In the dog world, most owners know that they have a black Lab, a white Poodle, a multipoo or a mutt. Yet when it comes to cats, most owners give a blank stare when asked what kind of cat they have.
Much of our dog breed knowledge comes from the American Kennel Club (AKC). While most dog owners do not have purebred dogs, the AKC gives us the words we need to describe dogs. We can say an owner has a Lab, Labradoodle or a Lab mix. All those words describe the breed of dog.
Recognized Cat Breeds
In the cat world, there are two organizations that promote the wellbeing of all cats while focusing on the promotion and improvement of recognized breeds. These organizations give us the words we need to describe the cats we groom.
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) was founded in 1906. Currently, the CFA recognizes 45 breeds of cats, of which 42 are eligible to compete. The second organization is The International Cat Association (TICA) that was founded in 1979. TICA currently recognizes 71 breeds with an additional six breeds being considered for recognition. Both organizations also acknowledge a household pet category.
The more common purebred cats my grooming business grooms are Persians, Exotics, Maine Coons, Scottish Folds, Ragdolls, Siamese and Turkish Vans. In my area, other purebred cats that are groomed include the British Short Hair, LaPerm, Russian Blue, Norwegian Forest Cat and Manx.
While some owners have purebred cats, and other owners have cats that highly resemble the purebred version, many owners “just have a cat.” We categorize these cats by the length of their coat. When it comes to mixed–breed cats, we call the breed Domestic Short hair (DSH) or Domestic Long hair (DLH).
After you know the breed of cat that the owner has presented to you, the next identifiers used are the color and pattern.
Cat Coat Colors
Out of the 45 recognized breeds by the CFA, there are eight main colors of cat coats: black, chocolate, cinnamon, red, blue, lilac, fawn and cream. Cats with an orange appearance are classified as red and gray–colored cats are called blue. The unique color of ruddy is reserved for the Abyssinian. Ebony, chestnut and tawny are colors unique to the Octicat and Oriental breeds.
An important tidbit for groomers is that the diluted colors (blue, lilac, fawn and cream) tend to have a more cottony coat which has a higher chance of matting than the dominate coat colors do. These coat colors do need a shorter grooming schedule to prevent matting.
This is where most owners seem to get confused. Tabby is a pattern in the coat, not a breed. Cats can have one of four tabby patterns. When you can see an “M”–shaped marking on the forehead of a cat and/or narrow stripes on the cat’s face, they have a tabby pattern.
The four tabby patterns include, Mackerel, which have narrow stripes that run almost parallel down the side of the cat’s body; Classic, which are the cats that appear to have a “bull’s eye” on the side of their body; Spotted, which is the tabby pattern that has spots covering the cat’s body; and Ticked, which are cats that have no spots or stripes but have the tabby markings on the face.
When a tabby–patterned cat has multiple colors on their coat, we add the word “patched” to the tabby pattern.
Cats can also come in solid colors. But when you are looking at a solid–colored cat, look closely. After a bath and in direct sunlight many of these cats’ tabby markings will be visible. These faint tabby markings are called shadowing and are a result of the tabby gene not being fully blocked.
Cats that have a bit of white are always identified by their main color and “with white” and are officially categorized on a gradient scale. You may be looking at a blue with white or a red with white cat color pattern. A tuxedo cat would be considered black with white bicolor, usually about grade four on the gradient scale. Any two–colored cat is also referred to as a bicolor.
The color referred to as “smoked” are cats with solid black or blue coats with white roots. There are also silver–shaded cats that have black tips on a white coat, and golden–shaded cats that have a cream coat tipped with black.
Multicolored cats are also a category of patterns. The tortie (tortoiseshell) is a cat with a mixture of black, red and cream colors on the coat. A diluted tortie is a blue and cream–colored cat. The calico–patterned cat is a cat with the coat color combination of black, red and white. Diluted calico cats have coats that are a mixture of blue, cream and white.
Many cat owners have pointed cats. The most common breeds for the pointed cat pattern tend to be Persians, Himalayans, Siamese, Scottish Folds and Exotics. Many domestic short– and long–hair cats are also pointed. The pointed pattern can be seen on the ears, feet, face and tail. Points are simply a different color from the color on the cat’s body. Points on cats are identified by the following colors and patterns: seal, blue, chocolate, flame, lilac, cream, tortie (black and red) and lynx (tabby markings on points).
Putting It All Together
So, what kind of cat does your grooming client have? They may have a Flame Point Persian, a Seal Point Siamese, a Russian Blue, a Lilac Lynx Point DSH, a Silver Shaded Persian, a Brown Mackerel Exotic, etc.
Breeds, colors and patterns can get very confusing. The key to correctly describing the cat in front of you is to recognize the breed, then describe the color and pattern the cat most resembles.
While it can be overwhelming, this knowledge impresses cat owners while making you an expert in your field. Spending the time needed to master breeds, colors and patterns will not only build your reputation as a cat groomer, but also build trust, respect and a positive relationship with your feline grooming clients.