Did you know there’s no difference between a tabby and a tiger cat? These terms are often used interchangeably and refer to any cat with stripes, particularly around the eyes, and an “M” marking on the forehead. Also, if you look closely at a tiger cat’s fur, you’ll see that each hair has alternating light and dark bands. Called “agouti,” it is similar in appearance to the fur of a rabbit or squirrel. Tiger cats come in a variety of colors.
Tiger or tabby cats have a variety of patterns. One of them is called a mackerel tabby. This means the cat has thin stripes that run from the spine to the stomach that are said to resemble mackerel fish. Mackerel tabby cats also appear in different colors.
If your cat has spots instead of stripes, it’s called a spotted tabby. The spots can be large or small or look like pieces of stripes down the side of your pet.
A classic or blotched tabby has large swirling stripes on both sides of its body. This classic tabby is considered a red tabby due to its bold orange stripes over a cream-color background.
About 5 percent of all cats have white coats, but did you know that white cats with two blue eyes have a tendency to be deaf? And, that a cat with one blue eye and one normal eye can be deaf in one ear? Of course, not all blue-eyed white cats are deaf, but keep it in mind if you have a white cat with blue eyes that seems to be ignoring you.
Black cats are the result of a recessive gene that hides the tabby pattern underneath. That’s why, in a certain light, you can sometimes see pale tiger stripes hiding under your black cat’s coat.
Any cat with white fur that’s highlighted with another color can be considered a bicolor. The amount of color can vary from a few spots around the cat’s ears and tail to a broader swath of color over much of the body. This bicolor pattern is caused by a white-spotting gene.
A bicolor cat that’s primarily black and white is often nicknamed a tuxedo cat. Looking like they are in formal wear, tuxedo cats often have white paws and chest with a blaze on the face.
A cat with a pointed coat has a light-color body with darker ears, feet, and tail. The most common examples of a pointed coat are found in the Siamese and Himalayan breeds, although the coat pattern can occur in the common house cat. Most pointed cats are born white and darken with age.
A calico cat is officially described as a mostly white cat with patches of two other colors, usually black and orange tabby. The calico pattern is also sex-linked so that 99 percent of calico cats are female. A dilute form of calico also occurs where the two other colors are gray and buff.
Often mistakenly called calico cats, tortoiseshell cats are completely covered in patches of orange and black. Sometimes these cats have a split face with half the face being orange and half being black. Like calico cats, tortoiseshell cats are almost always female.
Some cats might look like a cross between a calico and a tortoiseshell, having striped patches of orange and black over a white base. These cats are often called torbie cats and, like calico and tortoiseshell cats, are almost always female.
Gray cats have a gene that dilutes the black pigment in their coats to make them appear almost blue-gray in color. Perhaps the most famous example of this can be found in the elegant Russian blue breed.