Cat Colors and Patterns

Many people, even cat owners, have difficulty knowing the differences in the common cat colors. Here we will talk about tabby, tortoiseshell, torbie, and many other cat color patterns.

 What Color is my Cat?

These cat colors are very important to know particularly when reporting a lost or found cat.  This list is in alphabetical order.



Black is pretty self explanatory, however there are several variations of the black gene. Some black cats have hair that is gray (or white) at the base and black at the tips, if brushed backwards they almost look silvery. These are called Black Smoke.

File:Shimatora Smith 2.JPG

photo source

Note on the above picture where the fur seperates you can see whiter parts of the hair shafts.



Blue is the term used by many cat registries to refer to what people often call a gray cat. This is a black cat with a gene for dilution.



Brown is not a common cat color, and is generally only seen in certain breeds or in the Tabby color pattern.



Calico cats are nearly always female (99.9%). Calico is any cat with three colors, black or gray, orange, or dilute orange, and while. If she is gray, pale orange, and white, she is a dilute calico, otherwise if black, orange, and white she is a calico. You will also want to read Torbie, as this is a calico cat with tabby patterning. See also Tortoiseshell.



There are several color point colors. Non-cat people may refer to all color points as Siamese, but Siamese is a breed, not a color. These cats are born white (or cream) and their colors develop. There are several color point colors, Seal Point, Chocolate Point, Flame Point, Blue Point, Lilac Point, Lynx Point, Torti Point and a few other specific ones. This article does not have room to specifically describe each one.

File:Neighbours Siamese.jpg



Dilute is not in itself a color but rather a gene that affects several colors. A black cat with the dilute gene will be gray (also called Blue), an orange or red cat with the dilute gene will be pale orange or dilute red.


Gray (or Grey)

This is a black cat with the dilute gene making its hair lighter in color. In most areas these cats are technically referred to as Blue.



This is a term given to a cat that is mostly white with large patches of color, see also Van.


Orange or Red

Orange is far more common in males than females with about a 70% chance of an orange cat being male. An orange cat will have no black markings but may have darker and lighter orange stripes (see Tabby), or may pale all over – which would be called Dilute Orange. In many areas orange cats are referred to as Red as this is technically the correct term.



The tabby is probably the least understood color pattern by the public, as some people refer to all cats as tabbies. Technically it is a cat with stripes. There are several patterns within this group depending on the size and placement of the stripes. These particular patterns will not be addressed here, but include Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, Striped, and Ticked. All tabbies are referred to also by their color so you may have a Black/Brown tabby. A silver tabby is one where the stripes are black but the background is white or close to white.

File:Jammlich crop.jpg

photo source

This is considered a primitive color pattern and you may note that Tabby cats all have an “M” on their foreheads and their lighter color hairs have different colors on each hair.



This is a hard color to explain but basically it is a cat with both calico (or tortoiseshell) and tabby patterning.

File:A cat named Kylie.cropped.jpg

photo sourcefor a Torbie colored cat.

Torbie, Calico, and Tortoiseshell cats are all nearly always female.



The Tortoiseshell cat is typically black and orange (or blue and pale orange if the dilute gene is present), in some cats the colors spots are easier to define than in other cats. These cats have no white on them, otherwise they are Calico. Sometimes if a cat only has a dot of white on its chest (a locket) or white paws (mitted) it may be called a Tortoiseshell with white.



This is the pattern name often given to black and white cats where their back is black and their stomach is white. This is not a technical term, as a black and white cat would technically be called Black and White.



The Van pattern is a term given to White Cats with a small patch of color on their head or tail.



Pretty self explanatory, a white cat has no other markings. Some while cats (mostly those with blue eyes) are also deaf. Some times white cats will have a small smudge on their foreheads.


Related Links


Unique Cat Breeds

Cat Facts most Owners Don’t Know

Curious Cats – Cat Oddities

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User Comments
  1. Ethics0006

    On September 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Now I know that I have Tabby Cat.

    Thanks for the share

  2. melphens

    On September 2, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    i love the siemese cat..

  3. PSingh1990

    On September 3, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Nice one….

    thanks for share.


  4. papaleng

    On September 4, 2010 at 10:45 am

    very educational post!

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