Coat Patterns

Cats “with White” and White Cats

There are actually quite a few ways that cats can get white marks.  These can range from small spots to cats with all white hairs, not all of which are controlled by the same genes.

Buttons and Lockets

If your cat has small white regions on the chest or stomach, then it has ‘lockets’ or ‘buttons’. These are controlled by one or more genes that are not well understood nor part of the gene map. You can note it on the chart if you like.

If this is all the white your cat has, proceed to ‘Cats with no White’ below.

Tabby “White” Chin and Eyes

A light, nearly white chin and rings about the eyes are part of the tabby pattern and not true white spots or regions.

If this is all the white your cat has, proceed to ‘Cats with no white’ below.

Dominant White

From small white regions we turn to all white cats. And I do mean ALL. A single non-white hair after kittenhood on the cat disqualifies it from having the dominant ‘W’ version of this gene.  The effect is to block the placing of any pigment on a hair, leaving it white.

There are actually two other genes that also do this.  If the cat’s eyes are not blue or pink, then it is almost certainly Dominant White.  (It could also be a 100 percent White Spotted cat, but this is rare). If the eyes are blue, it still is more likely to be Dominant White!
Fill in the Gene Table…

Blue Eyed Albino

A rare Albino gene can produce a blue-eyed white cat.  It is far more uncommon than the other two ways to produce such a cat – Dominant White and White Spotting.

Perhaps the only way to be confident of the presence of this gene is if you knew neither parent cat was all white or had any white spotting.
Fill in the Gene Table…

Pink Eyed Albino

Another Albino gene can produce a white cat with the familiar pink eyes. This is extremely rare in cats.
Fill in the Gene Table…

White Spotting

The White Spotting gene is responsible for most of the white on ‘cats with white’.  If active, the cat will have some white.  This gene has a variable expression, so the amount of white can vary from a little on the paws to covering the entire cat with white.  If the white extends to the eyes, one or both can be blue. If it extends to the ears, the cat will often, but not always be deaf.  Having the blue eyes is an indicator of deafness, but a blue-eyed white cat may not be deaf.

The amount of white produced is determined by polygenes. The various levels of white are numbered, and some common patterns have been given names: ‘Van’ and ‘Tuxedo’ are examples of this.


In general, low levels of spotting produce white on the feet and stomach first, then along the belly and up the chest and face, and finally approaching the back and top of the head and tail.  You can use the above chart to put a name or number to your cat’s level of spotting. While ‘no white’ and ‘all white’ are possible, levels near the center are more common.

Fill in the Gene Table…


Cats with No White

If your cat has no significant white parts, aside from the ones mentioned above, you can fill in several genes to show that they are not actively producing white.

Fill in the Gene Table…


Pointed Cats

The pointing effect is due to a mutation on the Albino locus that makes the depositing of pigment on hairs of the cat temperature dependent. Cooler areas are less affected which is why the ‘points’ of the cat are darker than the bulk of the body.

There are two similar mutations that produce this effect, the ‘Pointing’ gene (c[s]) which produces ‘Siamese’ type high contrast pointing and blue eyes and the ‘Sepia’ gene (c[b]) which produces a much lower contrast effect – the body is much closer to the points in color. Burmese cats have this kind of pointing.

These two pointing genes are “incompletely dominant” with each other – if a cat has a mix of the two genes (c[s]/c[b]) the resulting pointing effect is a mix of the other two effects and the eye shade is different from cats having two of either gene. Tonkinese cats have this mix, which can never breed true. Two parents will have a mix of Pointed, Sepia, and Mink kittens, the latter being the name given to the Tonkinese shading pattern.

When later trying to determine the genetic color of a pointed cat, assume the darkest color is lighter than the true genetic color. So a ‘brown’ Seal Point Siamese should be considered black, not ‘chocolate’.

This page gives some examples of the differences in the three shadings. It is from a Tonkinese breed site. They call “Sepia” pointing “Solid”.  The four colors they display are regular and dilute versions of the most common two variants of the black gene.

The eye color also gives an indication of the shading type. Pointed cats will have rich blue eyes, Mink cat will have ‘aqua’ eyes, and Sepia cats will have green or yellow eyes.

“Pointed” Shading
If your cat has ‘Siamese’ like shading, use this link:
Fill in the Gene Table…

“Sepia” Shading
If your cat has ‘Burmese’ like shading, use this link:
Fill in the Gene Table…

“Mink” Shading
If your cat has ‘Tonkinese’ like shading, use this link:
Fill in the Gene Table…


Cats with No Points
If your cat shows no sign of the effects of the pointing gene, follow this link
Fill in the Gene Table…


Tabby Cats

There are three different types of tabby patterns. They are more or less identical on the head and legs – pale chin, stripes out from the eyes, the ‘M’ on the forehead, and parallel horizontal striping on the legs and feet. If your tabby has black or grey stripes, use the link in this section.  For Orange tabbies, take a look at the pictures to determine the tabby type before moving on to the orange tabby section.

