Feline Coat Color

Feline Coat Color


The modern-day domestic cat displays a wide variety of coat colors and patterns. Classification of these can be confusing sometimes because different registries or associations may name the same phenotype differently. Below is a table of the coat color genes and DNA tests offered by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

Gene Name Symbols Function Wild type
Agouti A, a Non-agouti, aa, cats are solid (self) in color. Tabby patterns are difficult to identify. A
Amber E, e Gradual replacement of eumelanin with phaeomelanin, in Norwegian Forest cats. E
Brown B > b > bl Brown variants have reduced eumelanin and appear brownish in color. b/b and b/bl are chocolate, bl/bl are cinnamon (red). B
Colorpoint Restriction C > cb = cs> c Color controls production of melanin. Temperature sensitive alleles create points and sepia. Complete albinos have been identified. C
Dilution D, d Dilution causes uneven distribution of the pigment in the fur shaft, dilution of all colors. D
White Gloves G, N Birman white gloving pattern N

Cat coat color genetics: brown and cinnamon
Chart showing the effects of the B Locus allelic series on a cat with solid (non-Agouti) eumelanin pigmentation.


Cat coat color genetics: Colorpoint Restriction
Chart showing the effects of the C Locus allelic series. The black-to-white gradient indicates amount of pigmentation, not type of pigment or color of pigment. The C Locus allelic series affects both eumelanin and phaeomelanin pigments, and the colored "points" on the cat (face, ears, paws, tail) may be solid in coloration or may display markings (e.g. "lynx point" with tabby markings) depending on the cat's genotype at other loci.


Cat coat color genetics: dilute
Chart showing the effects of dilute on cats with eumelanin pigmentation and cats with phaeomelanin pigmentation.

Tests Available at the VGL

Coat Color Panels:

Single Tests:


For additional information on the genetics of coat color/patterns in cats, please consult the references given below.

1. Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians. Fourth edition. (1999) Vells CM, Shelton LM, McGonagle JJ, & Stanglein TW Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.

2. Lyons LA, Imes DL, Rah HC, & Grahn RA. (2005) Tyrosinase mutations associated with Siamese and Burmese patterns in the domestic cat (Felis catus). Animal Genetics, 36:119-126. See additional references cited in this paper.

3. Lyons LA, Foe IT, Rah HC, & Grahn RA. (2005) Chocolate coated cats: TYRP1 mutations from brown color in domestic cats. Mammalian Genome 16:356-366.

4. Ishida Y, David VA, Eizirik E, Schäffer AA, Neelam BA, Roelke ME, Hannah SS, O'brien SJ, Menotti-Raymond M. 2006. A homozygous single-base deletion in MLPH causes the dilute coat color phenotype in the domestic cat. Genomics 88:698-705.

5. Peterschmitt M, Grain, F, Arnaud B, Deleage, G. & Lambert, V.. Mutation in the melanocortin 1 receptor is associated with amber colour in the Norwegian Forest Cat. Animal Genetics doi:10.1111/j.1365-2052.2009/01864.