Sparrow's Garden
Cat Color Glossary
Synonyms: Solid. These colors (save for white) are the base colors which other patterns and effects act on.


Synonyms: Ebony. In solid black cats, the nose and paw-pads will also be black. Some black cats, especially longhairs, may have a reddish cast in the sun, or a brownish tone from sun exposure.

Source: Sloane Poe on Flickr


Synonyms: Chestnut. A dark brown cat. There is some variation in shade. The nose and paw-pads will also be chocolate.

Source: Faldrian at Wikimedia Commons


Synonyms: Sorrel (in Abyssinians/Somalis). A lighter reddish-brown, "the color of a cinnamon stick". Nose and paw-pads will be the same color or more pink.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Synonyms: Orange, Yellow, Marmalade, Ginger. Anywhere from rich red-orange to a washed out yellow. The nose and paw-pads are pink or coral. "Solid" red cats are specifically bred to have low-contrast markings, since true solid red cats are not possible.

Source: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.


Synonyms: Grey. A grey cat, with a wide range of colors from pale blue-grey to deep slate. Nose and paw-pads are also blue, but may be darker than the coat.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Synonyms: Lavender. A warm grey-brown, or "grey with a pinkish tone". Can vary quite a lot in shade. Nose and paw-pads are lilac or lilac-pink, and may be darker than the coat.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Synonyms: Beige. Lighter and warmer than lilac. Although it is ideally easy to distinguish from lilac, darker fawns can be difficult to identify. Nose and paw-pads are warm brownish-pink.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Pale yellow or tan, sometimes with a slight pinkish cast. Nose and paw-pads are pink. Like with red, cream cats cannot be solid, and any that appear solid simply have very low-contrast markings.

Source: Trougnouf via Wikimedia Commons


Synonyms: Taupe. Caramel is a rare color caused by the action of the "dilute modifier" gene on blue, lilac, or fawn cats. It is a grey-brown, similar to lilac. "Taupe" specifically refers to lilac-based caramel.

Here is an example of a caramel cat.


Apricot is caused by the same dilute modifier as caramel, but on cream. It is paler than ginger, but more saturated than cream. Because it is derived from cream, there are no true solid apricot cats.

Here is an example of an apricot cat.


Fully white cats have pink noses and paw-pads. White cats also have a higher incidence of heterochromia or "odd eyes", where each eye is a different color - usually one blue eye and one eye of another color.

Source: Lite via Wikimedia Commons
Synonyms: Tortie, Particolor. Tortoiseshells, typically only female, have patches of a "red" color, and a "black" color. The "red" color may display tabby markings even though the "black" color is solid.


"Normal" tortoiseshells have patches of black and red. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled between black and pink.

Source: Taryn on Flickr

Chocolate Tortoiseshell

Chocolate torties are patched with chocolate and red. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled between chocolate and pink.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Cinnamon Tortoiseshell

Cinnamon torties are patched cinnamon and red. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled between cinnamon and pink.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Dilute Tortoiseshell

Dilute tortiess are blue and cream. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled blue and pink.

Source: Julochka on Flickr

Lilac Tortoiseshell

Lilac torties are lilac and cream. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled lilac and pink.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Fawn Tortoiseshell

Fawn tortoiseshells are fawn and cream. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled brownish-pink and pink.

Here is a fawn tortie.

Caramel Tortoiseshell

Caramel torties are caramel and apricot. The nose and paw-pads may be mottled caramel and pink.

Here are some caramel tortoiseshells.
Tabby Patterns
A tabby cat has a dark pattern overlaid on a lighter, ticked background color. The main tabby patterns are detailed here, other breed specific varieties can be found below.

Classic Tabby

Synonyms: Blotched tabby, Oyster tabby. Pattern creates a spiral or bulleye like shape on the side.

Source: source here

Mackerel Tabby

Synonyms: Tiger. Thin vertical stripes.

Source: source here

Spotted Tabby

Pattern is broken up into distinct spots.

Source: source here

Broken Mackerel

Intermediate between full mackerel and spotted.

Source: Mikkabie via Wikimedia Commons

Ticked Tabby

No distinct stripes except on legs, tail, and neck.

Source: Tracie Hall on Flickr
Tabby Colors
Examples of each color of tabby. Red, cream, and apricot tabbies are not shown here because these cats are always tabbies, so examples can be found above.

Black Tabby

More commonly known as brown tabby. The background color may be almost black, light grey or brown, rich red-brown, or anything in between, but they can always be identified by their black stripes. The nose can be black or dark red rimmed with black.

Source: Boudhayan Bardhan on Unsplash

Chocolate Tabby

Chocolate tabbies have a tan background color and chocolate markings. The nose can be chocolate or pinkish rimmed with chocolate.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Cinnamon Tabby

Cinnamon tabbies have a tan background color similar to that of chocolate tabbies, but with cinnamon markings. The nose is pinkish-cinnamon or pink rimmed with cinnamon.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Blue Tabby

Blue tabbies have a background color of light grey or warm beige with blue markings. The nose can be blue or old rose rimmed with blue.

Source: Konstantin Dyadun on Unsplash

Lilac Tabby

Lilac tabbies have a light beige background color and lilac markings. The nose is lilac or pink rimmed with lilac.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Fawn Tabby

Fawn tabbies tend to be very low contrast, with the background color only slightly lighter than the markings. The nose is pink.

Source: Heikki Siltata at

Tortoiseshell Tabby

Synonyms: Torbie, Patched tabby. They have tabby markings across both colors. They come in every color of tortoiseshell.

