest through genetic inheritance, from common orange and gray to unusual lilac and lavender coats. Color variations provide endless uniqueness in the feline population. With proper socialization, all colors make for equally adorable and loving companion cats.