Cats are beautiful animals that can come in a wide array of colors and patterns. The most common primary colors found in cats are red and black as well as white. Cat lovers are all familiar with typical patterns like calicos, tortoiseshell, and tabbies, but there are some colors that are rare and less well-known.
Is It a Rare Cat Color?
Some colors may be thought of as rare, such as the dilute calico. Although we've all seen calico cats, the color pattern is difficult to breed for because the pattern depends on the inactivation of an X chromosome during an embryo's development. The gene for the dilute coloring is just one more variable thrown into the mix.
Dilute Calico Cats
Dilute calico coloring, sometimes referred to as muted calico, is blue/gray and cream patches on a white fur background, rather than the standard calico of black and red patches on a white fur background. Calico is not actually a breed, but simply a description of the color and pattern. Dilute calico is not extremely rare, but it is harder to come by, so kittens in this color range often fetch a higher price. However, calico is an exceedingly rare color for male cats. Only one in every 3,000 calico cats is a male, and nearly all are born sterile.
Chocolate can appear in various breeds but usually as part of several colors, such as tabbies, tortoiseshell, or point cats, like the Balinese and Siamese. Chocolate coloring in cats is derived from a genetic mutation of the gene for a black coat, which in dilute form, becomes chocolate. Two cat breeds are known for being solid chocolate: Havana Brown and York Chocolate.
Havana Brown cats are known as "Chocolate Delights" for their personality and lovely brown color. They get the name "Havana" from the shade of brown of their fur, which looks somewhat like the color of a cigar. This shade of brown is only found in this breed and is accompanied by striking green eyes. Another interesting fact about this breed is that they are the only cat whose breed standard stipulates their whiskers must be brown. Havana Brown cats are very rare.
York Chocolate breed also comes in a solid chocolate color, although they also can be found in lavender or lavender/brown together. Unlike the Havana Brown, the York Chocolate has medium-length hair and green, golden, or hazel eyes. Their name is a nod to their area of origin (New York), and the breed's rare chocolate coloration. The York Chocolate cat is not recognized by most cat registries, although breeders are attempting to gain the breed official recognition.
Cinnamon cats are like chocolate cats in that their color is a dilute version of the gene for black coats. Cinnamon can best be described as a sort of reddish-brown or chestnut color. Cat breeds that come in solid cinnamon are the:
- Oriental Shorthair
- Abyssinian, (which is a cinnamon-ticked with chocolate)
- British Shorthair
Fawn is a dilute shade of cinnamon and a mutation of the gene for dense coloration. The color can range from a caramel tone to an almost dark antique white shade. Fawn is rare and is generally only seen in purebred cats that have been bred specifically to produce the color. Solid or primarily fawn is a rare color that can be found in these breeds:
- Oriental Shorthair
A roan cat is a mix of white hair and another color mixed together throughout the body. The color began in Thailand in Saem-Saert cats and a few other breeds. There are several roan patterns:
- Roan is not recognized by any established cat association as an accepted color pattern. One breed, the Lykoi, is black roan, which is black mixed with white or grizzled grey.
- Tweed is considered a "brindle black" color and is very rare to find, particularly since all known cats with this coloration were sterilized or born sterile.
- Karpati or "Salt and Pepper" cats originated in Eastern Europe around the Carpathian region. These cats are black with silvery-white tails, toes, feet, and muzzle, with the white areas having a grizzling of black. This pattern can be found in breeds local to that area, as well as in La Perms.
Lilac or Lavender
Lilac is sometimes called lavender or frost. It's a pale grey color that has a violet or pale lavender tone to it. Lilac is another dilute form of chocolate and the gene for dense. It's also a very rare color that is usually only present in purebred cats bred specifically to produce it. The Thai Lilac is a cat breed defined by their all-over lilac coloring. Lilac is most often found in Persian and Siamese cats and is a point color found in Balinese, Siamese, and Colorpoint Shorthairs. Bengals can also have lilac or lavender incorporated into their coloration.
Cream is also a dilute color and comes from the primary coat color red (which is incorrectly called orange). Cream is another rare color that generally is only found in cats bred to achieve it. It can be found both as a solid color and in patterns such as tabby and point. Cream can also be found in "fever coat," which is a condition triggered when a pregnant cat has a fever or is very stressed. The newborn kittens appear a silver or cream color that gradually changes to match their "true" color. Cream is also found as one of the patterns in dilute calico cats, and is a point color in some breeds, such as the Colorpoint Shorthair.
Cats with rosettes look like little wild leopards and are most often found on hybrid breeds like the Bengal, Savannah, Egyptian Mau, and Ocicat. Scientists believe this coloration is caused by the agouti gene related to tabby and ticked coat patterns. Rosettes have different patterns, such as the arrowhead rosette, clouded leopard, paw print, and donut.
Chinchilla and Smoke
These two colors are similar in coloration but are actually different colors at the root. They're also known as shading. Shading is also related to the agouti and inhibited pigment genes. Both colors can be found in Persians.
The rare chinchilla coat coloring was named after the chinchilla rodent, which has similar coloration. The hair of a chinchilla cat is white at the root and middle, but the far tips are a dark color. Depending on the color of the tip, the cat can look silver or golden. Chinchillas come in several patterns include blue chinchilla, silver, golden, chinchilla shaded tortoiseshell, and red. Some cat fanciers even consider the chinchilla to be a separate breed from Persians.
Unlike a chinchilla, the smoked cat has a silvery light color at the hair root and a darker color on the remaining length of the hair. At first glance, a smoke cat may look like they're a solid color, but with movement or when the hair is parted, you can view the silver undercoat. Smoke comes in several varieties like the chinchilla, such as smoke points, tortoiseshell smoke, silver smoke, and chocolate smoke. The smoke color can also be found in the coat patterns of the Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, and Norwegian Forest Cat.
Learning About Cat Colors
Cat coloration and how they are created based on the genes involved are fascinating topics. Whether your cat is a common color like black or tabby or a rare cat, they're still enjoyable felines!