Cat Fur Patterns and Length

A cat’s coat of fur can come in a myriad of colors, patterns, and fur length, and in any combination of the three.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the more well known coat patterns cats can possess. We’ll also discuss the different lengths of fur that cats can have.

Solid Color Fur Coats

Cats typically have varied colors and patterns on their coat, making solid color cats not terribly common. A solid colored coat can only be classified as such when the cat’s fur has only one color, from head to tail.

White cat sleeping on a chair.
White is one of the common mono colors that a cat’s fur coat can be. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey

The sole color of a solid coat is evenly dispersed throughout the cat. It can be too soon to tell if a kitten’s coat can be considered solid, as a mono-colored coat can be a trait they grow into. 

The black cat, (a.k.a. a tamed void according to the internet), may be the most popular example of this pattern. On the other hand, white is also one of the most common colors for a solid cat coat

Bicolor/Piebald Fur Coats

Bicolor cats, also known as Piebald cats, have coats that consist of white and one other color, often orange or brown.

The white color can just be a few spots here and there, or it can extend to the majority of the coat. This pattern is most commonly found in cats of a mixed breed.

Although the following coats have their own names, Bicolor or Piebald is the umbrella term they still fit under. 

Harlequin Cats

Harlequin” cats have coats that are predominantly white, while having spots of a different color dotted around their body. A number of breeds can have this cat, including Japanese Bobtails and Persian cats.

Van Cats

“Van” is similar to the Harlequin pattern, though there is even less coloration as it’s only found on the tail, the head, or both. 

The opposite can occur on bicolor coats as well, where there is less white compared to the other color on the coat. There are specific names for the variations where the white fur is relegated to certain parts of the cat’s body. White paws can be called socks or mittens, white chests can be called lockets, among other names. 

Tuxedo Cats

Tuxedo cats are technically another instance of bicolor or piebald coat. They are defined by having both white and black fur, with one color dominating in certain areas of the body like their head or belly. Hence the name Tuxedo, which is reminiscent of the black and white formal wear.

A black and white cat sitting on the top of a stump in the fog.
Tuxedo cats get their name from their predominately black fur coat with white chest and paws, making them looking like they are wearing a tuxedo. Photo: © pimmimemom / stock.adobe.com.

A number of different breeds can produce a tuxedo cat, especially if the cat in question is of mixed lineage. So any physical or behavioral traits they exhibit can be based on their environment or genetic makeup. 

Colorpoint

One of the most unique and sought after coat patterns, Colorpoint cats have a mostly white or light colored body, with any color they have dispersed at certain points. Unlike bicolor or tuxedo cats where the color pattern is distributed randomly, the pigmentation on colorpoint cats are focused on their extremities, e.g. their faces, head, ears, tail. legs and paws. 

This type of coloration is caused by a genetic mutation. Colorpoint cats all have partial albinism, which is responsible for their cream colored bodies. However, the genetic mutation causes the enzyme that produces melanin unable to work on parts of the cat’s body warmer than 98 degrees Fahrenheit, or 39 degrees Celsius. This means that the color will only form on the cooler parts of their body. 

Colorpoint kittens are completely white in the womb and a few days up to two weeks after they are born. As their body cools and they grow older, the color should start to appear and get darker up to a certain point. 

Siamese cat sitting on the railing of a wooden house.
Siamese cats, with dark brown or black coloring on their ears, face, limbs, and tails, are an example of colorpoint cats. Photo: © zagursky / stock.adobe.com.

A common example of this coat pattern are the Siamese cats. Originally hailing from the kingdom of Siam (now Thailand) Siamese cats are known for their gorgeous deep blue eyes, loud and expressive personalities, and of course. their highly regarded colorpoint coats. 

Tabby

Many different breeds can have the tabby coat pattern. The tabby cat is the most common coat pattern there is. Distinguished by the stripes, lines, and the dark colored marks marbling their body, tabby cats were revered by the ancient Egyptians and are still beloved today. 

An orange tabby sitting in a small basket with a wooden handle.
An orange tabby cat. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Tabbies what appears to be pencil lines etched into their face, as if they were an artists creation. Interestingly almost all tabbies have what appears to be a letter M resting on their foreheads. It is more distinct in some cats, though it can be a little faded and broken up by intercepting spots and lines. Some say they do not look like the letter M at all, but two incomplete triangles positioned closely together. Its origin is explained differently from culture to culture, with even some religions throwing in their own theories. 

The tabby gene determines the different marks, patches, and stripes that the cat will be gifted with. There are several variations to the main tabby pattern, and they are as follows:

Mackerel

The Mackerel pattern is distinguished by the long, thick stripes that run across the cat’s sides, especially if they are evenly spaced and darker compared to the base color.

This stripes and bands form what looks like the skeleton of a fish, which is why the name Mackerel was chosen for the pattern. They have a resemblance to a tiger’s distinct stripes, hence why they are sometimes called Tiger cats. 

A gray tabby looking down from the rafters of a horse barn.
This gray tabby has a mackerel coat pattern.

Classic

Classic tabbies have the swirling, non linear coloration and patches along their bodies, like splotches of ink on a canvas. This is sometimes accompanied by a butterfly pattern on the cat’s shoulders, and more spots along their backbone. They are also called blotched or marble tabbies depending on the region. 

An orange tabby in a crouching position on a lawn.
An orange tabby with a classic tabby cat coat pattern. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Ticked

Thankfully having nothing to do with ticks, this coat pattern is a lot different from the other tabby variations. They have bands of agouti hairs that obscure the typical tabby markings. Though the lines are usually still visible on their face.

