Cats come in a wide variety of colours. We are all familiar with the commoner colours, such as black, black and white, tabby, ginger, and so on. We are also likely to have seen cats with the pointed coats of Siamese and a few other breeds, tortoiseshell cats, plus grey cats and white cats. But there are some rather more unusual colours. Some of these are only likely to be seen in pedigree cats which have been especially bred to be of a particular colour. Some, particularly some tabby patterns, are fairly new, since breeders are constantly trying to develop new coat colours. Here we will take a look at ten of the most unusual coat colours, what cats are likely to have them, and how they arise – although the genetics involved is a little too complicated for this article..
Fawn is actually a very rare colour, being a dilute version of cinnamon, which in itself is not often seen. This colour is rarely seen in any cats other than pedigree ones, so you are unlikely to be able to find a fawn moggie. It is most often seen in the Abyssinian, but occurs in other cats too – I know a Selkirk Rex with this unusual coat colour.
Lilac is a dilute version of chocolate, and that too is quite a rare cat coat colour. In some parts of the world the colour is referred to as 'lavender'. Despite the name, these cats actually appear to be a very pale grey rather than having any purple or mauve in their coats – but that is what tends to happen in cat colour descriptions! Breeds in which this colour is more likely include British Shorthair, Burmese, Scottish Fold, Balinese, and Selkirk Rex.
Cinnamon looks like a variety of light brown, but with distinct red overtones. It is actually a dominant colour genetically, but is rarely seen. This is because this colour – along with lilac, fawn, and caramel – was not found in Western cats until Oriental cats were imported, starting with the Siamese. These shades were not recognised for showing cats for some time, and for this reason they are still relatively unusual. However, the colour can be found in a number of pedigree breeds.
Chocolate is another dominant colour, appearing as an attractive warm dark brown. Like cinnamon is nevertheless quite unusual as it is a traditional Oriental colour. But chocolate is quite common in some breeds, particularly of course the Havana, and more recently the new Suffolk Chocolate. Other breeds in which this colour can be found are the Persian, British Shorthair, Balinese, and Burmese. So if you want a chocolate coloured cat, it may be a little easier to find than some other colours mentioned above.
This is really a coat pattern rather than a specific colour. It occurs because the root of each hair is a different colour from the tip, giving the coat a silvery appearance. This is the case in the most common chinchilla colour which is silver, but there are also other coloured versions of the chinchilla coat pattern – blue and golden being the best known. This colour occurs most often in Persians, where the cats are often known simply as 'Chinchillas'. This coat pattern is also sometimes referred to as 'tipped', although some people would say that this is a different pattern.
Cream is a dilute version of red. This is one colour which turns up quite often in non-pedigrees or moggies, where it is often referred to as 'pale ginger', biscuit coloured' or 'apricot'. It is common in many pedigree cats too. If you want a cream cat, it should not be too hard to find one, not nearly as difficult as finding a cat of one of the colours above.
Roan coloured cats are extremely unusual, the colour being formed by the hair in their coats being irregularly mixed with white hairs. Although this colour pattern is not accepted by the cat fancy, it has a long history, 'blue roans' having cropped up in various Thai breeds for centuries. The only breed which allows roan at the present time is the rather new Lykoi.
Shaded cats are similar to tipped ones or chinchillas, but the colour is on a larger portion of each hair, giving a soft overlay of a different colour. In both shaded and tipped cats, the interesting colour pattern is produced by a particular gene which caused each hair to have two colours. Cats with this pattern are not all that hard to find, although you would be unlikely to find non-pedigree shaded cat.
Smoked cats have the hair coloured in an opposite way to chinchilla or tipped cats, that is, the hairs have light roots and middles and darker ends. This gives the coat a definitely smoky appearance. Again, cats with these coats are not all that difficult to find, although you will have to look at pedigree cats rather than moggies.
This again is not a coat colour but a very unusual tabby-type pattern. These are the spots similar to the spots seen on leopards and are most oftenseen on hybrid cat breeds such as the Bengal Cat and Toyger. There is still speculation as to the genetic origin of rosettes, but it is thought to be a version of the agouti gene which is responsible for tabby patterns in cats. At any rate, you are unlikely to find it except in the two breeds mentioned, and maybe other new hybrid breeds of cat, of which more seem to come along regularly.
If you want a cat with one of these rare coat colours, the best thing to do is to contact a breeder of a breed which sometimes includes the colour you are looking for. However, do bear in mind that you may need to wait a while if you are looking for a very unusual colour, particularly if it is one which has become very popular.