Cat Color Code


You know what a tuxedo cat is — a black cat with white on its belly, paws, and sometimes its face. But do you know what a “Van” is? Or a “Harlequin” or “Mackerel?” Here’s a rundown of just some of the terms that describe various cat coloring.

  • Harlequin. A mostly white cat.
  • Van. A white cat with color only on its head and tail.
  • Buttons. Signifies patches of white on the abdomen.
  • Mackerel. A striped tabby.
  • Tortoiseshell. Orange and black, or dilution of orange and black.
  • Tricolor. Three distinct colors: orange, black, and white (or diluted versions of these).
  • Calico. Another name for a tricolor.

Interestingly, from a genetic point of view, all cats are either orange or non-orange. And what you see as a grey cat may be called “blue” by a cat breeder. Similarly, a breeder may call a solid brown cat “sable” or “chocolate.”


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