The Agouti hairs themselves alternate in color along the strand of fur, forming what is reminiscent of a sand like pattern on its coat. Ticked cats are often not recognized as tabbies at first, but the distinct traits signature to the tabby coats can be seen upon closer inspection. 

A Bhutanese short-haired cat, along Paro Taktsang (Tiger's Nest) trek, Paro Valley, Bhutan.
A ticked tabby cat with the “M” tabby pattern on their forehead. Photo: © Wirestock Creators / stock.adobe.com.

Spotted

Spotted cats are adorned with spots, dots, and small patches all over its body, instead of the usual stripes or bands. The spots can also vary in their shape, some resembling little dots while others can look like ovals. 

Tricolor

Based on pure principle, tricolor cats feature three colors on their coats. Interestingly, they’re almost always referred to by another name, which are the variants that fit under the tricolor label. 

Calico

One of the most famous instances of a tricolor coat, Calico cats have black, white, and orange colored fur on their coat. Though hints of grey and cream are sometimes visible as well. Though it belongs to no specific breed, some allow for the colors of one to show.

A mostly white cat with calico patterns on the top of the head, tail, and hind legs.
A Japanese bobtail with calico pattern. Photo: © Callalloo Twisty / stock.adobe.com.

You’ve probably seen a calico cat out and about, and chances were, it was a female. Cats bearing this coat pattern rarely produce male offspring, because the specific calico coloring almost always require two X chromosomes to be present. 

Tortoise

Cats with a tortoiseshell coat pattern possess a combination of greyish black, gold, and orange fur. If you’ll notice, these colors are similar to the beautiful shells of tortoises, hence the name.

Like calico cats, this coat pattern is dominated by females, with make tortoiseshell cats being incredibly rare and often unable to sire kittens of their own. 

Cat Fur Coat Lengths

Now that we’ve gone over the basic coat patters, fur length is also one of the easiest traits to spot right away on a cat. 

Shorthair Cats

Shorthair refers to cats with very short fur. How much of it they shed depends on the actual breed of cat, but they almost always shed less than longhair ones. Their coat is also more dense, as each strand of fur is tucked tightly together.

On the upside, shorthair cats don’t need a high amount of brushing, as cleaning themselves is a habit innate to all cats. Fleas or ticks are also much easier to spot with the occasional scan, as shorthair fur typically stays below two inches in length. Making shorthairs rather low maintenance, at least in the grooming department. 

Examples of shorthair cats are:

  • British Shorthair
  • American Shorthair 
  • Bengal Cats

Medium Hair

Medium hair cats feature a noticeable step up in fur length from shorthairs. Evident in the tufts of hair fur that stick out from their face and head, resembling a lion’s mane, but much more adorable. Breeds featuring medium hair length require more grooming than shorthairs, but nothing too major.

Depending on the cat’s diet as well, medium hair can feel a little coarse and flat to the touch. Many feel that this fur length is a happy medium between cute fluffiness, proportionate to how much work it takes to keep the cat clean.

Examples of medium hair cats are:

  • American Bobtail
  • Abyssinian
  • LaPerm
  • Manx
  • Ocicat
  • Ragdoll

Long Hair

Long hair cats just exude a regal energy, as they have the longest fur out of all the types. Their coat can almost be compared to a flowing cape that trails them wherever they go. Their fur is silky, lustrous, and luxurious to the touch, making them perfect companions to snuggle up with on cold nights.

The long fur may prove to be a challenge to some owners however, as they shed up a storm of lengthy dander. If not cared for properly, they fur can become matted and tangled, unpleasant to look at and even more unpleasant for the cat to bear.

A long-haired gray tabby with white underbelly playing with a small toy in the grass.
A longhaired tabby cat. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

They also might not be suited for very hot environments, unless there are ways to keep the cat cool. If one wishes to own a longhaired cat, they must regularly perform a special regimen of bathing, brushing, and other grooming methods to keep it clean and looking its best. 

Examples of long hair cats are:

Curly Hair

As the name suggests, curly haired cats have fur that is usually of long or medium length, except it is curly. The curls form ripples along its fur, creating a unique sensation and texture.

Although no cat is truly hypoallergenic, curly haired cats shed very little, or don’t shed any hair at all, making them more tolerable for those with allergies. They’re not guaranteed to be completely safe for those with cat allergies, so always consult your doctor before making a decision.

Cornish Rex kitten posing on a grey background.
A Cornish Rex kitten with curly fur coat. Photo: © sichkarenko_com / stock.adobe.com.

Interestingly, if a cat has curly fur, chances are their whiskers can show some curls as well. Curly haired cats will have to be groomed often however, with a special comb made and brush made curly hair specifically. 

Examples of curly haired cats are:

  • Devon Rex
  • Selkirk Rex
  • German Rex 
  • Ural Rex

Hairless

With the Aztecs breeding hairless cats during the height of their empire, our fur-less friends are one of the oldest types of felines out there. Though the sphynx breed of cats we typically associate with hairlessness today are a more modern occurrence. They originated from a random genetic mutation in 1966, and have thrived ever since. 

A Sphynx standing to the left of a nearly hairless lykoi cat.
A sphynx (left) next to a nearly hairless lykoi cat (right). Photo: © MartinPotgieter / stock.adobe.com.

The lack of hair makes brushing and combing unnecessary and downright impossible, hairless cats still need other forms of grooming. Their exposed skin make them more susceptible to buildups of acne, as well as nicks and other blemishes.

Without fur, they also do not have their natural coat to keep them thermally insulated, meaning they can get cold easily in colder climates. Luckily, there are adorable solutions to this, in the form of tiny shirts, mittens, and other cat clothing to keep them warm. 

Examples of hairless cats are:

  • Sphynx
  • Peterbald
  • Minskin
  • Ukrainian Levkoy 

Near hairless cats include:

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