Colours and patterns
for the novice breeder

an interesting coat pattern on a borealis kitten from December 2005

Colours and patterns for the novice breeder

Tabby Patterns

You normally only have to work out what is Classic Tabby and what is Mackerel Tabby in Norwegians. We sometimes get Spotted Tabby in NFCs, but quite rarely.    You should never get a Ticked Tabby as that may indicate an outcross to Abyssinians/Somalis, which is not permitted.

No outcross to any other breed is permitted with NFCs. Don't do it!!    Mackerel tabby is more common than Classic tabby, but if the sire or dam is a Classic tabby, you should have plenty of Classic tabby kittens.

Two Mackerel tabby cats can't produce a Classic tabby kitten.   I think I'm right in saying two Classic tabby cats can't produce a Mackerel, but I might be wrong there.   This is a really good link, so take a look at the photos and remember that pattern has nothing to do with colour.

Now you should be able to recognise what is Classic Tabby and what is Mackerel Tabby.


Brown tabbies are always called brown tabbies, even if they are dark and almost black, they are not called black tabbies.   Just as blue tabbies can be pale lavender blue or dark slate blue, they also are always called blue tabbies.   As in Birmans, both cats have to 'carry the blue gene' to throw it in a litter.   So two seals (or browns) carrying blue, can throw a blue kitten.   If a cat (male or female) does not 'carry blue', you won't get a blue kitten from any mating.

Genetically speaking, though, it's not fully accepted that a cat doesn't carry blue until they have had 25 kittens that are not blue (or blue tabby).  

Solids or self-coloured cats

These are, strictly speaking, only like my Napoleon in black and white, and Torino and Gizmo in blue and white.    There is no tabby barring once they are beyond the kitten stage, although sometimes a bit of tabby can be seen in a red or cream cat and it's sometimes hard to know if a red or cream is a tabby or not, if he/she has a solid coloured parent.   Tabby is far more common in NFCs, and you can't get a solid from two tabbies.   They will only ever produce tabbies (and it doesn't take 25 kittens to prove it!)


Pure white is not a solid colour as the white gene hides or 'masks' any underlying colour.   Abbatini (my white stud) would have been a brown tabby, carrying blue tabby - i.e. also capable of having blue tabby kittens, if his white colour had not masked or hidden his underlying colour.   I only know that from the kittens he has had since.

Sally Anne (my white queen) would be a tortie tabby under her white, as she has had tortie tabby girls and brown tabby boys.   I have never had a blue tabby kitten from her, so it is unlikely she carries blue, although I can't say definitely until she's had 25 kittens!  

You cannot get pure white from two non-pure-white cats.

You have to have a pure white mother or father to get pure white kittens.   Having a cat with a colour 'and white' is nothing to do with it.   You could put two bi-colours together, but you won't get a pure white from them, only more 'and whites'/bi-colours.   Using a white cat doesn't mean you will get bicolour kittens.   It's a different gene.

...and finally...

I didn't know about any of this until I trained as a judge, but experienced cat breeders are supposed to know this stuff!   I used to find it fascinating that two blue-point Birmans could only have blue-points, and yet two seal-point Birmans could have seal-points and blue-points!   Now I know why.   You could put two blue-points together forever and never get a seal-point from them, in the same way same as two blue NFCs or blue tabbies will never produce a brown tabby.   It's not possible.

I then went through my pedigrees and found things that couldn't happen, so some of the pedigrees had errors in them (it happens)!   I had a brown tabby boy who was supposed to produce a tortie girl to a blue tabby girl.   It's not possible, and I had to get it put right by getting the pedigree reissued.   It turned out the girl was not a blue tabby but a blue tortie tabby.   The red gene had to be there somewhere for it to appear, and it could not be the sire (you don't get tortie males, well not usually fertile ones, anyway).

 Hopefully, you can begin to predict what colours and patterns certain matings will produce, and can then tell potential kitten buyers what is likely to become available. This can be very useful, believe me.

Loraine Smith

BOREALIS Norwegian Forest Cats