Tabby cat lying on a floor.
Tabby cat lying on a floor.

Cat Coat Colours & Patterns

If you thought Tabby was a breed (it isn't), you’re not alone

By: Rose Frosek

Last Updated:

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Header photo: Morosanu

Tabby is often erroneously thought to be a breed designation when it actually refers to a coat type, one found in a variety of cats, pedigreed and mixed breed alike. Read on for how to determine which cat coat pattern goes by what name, as well which cat coat types can usually be an at-a-glance indicator of a cat’s gender.

Tabby catTabby Cat

Tabby refers to a coat featuring distinctive stripes, dots, or bands. Tabbies typically have a coat pattern mark resembling the letter M on their foreheads.

The tabby coat is the most common of feline coat patterns and comes in four varieties: Striped (also called Mackerel), Blotched (also called Classic), Spotted, and Ticked. A Striped or Mackerel Tabby has tiger-like narrow stripes that run horizontally across the cat’s sides. Blotched is the classic tabby look; this coat pattern is notable for its swirling, rounded, marbleized pattern along the cat’s sides. Spotted Tabbies, as the name suggests, have spots all over their sides. A ticked tabby does not possess the typical tabby stripes or spots but does have the traditional tabby markings on the face. The ticked tabby has a salt and pepper coat, the result of something called agouti hairs. Agouti hairs are individual hairs that are striped in alternating bands of light and dark colour. Abyssinians have a prominently ticked coat, as do some mixed breeds.

Tuxedo Cat


Tuxedo Cat

As the name suggests, tuxedo is a black and white coat. Tuxedo cats are typically black with white paws, chest, and belly. The face is sometimes white or partially white.



Cat with Dilute Coat


A dilution references any one of a number of genes that has created a lighter colour of coat, such as cream instead of white, or grey instead of black.




Cat with Pointed Coat

Pointed Cat Coat

With a Pointed coat, the “cooler” parts of the body—face, paws, and tail—are a darker colour than the rest of the body.


Calico Cat

Calico catThis three-colour coat is predominantly white but features distinct patches of two colours–often orange and black or the more subdued cream and blue tones. Calico cats are almost always female as coat colour in cats is a physical characteristic related to gender. The genetic coding for displaying orange or black colour is found on the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, so they are able to have two different coat colours plus white to create the calico mix. Male calico cats are usually sterile.



Torbie cat coat


Also known as a “patched tabby,” a Torbie is a tortoiseshell that has a very distinct tabby pattern on all coloured parts of the cat’s coat (but not on the white).




Tortoiseshell or Tortie

Tortoiseshell cat
Like the calico, this mix of two colours plus white is found almost exclusively in female cats. The difference between the tortie and the calico is that in the tortie, the coat colours are blended or swirled together rather than being distinct patches. Like the calico, the tortie may also have significant amounts of white.


Last Updated:

By: Rose Frosek
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