Cats come in different shapes, sizes and appearances. A big part of how they look is determined by their coat. Different coats have different needs when it comes to the care they require. So, let’s have a look at the different types of coats seen in cats, and which patterns they can have.
A short-haired coat is the most common type seen in cats. This type of coat is low maintenance and requires little to no grooming. The fur of cats with a short-haired coat will grow approximately a maximum of 4 cm in length. Short-haired cats are less likely to develop fur balls. Examples of short-haired breeds are the American Shorthair, Bengal and Arabian Mau.
Another common type of coat seen in cats is long-haired. This type of coat is high maintenance and will require daily grooming from the owner to prevent tangling and matting. Long-haired cats are more prone to developing fur balls than short-haired cats. Examples of breeds with long hair are the Persian, Maine Coon and Ragdoll.
When maintained properly, long-haired cats do not require shaving and doing so will remove the layer of protection that their coat offers. Shaving the fur will make them more sensitive to heat and cold, and increases the risk of getting a sunburn. Shaving a long-haired cat can be a solution if they are severely matted, and the untangling of the fur and the removal of mats can’t be resolved by brushing.
Much less known are the curly-haired cats. This type of coat is the result of a genetic variation and is scientifically referred to as a rexed coat. Curly fur is only seen in a handful of breeds like the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, which means that not everyone will be familiar with this type of coat. Curly-haired cats are high maintenance and will need the same coat care as long-haired cats require. Depending on the breed their fur might be thin making them more prone to sunburn.
One may think that a hairless cat will be low-maintenance, but quite the opposite is the case. Due to the lack of coat, body oils build up on the skin instead of getting absorbed into the fur. Because of this, hairless cats need regular bathing to wash these oils away. The ears of hairless cats need regular cleaning as they tend to develop more earwax than cats with fur, which causes wax and dirt to build up in their ears. Another spot where dirt and oil tends to gather is under their nails, which will require extra care.
Besides the extra grooming and care they require, hairless cats also need protection against the sun as they can develop sunburn. Due to the lack of coat, they are extra sensitive to heat and cold, and will need protection accordingly. Examples of hairless cats are the Sphynx and the Donskoy.
A common misconception is that hairless cats are hypoallergenic as they have no fur. While some people with allergies might react less to hairless breeds, they are not considered hypoallergenic. Allergies to cats are mostly triggered by a specific protein which is found in their saliva and sebaceous glands, and not in the fur itself. Also, most hairless cats are not entirely hairless, as most do have really short and fine hairs over their bodies.
A cat with a solid fur pattern has a coat with only one colour.
We speak of a bicolour coat when a cat has two different colours in their fur.
We speak of a tricolour coat when a cat has three different colours in their fur. Tricolour is also referred to as calico. The three colours are a mixture of black, red and white, or their diluted versions which results in cream and grey patches. Due to the way this colour is genetically determined, almost all tricolour cats are female.
Tortoiseshell coats are a mixture of black and red / orange and are not to be confused with tricolour. The difference is that the tortoiseshell has a black undercoat and mostly mottled coat. A tortoiseshell cat has relatively few to no white markings. Due to the way this colour is genetically determined, almost all tortoiseshell cats are female.
Cats with a colourpoint coat have faces, paws and tails that are darker coloured than the rest of their body, which will have a lighter colour. An example of a breed that has a colourpoint coat is the Siamese.
We speak of a tabby coat when it has a distinctive pattern. Tabby cats can come in different colours. The tabby patterns can be categorised in classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked. All tabby cats will have a distinctive M mark on their forehead.
A classic pattern, which is also referred to as marbled or blochted, is when the cat’s stripes are thick and swirly along its sides.
The mackerel, also called fish-bone pattern, has thin and narrow stripes that run parallel down the cat’s side, giving the distinctive “tiger” stripes.
As the name implies, this pattern will have spots of different sizes and colours over the base colour of the coat.
A ticked tabby pattern is when the fur is lighter at the bottom and darker at the top of each individual strand of hair.
Coat care tools
There are many tools on the market to take care of the coat of your cat, like metal combs, brushes, detanglers, combs etc. For the hairless cats there are specialised products on the market to take care of their specific needs. Depending on the type of coat and the type of brushing job that needs to be done (dematting, daily brushing etc) make sure to pick out the right tools for the job.
There are different aspects to keep in mind when choosing a pet with a specific type of coat. We hope that through this article we have informed (future) pet owners about the different types of coats and what implications this might have for the care they need to provide to their pet. If you would like to know more about our cat sitting or cat relocation services, feel free to contact us. Our team will be happy to help.