Last week in the blog, we started our three-part exploration of the elements contribute to the appearance of a cat’s coat, starting with color. This week, we’ll take a look at coat patterns.

Tabbies

catTabby, or striped, fur is the most common coat pattern found in cats. There are four types of tabby coat patterns, but all tabbies have an M marking on their forehead, pigmented paws and lips, and a black or white “eyeliner” effect around their eyes.

catClassic tabbies have a swirled, marble cake pattern appearance.

catMackerel tabbies have unbroken, parallel stripes. The domestic cats wild ancestors, the wildcat, also displays this coat pattern.

catSpotted tabbies have a consistent, defined pattern of spots on their sides. They can be large or small, and sometimes appear as rosettes. The rosette pattern seen in Bangals is actually the result of crossing domestic cats with Asian leopard cats.

catA ticked tabby’s striping occurs at individual hair level, where each strand has a band on it. The overall effect looks like the color is radiating with energy, much like the coat of a mountain lion or wolf. Abyssinian cats are well known for their ticked coats.

Solid and bicolor cats

catSolid color cats are also known as self-colored. They appear to display only one color without any striping or spots.

Bicolor cats, as their name suggest, display two coat colors. These cats have patches of a variant of either red or black pigmentation with white. They can be spotted, striped, or show any number of variations of how much or little white is present in their pattern.

catTuxedo cats are an example of a bicolor cat. They are mostly black with white markings on their paws and chests that make them look like they are wearing a sport jacket and vest.

catA little more white on the belly and legs and you would have a cat with a mask and mantle.

catWhen there is a white band around the shoulders, it’s referred to as a cap and saddle.

catBicolor cats with markings on their tails and heads only are called vans.

Calico, tortoiseshell, and other sex-linked coat patterns

catCalico cats, also known as tricolor, display the colors black, red, and white, or a dilution of the three. Calico cats are almost exclusively female, but about 1 in 3000 calicos is a male.

catA calico cat with tabby stripes is called a caliby.

catTortoiseshell cats are also known as “torties.” Much like calicos, they are usually female. They are a mix of black and red pigmentation. Diluted tortieshell cats are often called lavender torties.

catIf a tortoiseshell cat also displays tabby stripes, then she is referred to as a torbie.”

Color point cats

catColor point cats, such as Ragdolls and Himalayans, are primarily white with patches of color on their faces, ears, paws, and tails. The genes that create color pointed patterns are responding to the coldest areas of a cat’s body, but we’ll get more into that next week.

This is the second post in a three-part series about the various factors that influence the appearance of a cat’s coat. Don’t forget to brush up on cat coat color terminology, which we covered last week. Be sure to check back next week, too, when we bring it all together and find out how gene expression influences both color and pattern.


Candace Elise Hoes is a pet sitter and blogger at Katie’s Kitty. She is a graduate of the MFA Writing Program at California College of the Arts.