Pedigree cat terminology explained

If you think black is black, grey is grey and blue cats only ever exist in works of fiction, think again!

So you have decided you want a new cat, and you may have decided what breed...but when you come to look for your new addition, you are baffled by the crazy pedigree cat terminology! Do not fear...we are here to decipher it all for you!

Pedigree cat terminology colours explained

If you think black is black, grey is grey and blue cats only ever exist in works of fiction, think again! In the world of pedigree cat terminology, things are just not that simple! Below is a list of the most common colours of British Shorthair cats, along with their equivalent pedigree cat terminology 

  • Red = ginger

  • Cream = cream, but often more gingery!

  • Seal = black

  • Blue = grey

  • Chocolate = brown

  • Lilac = a warm, pinkish grey/beige

  • Cinnamon = a deep, warm, gingery brown, like a cinnamon stick

  • Fawn = a very pale, warm neutral tone

  • Silver = grey to white

Pedigree cat terminology patterns explained

  • Bicolour = the cat has white patches, usually his tummy and his feet

  • Van = the cat is mostly white and usually has a coloured tail and a couple of patches of colour on his body

  • Agouti = the tabby gene

  • Mackerel tabby = a stripey tabby, like a Tigger!

  • Classic tabby = a marbled tabby

  • Ticked tabby = the cat is a tabby cat, but only the very tips of his hairs have the tabby pattern, so he looks almost like he has a shell of colour

  • Spotted = spotty! (finally, a simple one!)

If you are considering breeding, you may also come across this terminology:

  • Dilute: the dilute gene is a recessive gene that reduces the amount of pigment in the hair shaft. The effect of this is that a black cat that is also dilute will be blue, a chocolate will be lilac, a cinnamon will be fawn and a red will be cream.

  • Recessive: if a gene is recessive (for example the dilute gene), the cat must inherit it from both of his parents in order to visibly demonstrate the genetic trait. So for a cat to be blue, he must inherit a dilute gene from his mother and his father. If he only inherits the dilute gene from one of his parents, he will be black but he will ‘carry’ the dilute gene, which means he will be able to have blue children. Colourpoint is another recessive gene: a colourpoint cat must inherit a colourpoint gene from each of his parents to appear as a colourpoint. If he only inherits it from one parent he will not look like a colourpoint but he will be a carrier of the gene, meaning he will be able to produce colourpoint kittens

  • Dominant: if a gene is dominant a cat need only inherit it from one of his parents in order to display that trait. The white spotting gene makes cats bicolour cats, and this is a dominant gene. Therefore a cat need only have one bicolour parent to be a bicolour cat.

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