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Cat Coats: Varieties

Updated on October 1, 2013


Everyone associates tabbies with stripes. But there are several types of tabbies. My Zeke is what is called a spotted Tabby...he has both spots and stripes. His tail and legs have stripes but most of his body is spotted. His color is what is called orange or apricot.

Spotted Tabby Zeke

Zeke is a spotted tabby with stripes on his legs and tail, but spots on his torso.
Zeke is a spotted tabby with stripes on his legs and tail, but spots on his torso. | Source

Types of Tabbies

Among cat experts, what we call a swirled tabby is a classic tabby. Then our tabbies with straight stripes are called mackerel tabbies. These names originated in Europe and must make some sense to them. Zeke's best buddy is Blaze who is a "classic" tabby ....the lines in his coat are swirled

Blaze who has a swirled tabby or "classic" tabby markings on his coat. He has dark enough fur to be called "red."
Blaze who has a swirled tabby or "classic" tabby markings on his coat. He has dark enough fur to be called "red." | Source

Favorite Color

Do you have a favorite cat coat?

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Calico Cats

Calico cats are three colored cats and typically (but not always) white is the predominant color. Calicos can be long haired or short haired. Typically besides white, the calico coat has orange and black or dark grey. They are favorites here in the USA. The photo below is a beautiful Calico cat I cat sit for....Cally. She is a petite short haired tabby.

Cally | Source

Calico is not a breed. It is a coloration. Among show cats, the calico coloration is allowed in the Manx, American Shorthair, British shorthair, Persian, Japaenese Bobtail, Exotic shorthair and Turkish Van. Calicoes are almost always female. Occasionally a male calico survives birth and is almost always sterile.


Cat coat markings and colors are totally determined by genetics and calico gene is carried on the X chromosome. Male kittens that get this gene usually don't thrive and are sterile. Cat experts say that all cat colors came from red and black cats and their genetics. The fact that white cats came along is a real mutation.

White Cats

All white cats are a rare mutation. The mutation occurs in the Tyrosinase (TYR) gene and produces an albino phenotype of a white coat with blue eyes. I cannot fully explain the word "phenotype" but it refers to the way a gene makes an organism look.

Comparison Chart

Tortoise Shell
classic (swirled) and mackerel (striped)
Tri-colored primarily white
Two colored- primarily black always a combination of black and red
Two colored usually black and white
both male and female
mostly females, males sterile
exclusively female
male or female
all colors
usually white red and black
some areas can be cream colored
traditionally they are black and white but can be grey and is the white feet, vest and whiskers that matter

Tortoise Shell Cats

Tortoise shell cats or Torties for short are bi-colored cats. They are a combination of red and black with black almost always the dominant color. The cats can be long haired or short haired but are always female because the genetic code for tortoise color is carried on the X chromosome. Below is a photo of Coco, a cat I fostered who was adopted by very nice people.

Typical Black and Red Tortoise Shell

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This is CoCo a long haired tortoise shell cat and one of her kittens a short-haired tabby.
This is CoCo a long haired tortoise shell cat and one of her kittens a short-haired tabby.
This is CoCo a long haired tortoise shell cat and one of her kittens a short-haired tabby. | Source

Tuxedo Coat Cats

The cat known as a "tuxedo" cat in the USA and Canada is typically white a black. The name tuxedo came because it bears a resemblance to the formal wear men don at wedddings etc.

Usually "tuxedo" coat cats have four white paws, white whiskers, and a white vest with the rest of its body parts being covered with black hair. They are very striking and attractive. Some cats are called "tuxedo" even though they have some white spots on their face.

My friend's tuxedo coat cat having gotten into cobwebs.
My friend's tuxedo coat cat having gotten into cobwebs. | Source
My cat Mr. Mittens....classical tuxedo
My cat Mr. Mittens....classical tuxedo | Source

Are Tuxedos Different?

Lots of owners claim that their tuxedo cats are smarter than the average cat and have a sweet disposition. Studies cannot prove this but our Tuxedo cat, Mr. Mittens gets along with everyone and every other animal.

What Are Points

There are many types of cats with points including Siamese and Burmese. The way point colorization comes about is really very strange. The genetics of points is related to the genetics of Albinism. For example, in the case of Siamese kittens, they are typically born white because the womb is warm. When the kittens start to grow the cooler parts of the body become dark such as the extremities. However the warmer parts of the body (closer to the heart) stay pale (albino).

These are the typical point colors: seal, blue, lilac, cream and red.

Jack, seal point kitten
Jack, seal point kitten | Source


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