The Magical World of Cat Colours

From tabby to tortoiseshell to grey to cinnamon, there's a plethora of cat colours — a plethora that's nothing short of magic! Read on to know all about it.

While cats may not be as varied in size and shape as their dog counterparts, their colour and pattern combinations more than make up for it! From tabby to tortoiseshell to grey to cinnamon, the list goes on.

Did you know that all cats are basically a result of only two colours: Black and Orange. The rest of the colours that are seen on cats are all a result of a dilution gene, basically modification in the gene! The colours commonly seen as a result are:

  • Black
  • Red/Ginger or Orange
  • White
  • Grey/Blue
  • Cream
  • Brown/Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Fawn/Cream

To add to this confusion, we also have patterns. While we have many different patterns, all cats are tabby cats. Again, it is a specific gene that determines whether this tabby pattern will show or not. In fact, even in solid-coloured kittens, you can see the tabby pattern through their kitten coat. The patterns seen in cat coats are:

  • Solid colour
  • Bi-colour
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Tri-colour/Calico
  • Colourpoint

To make it easy, cat fanciers have found that the best way to introduce your cat would be in the order of colour, pattern, breed, and coat length. For example - White, Solid, Persian, Long hair.

The chromosome that carries the gene for colour in cats is chromosome X. As we know, females are XX and males are XY. 

Male kittens will always take on the colour of the mother or dilution of that colour (XY).

Female kittens, on the other hand, will always be a combination of the colour of the mother and father, or subsequently a dilution of both (XX).

Fun fact: Calico and Tortoiseshell cats can only be female. These cats carry the red gene and the black gene, and therefore to carry both these dominant genes they would need two X chromosomes. So they have to be female cats!

Confused already? This is why Cat fur colour is a favourite subject in Biology when genetics is first introduced! 

The permutations and combinations are endless and amazing -- no wonder there is a plethora of varied patterns and colour combinations in cats. This is what connects them all, but also makes them unique!


Rupal Zingde

Rupal Zingde

Jeevoka member since Sep 2019

It was while pursuing my Bachelors in Business Administration that I came across RESQ. While volunteering there, I realised how much I enjoyed working with animals, so much that it took the form of my current profession as a Pet Groomer at Paws Pack; It was my first job and there has been no turning back ever since! Been in Pune for the last 20 years, I also pursue my hobby of pet photography when I am not travelling with my pet dogs. A foodie at heart, my love for food extends to cooking interesting treats for my pet dogs!