Agouti Tabby or Ticked Tabby

The ticked tabby has striping on the face, and legs, but the body is virtually all agouti hairs. Pointed cat breeds often use this pattern to limit ghost striping on the body. This pattern is dominant. Its symbol is T[a].
Fill in the Gene Table…

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Mackerel Tabby

The most common tabby pattern, the body has vertical stripes along the body. Its symbol is T. It is dominant to the Classic Tabby pattern.
Fill in the Gene Table…


Classic Tabby

The Classic Tabby pattern has bold swirls on the side of the body. The head and legs are like the other patterns. The symbol is T[b].

Fill in the Gene Table…


Solid Colored Cats

Solid cats are caused by the Agouti gene having two recessive ‘non-Agouti’ variants (‘a’). This overlays solid color over the agouti hairs, giving a uniform shade.

If your cat shows no sign of tabby striping, follow this link:
Fill in the Gene Table…

Orange Tabbies

Orange tabbies are more complicated because you can’t use the lack of stripes to determine the state of the Agouti gene. I believe you can use the other tabby characteristics to help, however.  The tabby pattern also gives the cat a light chin and light rings around the eyes.  If your orange cat has these, then the Agouti gene has at least one ‘A’ gene.

Note: I have read that in some cases you can have a non-agouti Orange Tabby with a white chin. Since it seems to be uncommon, the above rule seems better than nothing.

If your cat has the eye rings and chin, go to the table according to the shown pattern:
Fill in the Ticked Tabby Gene Table…
Fill in the Mackerel Tabby Gene Table…
Fill in the Classic Tabby Gene Table…

If your cat lacks the eye rings and light chin, fill in the Agouti line from the link below, then you can use the displayed pattern to fill in the Tabby gene:
Fill in the Gene Table…

Gene Tables


Gene Table (Dominant White)

If your cat has dominant white, almost every other character is hidden. You would only be able to determine any possibilities by checking parents or kittens. And likely not much even if you did, since most of their characteristics will be hidden too.

Locus Genes Notes
Albino -/- Hidden
Dominant White W/- Entirely white
White Spotting -/- Hidden

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Blue Eyed Albino)

Almost the only way to know you have this is if you know the parents were not white or white spotted cats.

Locus Genes Notes
Albino c[a]/c[a] blue-eyed albino
Dominant White w/w not Dominant white
White Spotting -/- Hidden

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Pink Eyed Albino)

Rare but distinctive.

Locus Genes Notes
Albino c/c true Albino
Dominant White w/w not Dominant white
White Spotting -/- Hidden

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (White Spotting)
If your cat shows any level of white spotting it must have at least one ‘S’ gene at the White Spotting locus. It is thought that having two such genes improves the odds of having large amounts of white, so a mostly white cat might well have S/S instead of S/s. However, this is not a sure thing.
Fill these in on your table (and the spotting level from above):

(Note: if your cat is a pointed cat, the Albino locus may be changed later)

Locus Genes Notes
Albino C/- normal coloring(?)
Dominant White w/w not white
White Spotting S/- Level ?

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Cats with no white)

If the cat shows no white outside of buttons or lockets, you know the white producing genes are inactive. Fill these in on your table:

Note: if your cat is a pointed cat, the Albino locus may be changed later.

Locus Genes Notes
Albino C/- normal coloring(?)
Dominant White w/w not white
White Spotting s/s no spotting

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Pointed Shading)

Fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Albino c[s]/c[s] ‘Siamese’ point shading

Return to coat patterns…

Gene Table (Mink Shading)

Fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Albino c[s]/c[b] ‘Tonkinese’ point shading

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Sepia Shading)

Fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Albino c[b]/c[b] ‘Burmese’ point shading

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Cats with no Points)

If the cat shows sign of the pointing effects, and is a similar shade all over the body rather than dark at the extremities, then fill these in on your table:

Note: if this Locus was already filled in by another table, do not change it.

Locus Genes Notes
Albino C/- normal coloring

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Agouti Tabby Cats)

If the cat shows the Ticked tabby pattern then fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Tabby T[a]/- Agouti or Ticked Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Mackerel Tabby Cats)

If the cat shows the Mackerel tabby pattern then fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Tabby T/- Mackerel Tabby
Agouti A/- Agouti

Additionally, you know that the other Tabby gene cannot be T[a].

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Classic Tabby Cats)

If the cat shows the Classic Tabby pattern,  then fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Tabby T[b]/T[b] Classic Tabby
Agouti A/- non-Agouti

Return to coat patterns…


Gene Table (Solid Cats)

If the cat shows no sign of the tabby pattern, and is a similar shade all over the body rather than dark at the extremities, then fill these in on your table:

Locus Genes Notes
Tabby -/- Masked
Agouti a/a non-Agouti

Return to coat patterns…

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