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What determines the appearance of a cat’s coat? Part One – Color

There is more to a cat’s coat than meets the eye. Even most black cats have striped fur if you look closely enough. The complexity of your cat’s coat pattern is the result of Mother Nature rolling the dice, and the resulting combinations are seemingly endless.

This week, we’ll explore cat coat colors

A cat’s coat can be one main or more main colors, with or without white. They can either be dense, meaning a rich and full color, or dilute (maltese), which is a softer pastel version. Diluted versions come from a less intense expression of the pigment that makes them.

A blue cat. Photo by Benita5 on Pixabay.

Black coats are created by the pigment called “eumelanin,” and the diluted version of black is known as “blue” to breeders, but most people would refer to it as “gray.”

  • Silver cats can be the result of a special mutation seen in cats with “chinchilla” colored coats, such as Persians. The silver color is actually the result of the shaft of hair having a shaded tip, whereas the rest is white. A fever coat is also silver, and is the result of the queen having a fever while being pregnant with her kittens. Silver fever coats eventually fade over time.

A Havana Brown cat. Photo by Dave Scelfo on Wikimedia Commons.

Brown is less commonly seen unless in purebred cats, such as the Havana Brown. It is also created by eumelanin, and the diluted version is referred to as “lavender” or “lilac.” When seen on a color-pointed coat, it is referred to as “frost.”

  • Lavender and lilac have a hint of pink. It is different from the gray that is referred to as “blue,” as mentioned above. Lavender torties, which have diluted tortoiseshell coat colors, are a bit of a misnomer. The lavender in their name refers to the dilution. They can also display the gray color that is referred to as “blue.”

A fawn-colored Abyssinian cat. Photo by Joachim Berger-Uelsberg and Dr. med. Gabriele Uelsberg on Wikimedia Commons.

Cinnamon cats are the lightest shade of eumelanin pigmented cats, and their diluted version is referred to as “fawn.” In an Abyssinian cat, the cinnamon color is referred to as “sorrel.”

A red and white cat. Photo by Werner100359 on Wikimedia Commons.

Red cats are what most people would refer to as orange, yellow, or marmalade. The red pigmentation comes from phaeomelanin, and it’s diluted version is known as “cream.” A color point cat with red markings is referred to as a “flame point.”

This is the first post in a three-part series about the various factors that influence a cat’s coat. Be sure to check back next week, when we’ll take a look at the various coat patterns!


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.

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