Source: The.Rohit on Flickr
Silver and Golden
The silver and golden series are caused by differing combinations of the silver gene, agouti and nonagouti, and wide banding.

Silver Tabby

Silver tabbies have a silvery background color and colored stripes. They come in every color and pattern of tabby.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Silver Shaded

Silver shaded cats are light silver ticked tabbies. The lightest of them may be referred to as silver tipped, because the hairs are tipped with color.

Source: Allen Watkin via Wikimedia Commons


The smoke pattern is caused by the silver gene acting on solid cats. Smoke cats have a silvery undercoat, best seen in longhaired cats.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

"Smoke Tabby"

"Smoke tabbies" are not tabbies at all. They are smoke cats, usually shorthaired, who show faint tabby markings. This is especially common in kittens.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Golden tabbies have a bright golden background color and colored stripes. They come in every color and pattern of tabby, and in shaded and tipped varieties like silver.

Source: Heikki Siltala at
Colorpoint Variants
Colorpoint and its related patterns are caused by temperature sensitive albinism, which causes less pigment to be produced in warmer areas of the body. They can combine with any other color or pattern.


Colorpoint is known as the typical Siamese pattern, but it also appears in other breeds. Colorpoint cats have a light body, colored extremities, and blue eyes.

Source: Alex Meier on Unsplash


Mink is the signature pattern of the Tonkinese. Mink cats are darkly colored at the extremities, but the body is not as light as in colorpoint cats. They typically have green or blue-green eyes..

Source: Silke Lautz via Wikimedia Commons


Sepia is the pattern of the Burmese, and the darkest version of this pattern. Burmese cats have gold eyes by breed standard, but other eye colors are possible.

Source: Heikki Siltala at
White Spotting
White spotting is the most common type of white markings in cats. It ranges from very small white markings to markings covering almost the entire body. White spotting can combine with any color and pattern. These are a few of the named patterns.


Mitts or socks are one of the first areas of white to appear. There is also an allele that specifically causes white mitts found in the Birman breed.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Tuxedo patterned cats have a white chest, partial or complete white muzzle, toes, and possibly a white tail-tip or white belly.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Bicolor is a term for (non-tortoiseshell) cats with roughly half white. It is sometimes used for a wider range of white spotting.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Mask and Mantle

Mask and mantle cats have two large masses of color - one on the head (the "mask), and one on the body (the "mantle").

Source: Hisashi on Flickr

Cap and Saddle

The cap and saddle pattern is similar to the ​mask and mantle, but each mass of color is smaller.

Source: Hisashi on Flickr


Harlequin ​cats have random spotting with a colored tail. Cats with random spotting and no colored tail are pied.

Source: B. Proksch via Wikimedia Commons


Van patterned cats are white with colored splotches between the ears and a colored tail. The name comes from the Turkish Van, but the pattern appears in many breeds.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Also known as tricolors, calicos are tortoiseshells with over half white spotting. The patches tend to be larger and more distinct. Low-white tortoiseshells are more commonly called "tortoiseshell and white".

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Point + White

I'm frequently asked If colorpoint and white spotting can combine, so here is an example. The combination of point and white patterns are frequently seen in Snowshoes and Ragdolls. This is a tortoiseshell point and white Ragdoll.

Source: Heikki Siltala at
Breed Specific Colors & Patterns


Abyssinians and Somalis are bred to have a lot of red pigment, which gives them unique coloration. Black tabby becomes ruddy (also called usual or tawny), a rich red ticked with black. Cinnamon tabby is called sorrel, and is red with cinnamon ticking. Other colors do not change names, but all have distinct red or cream undertones.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Agouti Tabby

Agouti tabby is ticked tabby without banding on the legs, tail, and neck. It must be bred for, since it only appears in specific breeds.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Sepia Agouti

The Singapura is unique in that it combines agouti tabby with the sepia pattern, resulting in dark ticking on an ivory background.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Amber is a color particular to Norwegian Forest Cats. The cat is born a black-based tabby, then gradually lightens until they are similar in color to a ginger cat, possibly with some residual black pigment.

Source: Sylvie MM on Flickr.

Nonagouti Amber

In non-tabbies, amber acts a bit differently. As they lighten, they retain dark stripes. They can also be identified by their dark noses.​

Source: Pieter Lanser via Wikimedia Commons.


Siberians have a special type of "golden tabby" known more specifically as sunshine. It is known to be distinct because silver sunshine cats, or bimetallics, have patches of silver and "golden".

Source: source here
Asian Leopard Cat Patterns
The following patterns can be found in breeds with ancestry in the Asian Leopard Cat, such as Bengals and Toygers. They arise from the combination of ALC genes with domestic cat genes.

Rosetted Tabby

Rosetted tabby is one of the two signature patterns of the Bengal breed. It varies widely in appearance, but the general pattern is spots with a dark border and lighter center.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Marbled Tabby

Marbled tabby is modified classic tabby. The pattern tends to be very rectangular, with lighter spots in the middle of the stripes.

Source: Heikki Siltala at

Braided Tabby

Also known as "candle-flame" tabby, braided tabby is the pattern of the Toyger. It is a modification of mackerel tabby. The mackerel stripes tend to split longitudinally, with areas of medium darkness in between.

Source: Heikki Siltala at


Charcoal is a Bengal trait that comes in two forms, "twilight" and "midnight". Both types have dark markings on the face and back, with those of midnight charcoals being darker than those of twilight charcoals. They also show reduced red pigment, though not to the same extent as silver cats.

"Twilight charcoal" and "midnight charcoal" were coined by Traipse Charcoal Bengals. They elaborate and show examples of each here!

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