Hmm…What Color Is That Cat?
Cats come in a wide variety of breeds and colors. Homeless cats especially can be a motley sort, generally being the offspring of many different kinds of breeds all intermingling. At our morning check-in, we ask trappers to list each cat’s color and breed, as these descriptions help us keep accountability for the cat as he/she goes through our clinic for the day. Here are some common color, breed descriptions, and terms that you may hear us use.
All over solid color; no striping whatsoever. You can have solid greys (also called blues), blacks, whites, even browns. Generally oranges (also called reds) and creams aren’t totally solid, as they will have faint tabby markings on them.
Any solid color cat plus white, with the two colors being fairly evenly distributed. For example, black and white, grey and white, etc., with the white being about half the color composition.
– Tuxedo – A tuxedo cat is a type of bi-color cat who looks just exactly like what the name says…like the kitty is wearing a little tuxedo! The coat is all over black with a white bib (shirt) and white mitts (or tuxedo cuffs).
… and White
Any solid color or color pattern plus white markings. Generally when we say “and white”, there are distinct larger patches of white on the cat. If there aren’t larger patches of white and just small bits of white, here are some other terms you can use to more accurately describe your kitty:
- White “mitts” - White feet or paws
- White “bib” - White chest
- White “locket” - Small patch of white hair on the chest
A mostly white cat with a few larger spots of color. White is the most noticeable color.
Van or Van Bi-Color
All white with just small spots or splashes of color between the ears and on the tail.
A paler or lighter version of the original color pattern. So you have pale orange, cream or buff instead of brighter orange, and grey or blue instead of black. Dilute is often used to describe calicos, torties and tabbies.
Solid black or grey hair with white roots, so that the cat’s coat appears to be smokey (i.e., smokey black with white roots, or smokey grey with white roots).
We love tabbies! Tabbies are probably the most common type of homeless cats we see. Tabbies come in lots of colors. The most common is the brown or brown/grey tabby, which generally has brown, black and grey blended together. You can also have grey tabbies, orange tabbies, and cream or buff tabbies. Silver tabbies generally have black and grey markings on white roots, which gives the cat a more silver appearance (more silver than just grey). Tabbies come in a variety of patterns too, which also help accurately describe the cat:
- Tiger tabby or “mackerel” tabby – Long, narrow stripes across the cat’s body like a tiger.
- Classic tabby - Round bulls-eye swirls on the cat’s sides or flanks.
- Spotted tabby - Spots on the cat’s flanks and underbelly. Mainly you’ll see spotted tabby markings in cats like Ocicats or Egyptian Maus.
- Ticked or agouti – Ticked cats have different bands of color along the hair shaft, with the hair being the lightest or palest by the root and the ends “ticked” darker. This term is most often used to describe Abyssinians.
This term is most commonly used to describe calicos and tortoiseshell cats, which are nearly always female because of the gene composition.
– Calico – Calicos have three distinct colors: orange, black and white. Dilute calicos are the same, except they are the paler version, so you have grey, peach and white. Many calicos have a patchwork design to their coat.
– Calico Tabby or “Tabico” for short – A calico mixed with a brown tabby, so you get brown and orange tabby markings plus larger patches of white.
– Tortoiseshell or “Torties” for short - Torties aren’t true tri-colored cats, as they are mainly black and orange (also called red) swirled in a “brindle” pattern. But they are similar to calicos in that they are nearly always female. Sometimes you will see a tortie patterned cat with small splashes of white. In the UK, these are often called “torties with white”, while in the US we mainly call these calicos. Both terms are technically correct. Dilute torties are grey (or blue) and peach (or cream), instead of black and orange.
– Torbie - A tabby mixed with a tortie, so you have a tabby pattern with more noticeable orange marbling in it. Torbies look like autumn leaves.
Solid pale cream or darker tan body color with a different color on the ears, muzzle, tail and feet, otherwise known as “points.” Points are often used in describing Siamese, Himalayans, Birmans, Exotics and other similar breeds.
- Flame point - Orange coloring on the face, ears, tail and feet, anywhere from bright orange to very pale.
- Seal point - Dark brown points like the color of seal skin, and the nose leather and paw pads will be dark brown.
- Chocolate point – Points are generally slightly lighter brown than seal points, and the nose leather and paw pads will be pinkish.
- Lilac or blue point - Grey or blue points, anywhere from darker grey to very pale.
- Lynx point - A Siamese-type mixed with a tabby, so you’ll see a cream or tan body with a tabby looking face, ears, tail and feet. You can have different colors of lynx points too, i.e., grey lynx point, brown lynx point, orange lynx point, etc.
- Tortie point - A Siamese-type mixed with a tortie, so you notice tortie brindle markings on the face, ears, tail and feet.
So, now that you’re an expert, what color is the cat in the top picture?
We gave you an easy one… it’s a dilute calico, or a grey dilute calico to be even more precise!