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What is a cat with a black face and white body called?

What is a cat with a black face and white body called?

Cats that have a black face and white body are often referred to as “tuxedo cats” or “felines with a black and white coat pattern.” This distinctive coat coloring is the result of a pigmentation gene that produces melanin only in certain areas of the cat’s fur. Just like a person wearing a black tuxedo with a white shirt, these cats appear to be sporting formal attire with their bold color contrast. Beyond their stylish looks, tuxedo cats have some interesting genetics and history behind their signature markings.

Origins of the Tuxedo Cat Name

Tuxedo cats likely got their name from their resemblance to formal dinner attire. Their black facial fur and white body fur mimic the color pattern of a man’s black tuxedo jacket and white dress shirt underneath. The origins of this name are not definitively known, but people have been referring to these cats as “tuxedos” since at least the late 1800s.

An early known reference to tuxedo cats comes from the 1885 book Home Pets by H.D. Richardson, which states: “Among my favorites was a black and white cat, under the name of Tuxedo, from his resemblance to a dress-coat.” This demonstrates that even in Victorian times, people noticed how these cats look like they are wearing fancy formalwear.

Genetics Behind the Tuxedo Cat Coat

The striking coat of tuxedo cats comes down to genetics. Like all mammals, cat fur coloration is determined by the production of pigments called melanins. There are two types of melanins:

  • Eumelanin – Produces black/brown fur
  • Pheomelanin – Produces red/yellow fur

The distribution of these melanins across a cat’s body is controlled by various genes. For tuxedo cats, the key gene at play is the “Color” gene, which codes for enzymes involved in melanin production:

Allele Variant Enzyme Produced Fur Color
B Tyrosinase Black fur
b None White fur

Tuxedo cats have one allele for black fur (B) and one for white fur (b). This results in a tortoiseshell-like coat pattern, with patches of black and white fur. However, unlike tortoiseshell cats that have a mottled mix of color, tuxedo cats have very defined solid black and solid white sections. This is due to the influence of other modifier genes that sharpen the borders between the black and white areas.

Common Tuxedo Cat Markings

While every tuxedo cat’s coat pattern is unique, there are some classic features found on many of these felines:

  • Black legs/paws
  • Black face, ears, and tail
  • White chin “bow tie”
  • White belly and chest
  • White “socks” on rear paws

The exact proportion of black versus white can vary quite a bit. Some tuxedo cats are mostly black with small white areas, while others have large white patches on their torso and face. Many also have a distinctive white spotting gene that creates random splashes of white fur. This is how some tuxedo cats end up with cute white mustaches or “socks” on their paws.

Personality Traits

Beyond their stylish coats, do tuxedo cats share any common personality traits? There are anecdotal reports that these cats tend to be:

  • Intelligent
  • Curious
  • Active
  • Vocal
  • Affectionate

However, it’s important to note that every cat has their own individual personality that is shaped by genetics as well as environment and experiences. So while some tuxedo cats may fit the above descriptions, others can have totally different temperaments. Their distinctive coat color does not necessarily predict a cat’s behavior.

Famous Tuxedo Cats

Tuxedo cats have captured the hearts of many famous figures throughout history. Here are some of the most beloved tuxedo cats:

  • Sylvester – The mischievous tuxedo cat constantly chasing Tweety Bird in Looney Tunes cartoons.
  • Felix the Cat – Silent film and cartoon star of the 1900s-1920s known for his black body and white eyes, muzzle, and tips of his ears.
  • Tuxedo Stan – Former mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska famed for his role in getting a cat mayor elected.
  • Lord Tubbington – Brittany’s overweight cat on the TV show Glee.
  • Sparkle – Companion cat of author Mark Twain.

Clearly, the gorgeous contrast of a tuxedo cat’s coat has captivated people for many years. These iconic pop culture cats demonstrate the loving bond this coat pattern has formed with humans across generations.

Prevalence and Breeds

Tuxedo coats can appear in many different cat breeds, though they are most common in the following:

  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Exotic Shorthair
  • Maine Coon
  • Persian
  • Scottish Fold
  • Siamese
  • Sphynx

Overall, an estimated 20-25% of house cats have the tuxedo coat pattern. It is one of the most common feline coat variations, especially among mixed breed domestic cats. While the tuxedo look originated as a random natural occurrence, humans have selectively bred cats to produce this pattern in certain pedigrees.

Tuxedo Cat Health

Tuxedo cats have no special health risks related to their coloring. However, like all cats, they can be prone to some common feline health conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Dental disease
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis

To maximize a tuxedo cat’s longevity and wellbeing, proper preventative veterinary care is essential. This includes vaccines, parasite control, routine checkups to monitor for illness, and a high-quality diet. With excellent care, tuxedo cats can live long, healthy lives well into their teens or early 20s.


Tuxedo cats offer the best of both worlds – unique stylish looks combined with endearing, lively personalities. Their distinctive black and white coat pattern immediately grabs your eye, but their playfulness and intelligence truly captures your heart. These special cats make wonderful companions for any feline lover. So next time you see a cat that resembles formal dinner attire, you’ll know you’ve spotted an adorable tuxedo kitty!