Feline Coat Colors

Do you ever see a litter of kittens like this and wonder how so many different looking kittens can end up in the same litter?  Read on to find out:

Kittens inherit their coat colors and patterns from both parents.  The basic colors are white, cream/ivory, black, gray/blue/silver, orange/red, and brown. Generally darker colors are dominant (and hence more common) than lighter colors.  This explains why there are a lot more black cats than white ones. 

Most of the genes for coat colors are located on the X sex chromosome.  Since males have only one X chromosome (as opposed to females who have two X chromosomes) some recessive colors such as orange are more common in males.  Tortishells (black & orange; like our old clinic kitty Flower) & calicos (black, orange, and white) are all females since these color combinations require both a black and orange color gene (one on each X chromosome.) 

A “dilute’ gene can combine with the basic colors to produce lighter variations.  The most common are dilute torties/calicos (gray, tan, and light orange cats) and cameos (pale orange cats).   Tabbies have an additional pattern gene that causes stripes or spots on the coat.  White patches (usu. on face, chest or feet) can be superimposed over any color or pattern.    Cats with white front feet are often called “snow shoe”.  A separate gene can also cause “tipping” or “ticking” of individual hairs so the hairs have light and dark color bands.  “Smoke” refers to cats that have white hairs that darken to black at the tips.
           
A temperature sensitive gene can cause a cat’s color to only be expressed on the colder parts of the bod
y (feet, tail, ears, and face).  These are commonly referred to as “Siamese points”.   Cats with color points are born completely white or ivory and develop their “points” as they grow.  

The most common ones are:
           Seal Point—ivory or tan body with dark brown points, a brown nose, and dark brown or black foot pads.
           Blue Point—ivory or gray body with dark gray points, a gray nose, and gray footpads.
           Lilac Point—white or ivory body with lighter gray points, and a pinkish/purplish gray nose and footpads.
           Chocolate Point—white body with milk chocolate brown points, nose, and footpads.
        Flame Point—ivory or light orange body with orange points, nose, and footpads. Our clinic kitty, Beverly, is a flame point.