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| December 26, 2011

Some breeds are based a particular colour or pattern while others exclude certain colours. Some colours occur through careful selective breeding, others appear spontaneously due to a mutation or recessive (hidden) genes coming together. There are hundreds of possible colour/pattern permutations; some are not allowed in pedigree cats, but are seen in random-bred (moggy) cats while others are rarely seen in the moggy population as must be selectively bred for.

These are plain English descriptions, not an authoritative list (serious breeders are advised to get breed/country specific information from their registries). It is not affiliated to any breed society or registry. Not all colours are recognised by all registries, some have different names in different breeds, registries or countries. Sometimes the same name means different things in different breeds, registries or countries. Some are experimental, some look so similar that they can only be worked out if you know the cat’s pedigree or genetics. Some colour/pattern combinations appear in several places in this article because they are related to other combinations.

It is not possible to include every single colour and pattern, so in some places the “naming convention” and examples are given.

The inclusion of a description of a colour or pattern is no comment on its desirability, just the fact that it exists. Omissions are due to lack of information. I include synonyms and refer to breeds where necessary to clarify name clashes or describe breed-specific patterns. Some terms are old-fashioned or are restricted to certain breeds only. At the end of this file is a list of potential future colour/pattern mutation.

These are some basic terms, though a few things will become clear later when colours and patterns are described in more detail.


The cat is a single colour; the individual hairs are one colour with no agouti banding on the hairs.


Refers to the several bands of colour (ticking) on a single hair e.g. on Abyssinian cats, ticked tabbies or in the
pale areas of a tabby cat.


Colour dilution e.g. the dilute of black is blue, of red is cream (grey)


Form of dilution which affects maltesed colours e.g. caramelised blue is caramel, caramelised cream is apricot

Sepia (1)

Apparently self-coloured cat bearing gene for colourpoint e.g. Burmese series; sometimes you can see that the legs, head and tail are darker than the body.

Sepia (2)

Theold ivory’ colour of Singapura cat


Intermediate between sepia and pointed; the points (face, legs, tail) are a darker version of main body colour.


Siamese pattern (also called Himalayan pattern) with a pale body and darker legs, tail and ears.

Bi-Colour (Magpie)

Any colour & white; for show cats the colour should be evenly distributed.


Calico/Tortoiseshell (tortie) & White Colour Range


Usually defined as calico, with colour patches on up to one-third of the body


Tortoiseshell (tortie) & white

Calimanco, Calamanco

Archaic North American term for tortoiseshell shorthair cats


Torbie (tabby-tortie) & white

Van/Van Bicolour

White with colour on the tail between the ears.


Van markings (any colour) + small patches (as few as possible) of the same colour on the body and legs.


Unevenly splashed with colour.


White bootees on all four feet, the back bootees usually go up to the hocks, the front bootees are on the toes or paws only


Tortie with intermingled colours

Copyright & Credit: Sarah Hartwell – MESSYBEAST.COM

Photo copyright and courtesy: fofurasfelinas

Category: Breeding and Genetics, Feline Health and Care, Feline Resources

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