Saturday, February 25, 2017

Caturday: What Color Is Your Cat Really?

It's Caturday, and we're geeking out about coat colors and patterns and genetics. Well, technically I'm geeking out and the cats are just chilling. They're not that into genetics. Anyway, I recently pondered whether there was a feline equivalent to Dog Coat Colour Genetics, my favorite website for learning about this kind of stuff. Sure enough, I found MessyBeast, a site maintained by someone who, I can only assume, is the very best kind of cat geek.
Feel the love!

Color Charts

The first cat color chart I ever saw was this magnificent illustration by Joumana Medlej. I'd love to reproduce it here, but I haven't asked the artist's permission so I recommend going and looking at it yourself. Seriously. 

The first time I laid eyes on that chart, I was compelled to figure out precisely what color cats I had. I was visiting a cat-loving friend at the time, and we were both excitedly picking cat hairs off our shirts to examine. 

From that chart, I learned that James is a brown tabby. I had always described him as grey, but technically he is a brown tabby. His pattern is mackerel, and he has a white chin and belly and feetsies, so he is a brown mackerel tabby with white. Specifically, he has grade 4 white spotting.

Solstice is a tortoiseshell, which I've always known. There are a bunch of special tortie colors and patterns though. If they have tabby striped, they can be called a 'patched tabby' or a 'torbie' depending on where you live. 

Kitty colors and patterns can be affected by dilution, and various patterns can be combined. You can have a dilute tabby, or a tortoiseshell color-pointed cat (like a Siamese) that's mostly cream-colored with black and orange blotched points. The way all the different aspects combine tickles my brain in the most delightful way.

Behold, Science!

MessyBeast goes a step further, and actually illustrates all the color and pattern combinations. They also explain the genetics and developmental conditions behind various colors. Like, the reason your piebald cat's black spots look like they fit together like puzzle pieces, is because at one point during embryonic development, they did! MessyBeast even delves into hypothetical colors that have not been seen in cats, like tan points and merle, and colors observed but lost to history, like Barrington Brown.

So, what color is your cat?

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