What Color Is Your Cat?

Article by Beth Hicks
Photos by Helmi Flick

Spanish Translation / Traducción Español

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Cats come in an amazing variety of colors and patterns. It is not unusual to see many different colors in the same litter of kittens.

The Basic Colors

There are two primary colors in cats - black and red. All other colors are variations of black and red with the exception of solid white.


White is a masking gene. It hides or "masks" all other colors. A solid white cat is either black or red but the color is hidden by the white.

Color & Pattern

All colors can also be seen with different markings - called patterns. The three most common patterns in cats are solid, tabby and pointed. All colors and patterns can have some white. Referred to as white spotting, this is also a masking gene, however, white spotting only hides parts of a cat's color instead of all of it.

Is Color A Breed?

Color and pattern do not determine a cat’s breed. Breed is established by the physical characteristics described in each breed’s standard.

Just as all pointed cats are not Siamese and all longhaired cats are not Persians and all tailless cats are not Manx, all blue cats are not Russian Blues. The same color and pattern can be seen in many different breeds. For example, Maine Coons, American Shorthairs, Oriental Shorthairs, Devon Rex, Persians, Norwegian Forest Cats, Siberians, and Scottish Folds can all appear as brown classic tabbies. Siamese, Himalayans, Birmans, Snowshoes, Ragdolls, Balinese, and Tonkinese can all come in seal point.

Domestic cats have all the same colors and patterns that are seen in purebred cats.

Different Names - Same Color

The color and pattern names used on this site are the official names used by The International Cat Association (TICA). Below is a list of the common names used to describe the same color:

Official Color Name
Common Color Name
Orange, rust, marmalade, yellow, ginger
Grey or gray
Grey or gray
Black Tortie & White
Calico, Tri-Color
Buff, Light Tan

Modifying Genes

The addition of different modifying genes changes the two basic colors.

Red can change to cream. Black can change to blue, chocolate, cinnamon, lilac or fawn. Chocolate, cinnamon, lilac and fawn are seldom seen in the general cat population.

This article will concentrate on the four most commonly seen colors - black, blue, red and cream... and the most common patterns found in combination with these colors.

We hope you enjoy the challenge of determining your cat's color and pattern.

Photographic Examples of Feline Colors & Patterns

The colors of cats and their associated patterns can be divided into 5 main categories: Solids, Tabbies, Tortie/Torbies, Pointed, and "With White". To see photos of cats of the various colors and patterns, simply click on the links below - then compare and figure out what color YOUR cat is!

  • Solids: Cats that are one color and do not have any stripes.
  • Tabbies: Cats with stripes - called tabby markings. The tabby markings have four different patterns.
  • Torties/Torbies: Usually females, these cats are a mixture of both black and red. They can be solids or tabbies.
  • Pointed: Color is only seen on the face, feet, and tail. Those points can be solid or tabby.
  • With White: Any of the above with white added. The term particolor means any cat with white.

About the Author:

Beth Hicks fell in love with Maine Coons in 1970 while reading an article in Cat Fancy. She registered the cattery name Tanstaafl in 1972 and has never looked back. Her cattery name means "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch".

She became a judge in TICA in 1979 and still loves it! Beth is currently running for
President of TICA. Just a few of Beth's accomplishments and contributions to the cat fancy include:

  • Charter Member of TICA
  • TICA Judge of the Year 2004
  • TICA School & Ring Instructor
  • Maine Coon Breed Committee, Chair: 1979- 1985 and 2003 -2006
  • Author of numerous articles including “How We Judge” Seminar – 2001, The Maine Coon Seminar - 2004, Judges Corner articles – 2004-2005, Standard Guideline Packet – 2004

If you are interested in learning more about colors and breeds or showing your cat in TICA, please check the TICA Show Schedule at http://home.flash.net/~debreed/calendar.htm

We gratefully acknowledge Helmi Flick Cat Photography
for providing all photos used in this article


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