The Different Colours and Patterns of Cat Fur

Fur and colours in cats

The different kinds of fur, colours and shapes possible in cats are very numerous, be it unique to the cat or common to a breed.

Hundreds of combinations exist and not all are acknowledged or standardised. Therefore, we are going to show you the most well known but also the rarer combinations.

The Different Colours and Patterns of Cat Fur

The types of fur within cats

By fur, I mean the hair on the cats body so the type of hair independent of the colour that a cat can have. In general, we speak of 5 large types :

  • Short hair
  • Semi-long hair
  • Long hair
  • Curly hair
  • Naked cats

The last one’s lack hair but still have a soft duvet-like layer. Amongst the short hair cats, there are a few common cats (although they have different length hair), Siamese, Chartreux…

The more well-known semi-long-haired cats are the Maine Coon, the Norwegian and the Birman. The Persian is the only truly long haired breed. The other mentioned breeds in this category (Angora, British Longhair…) really have semi-long hair.

In fact, the semi-long category tends to include both types of hair. Finally, the fluffy hair category is made up of breeds such as the Selkirk Rex and the Devon Rex that have short or semi-long fur with many curls more or less tight.

Different patterns in cats

Cats have a large variety in terms of colours and patterns. You may hear the French speak of dresses meaning the overall appearance of the cat. This combines colour and shapes. This is where the story gets complicated, because the possible configurations are very numerous and the slight distinctions between them are infinite!

To start with the more simple part, there are 8 single coloured dresses also called solid colours: white, black, blue (grey to you and me), chocolate (variations of brown), lilac (pink-beige), cinnamon, ginger (or orange), and fawn which is a light beige mixed with ginger

However, the list is far from done because these colours are the only officially recognised colours. There are many others like caramel, apricot and light amber.

cat pattern diagram

The possible patterns

As well as the base colour of the fur, more or less pronounced patterns can mark the fur of the cat. Other than the uniform colour, we can see two colours, three colours, tabby, colour point and calico.

The tabby cat

The tabby pattern, meaning the tiger coloured or striped cat has its own different variants : marble (large stripes over the whole body), tiger (thin, vertical stripes), spotty (small round markings) and finally, ticked (light stripes on the head, legs and tail, the rest of the body being uniform). The Abyssinian cat is a prime example of the tabby cat.

The colour point

Next, the colour point pattern is when the entire dress is of a light colour. However, it’s darker in places like the face, ears, tail and feet. Real colour point cats are normally born white and keep their blue eyes : it’s the case of the Siamese, Birman and some Persians… Different types of colour points exist depending on the colour of their extremities which can be brown (seal point), blue (blue point), lilac (lilac point) and ginger (red point)… There is also the tabby point that has stripes on its extremities.

The bi-colour

Cats with two colours on their dress may have many different patterns dependingbicolour cat on how the colours are spread out. Therefore, depending on the spreading out of white, the cat can either have a « van » dress (mainly white with only the ears and tail of a different colour), harlequin (with a bit more colour) and true bi-colours which must have an equal amount of each colour. For example, a true bi-colour can have the top half of one colour and the bottom half another.

The tricolour

tricolour cat

The tricolour dress are also very complex. In fact, just like for the bi-colour, the distribution can be done in many different ways and the colours can be separate or mixed. There are 3 main patterns in tricoloured cats: tortoise shell (the three colours are mixed), calico (where there are white zones and spots of the two other colours) or tabby (three colours of stripes). The three tricolour colours are always the same with black (or grey), white, and a ginger/light brown.


The mink and sepia

The “mink” and “sepia” patterns are two different patterns that respectively look like the colour point and solid patterns. Mink has dark extremities. The rest of the body, instead of being white is lightly coloured (usually grey, cream or beige). The sepia cats also have dark extremities with a more coloured body making it look like a unified colour. This is most common in Burmese cats.

Special tints and effects

Sometimes, you will come across more unique colouring, usually in the Persian breed : the smoked dress (shades of grey or black and hairs getting progressively darker from the base to the tip), cream (diluted ginger), lavender (diluted chocolate), chinchilla (similar to the smokey dress, only lighter as the shift towards black is not as big). The cameo dress is when their is a variation of grade from the base to the extremity of each hair towards red. Finally, the roan dress is a basic colour mixed with white hairs giving a lighter colour.


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