Cats are divided into three basic body types cobby, moderate, and foreign with some overlapping.
• Cobby: Cobby refers to a heavy, shortlegged, compact, broad-chested body. Examples are the Persian and Manx.
• Semi Cobby: Semi-cobby bodies are a little longer and not quite as broad-chested. Examples are the Chartreux and British Shorthair.
• Moderate: Moderate refers to a well-balanced body of medium length, well-muscled, with no extremes. This includes the majority of the breeds.
• Semi-Foreign: Semi-foreign bodies are beginning to stretch out, but not too extreme. Examples are the Abyssinian, Japanese Bobtail, and Russian Blue.
• Foreign: Foreign bodies (sometimes referred to as oriental or exotic) are long and tubular to the extreme. They are firm and muscular. Examples are the Siamese and Cornish Rex.
Cat Coat Types
Probably the first thing a person notices about a cat is its beautiful coat. The color, pattern, texture, and length of the coat have a great deal of influence in selection of a cat. Patterns and colors are not breeds. They are
the decoration a cat wears. The original coat was a shorthaired brown classic tabby. All the other colors, patterns, textures, and lengths evolved over many centuries, creating variations in the tabby markings. Eventually a solid coat color with no markings occurred. Other mutations created the dilute color blue and other lighter colors while the white mutation created the bicolor patterns such as calico, as well as solid white.
The basic colors are black, chocolate, red, and white, with dilute (lighter) variations within those colors. Some breed descriptions use different names for the colors, such as the Burmese, which lists sable instead of chocolate. Two breeds with ticked tabby patterns have special names for their color, ruddy for the Abyssinian and sepia for the Singapura.
• Black—Sometimes called ebony
– Blue is a dilute (lighter color) of black, also called gray, ash, and slate
– A dilute of blue is called lavender, lilac, or platinum
– Fawn is a beige-toned lilac
• Chocolate—Sometimes called brown, sable, seal, mahogany, chestnut, or tawny
– A dilute of chocolate may be called natural, caramel, or champagne
• Red—Sometimes called orange or tangerine
– A dilute of red is cream, sometimes called yellow, beige, or tan
Silver and Golden are the background colors of tabbies with variations sometimes called bronze or pewter.
All cats are genetically tabbies, with other patterns evolving later. The different patterns are solid (self), tabby, tipped, parti-color, bi-color, and pointed.
• Solid—A solid (self) colored cat is entirely one color. There are no tabby markings, no white, and no changes of color on each hair.
• Tabby—There are four basic tabby patterns: Classic, Mackerel, Spotted, and Ticked. The hairs are each banded with light and dark stripes called agouti bands or ticking. It is the arrangement of the bands that create the patterns.
– Mackerel: The “wild type” pattern with spine lines and narrow vertical stripes on the sides.
– Classic: Irregular spirals and whirls, broad and clearly defined that create a bulls-eye effect on the sides, with solid lines on the spine, and a butterfly mark on the shoulders.
– Spotted: Broken stripes appear as spots, sometimes seeming to run together into a mackerel pattern.
– Ticked: Body hairs are “ticked” with various shades of the main marking color and the ground color. The body is free from noticeable spots or stripes. An interesting variation of tabby is the patched tabby, which has patches of red or cream mixed with the ground colors on the body and extremities. It can occur with any
of the tabby patterns.
• Tipped—In the tipped patterns, each guard hair has color only on the tips of the hair and white underneath. A cat with red tipping is called a cameo.
– Chinchilla (or shell) is the lightest tipping with color only on the very tip of each hair.
– Shaded is the intermediate tipping with color on the last quarter of hair.
– Smoke is the heaviest tipping with color on the last half of the hair. The smoke pattern is especially striking because when the cat is still, it appears to be a solid color, but the white shows up when the cat moves.
• Parti-color—A black female cat with random patches of red is called a tortoiseshell. The red patches often have tabby markings. A blue/cream (dilute tortoiseshell) is a blue female with patches of solid cream.
• Bi-Color—Bi-colors are cats with white. White spotting or piebalding can occur with any solid color or pattern, including the color color points. There can be as little as only one small spot of white or the cat can be nearly all white. A female cat with a tortoiseshell pattern and white is called a calico. A van pattern is a white cat with patches of color on the head and tail. It may also have a few spots on the rest of its body.
• Pointed—The pattern of a pointed cat has the facial mask, ears, legs, feet, and tail of a contrasting darker color while the body is a pale cream, fawn, or white.
A cat’s coat is made up of longer guard hairs, more bristly awn hairs, and an underlying layer of soft down hairs. These three types of hairs vary from one breed to the next. For example, a Persian’s down hairs are nearly as long as its guard hairs, while the Turkish Angora has lesser developed down hairs resulting in a less
dense coat. The American Wirehair has awn hairs the same length as the guard hairs. Both types of hairs are curled and crinkled, resulting in a wiry feel to the coat. The Rex breeds have no guard hairs and wavy coats.
The length of a cat’s coat is naturally short. The long hair mutation occurred over many centuries. Specifying the length of a coat can be confusing. Show standards refer to short, short to medium, medium, semi-long, medium- long to long, and long and thick. Many breeds began as short hairs, but eventually were bred for long hair as well. Some registries list long hairs as separate breeds while others list them as a division within a breed. One interesting coat length note: The Sphynx is not totally bald. It has thin, short hairs on its ears, muzzle and tail, but no whiskers. The rest of the body may be completely hairless, or it may have thin, short hairs up to 1/8 inch in length over other parts of its body.