Harlequin Cats Explained

A harlequin cat is a type of bicolor (or piebald) and tricolor coat pattern found on some domestic cats. This coat pattern is predominately white fur with spots of another color dispersed over the head and body.

The classification of a bicolor cat coat pattern is dependent on the ratio of white to color fur. Cats can be categorized by the following white spotting scale:

  • Low-grade: less than 40% of the cat’s coat is white
  • Medium-grade: 40-60% of the coat is white
  • High-grade: more than 60% of the coat is white

According to cat fancier organization Fédération Internationale Féline, harlequin cats should be between 50% – 75% white with color patches that are predominately on the body and a solid color tail. Some color patches may be on the face.

Harlequin cats can also have tricolor where white is still the dominant color and the two other colors are contained together in the same patches.

Black and White Harlequin Cats

Harlequin cats with black spots are commonly known as “cow cats” or “moo cats” given the patterns similarity to Holstein-Friesian dairy cows.

A black and white cat resting underneath a potted plant on a wooden deck.
A harlequin cat with the “cow cat” black and white pattern. Photo: © zzzdim / stock.adobe.com.

Types of Color Combinations for Harlequin Cats

White cats with random black patches is one of the more common iterations of the harlequin coat pattern. Harlequin cats can have a other white and color combinations including:

  • Chocolate (brown) and white
  • Cinnamon (light brown) and white
  • Red and white
  • Blue (gray) and white
  • Lilac (lavender) and white
  • Fawn and white
  • Cream and white

Calico Harlequin Cat

Harlequin coat patterns can be seen in cats with tabby and calico colors.

A longhaired calico version with mostly white fur coat.
This Persian cat has a harlequin coat pattern with calico coloring. Photo: © slowmotiongli / stock.adobe.com.

Cat Breed That Can Have a Harlequin Coat Pattern

The following breeds can have a harlequin coat pattern:

  • British Shorthair
  • Colorpoint Shorthair
  • Munchkin Cat
  • Japanese Bobtail
  • Persian Cat
  • Turkish Van

Coat Patterns Similar to Harlequin Cats

Mask and Mantle Coat Pattern

The “mask and mantle cat” coat pattern looks similar to a harlequin cat coat pattern. However, the coat pattern for mask-and-mantle cats has a greater proportion of color to white ratio. The majority of the head and along the backside of a cat with this coat pattern is colored, making the cat look like they have a “mask and cape”.

Mask and mantle coat patterns have medium-white coat spotting.

A bicolor tabby barn cat peering down from the wooden rafters.
This tabby barn cat has a mask and mantle coat pattern. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Cap-and-Saddle

With the cap and saddle coat pattern, the amount of color shrinks to a smaller patch on the lower back and a less color on the head compared to a mask and mantle coat cat pattern.

Related