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The color of the coats in the Maine Coons

A topic that often gives rise to a thousand questions is that of the color of cats, especially in its less common shades. We will talk, for the sake of simplicity, only of the possible colors in Maine Coons, which are not all the possible colors that a cat can take, whether purebred or not. The photos you will see below are such that  hovering over it with the mouse  a balloon appears telling you the color (as per the pedigree), and next to it is a caption describing the EMS color code, which we will talk about later.

The oldest cat, the older one   traditional, present in all our memories, is gray brindle, it is a   cat that everyone knows. And in fact it will not be surprising that the color of this cat is the original one, the one that our feline has been carrying around for tens of thousands of years.


Solid black, EMS code: MCO No.

Then two things happened. A first genetic mutation gave rise to cats with red coats, and a second genetic mutation removed the stripes from both. Then the coat types become 4, black, red, both brindle or non brindle. 
Technically, non-brindle coats are defined as solid color. The adjective "solid", which in Italian has mostly another meaning, comes from the Latin solidus, properly "whole, compact, massive, without internal cavities or voids", therefore the term "solid color" indicates a uniform color, without any other shade or color inside.


To understand how to define cloaks, however, we need to understand what we refer to when we talk about branding. A cat's single coat can be brindle (or agouti, side figure, above)   that is to present alternating light and dark bands, or not brindle (or non-agouti, figure opposite, below). Where the light bands disappear the color appears  uniform. The stripes to which we refer usually are instead the design on the entire coat of the animal. There are some areas of the body where the hair is in bands (agouti), and others where the hair color is uniform. The latter are called markings (streaks) of the brindle. In other words, the design of the cat's coat is determined by the presence of agouti hair and a design in which the hair is either banded (agouti), or uniform (not agouti). To avoid any kind of confusion, we will only talk about branding when we talk about the design of the coat.

Among the various possible designs, in Maine Coons there are four types of brindle. A word for "brindle" is widely used  Tabby: A tabby cat is a cat that carries the brindle gene (agouti plus pattern, i.e. drawing).

  1. Ticked: the tabs are only on the legs, swulla head and tail,  the rest of the body  it has a "salt and pepper" appearance (if it is red you will see a very uniform color on the body, with darker tips).

  2. Mackerel  (or brindle) Tabby, with the typical streaks that determine a brindle coat, thin, continuous and parallel stripes are well drawn on the shoulders and thighs. One of its modifications is the ...

  3. Spotted  : the stripes are interrupted forming small round spots that make the coat spotted.

  4. Blotched  (or Classic) Tabby: the streaks determine a marbled appearance, the typical "butterfly wings" design appears on the sides and shoulders, combined with a series of concentric circles on the sides.

MCO d 22

Blotched brindle red. 
EMS code: MCO d 22

MCO n 09 25

Brindle black ticked with white. 
EMS code: MCO n  25

The branding gives black cats a particular appearance, rich in warm tones (thanks to the agouti color bands that are from beige to light hazel), so they are often referred to as  brown cats.

MCO n 22

Brown blotched cat. EMS code:  MCO n 22

Chris Cornell

Solid black cat with white. EMS code:  MCO n  09

In the solid red coat, for genetic reasons that we deepen elsewhere, the brindle can never be completely eliminated, so it becomes important to be able to distinguish a solid red cat from a brindle red one, to determine the type of coat and plan future mating.
So here's what distinguishes a tabby cat from a solid cat, should the branding be genetically masked: 

MCO d 22

Solid red ----------------- Tabby red

Nose : in solid cats it is solid color, brick red color,  in tabbies it is pink edged with the basic color of the coat.

Chin and  Filter : in tabby cats the "bow tie" under the nose and the  ment are  clear, almost white.

Eyes : the tabby wears goggles (or mask), in fact it shows a clear halo around the eye.

Ears : the solids have ears of uniform color, the tabbies have the so-called "thumbprint" lighter on the outer pavilion, the white outline and the tufts of hair inside the ear are white.

Having clarified this point, it remains to talk about mixed coats, in which red areas alternate with black areas. This situation is found only in females, for genetic reasons, and gives rise to the so-called tortoiseshell cats (properly tortoiseshell), or simply, tortie . In these cats, the red and black areas are distributed and mixed together in an absolutely random way, and not reproducible even by cloning the animal, since they are generated by a process that occurs at the embryonic level, therefore after the union of the chromosomes of the parents. Obviously, there can be brindle tortie, and they are given   often the name of torbie, combining the words tortie and tabby.

Egea e Esedra.jpeg

Aegea,   tortie tabby,   EMS code: MCO f 22

Exedra,  tortie tabby with white, code  EMS:  MCO f 09 22

If the tortie cat has a large part of the white coat, then it is called a cat  calico . With this example, let's start talking about the white patches of fur, so extensively  widespread in cats, both purebred and non-purebred. These spots can be of any size and can be found on both red, black and tortie cats, brindle or not. If it is only small spots such as the classic medal on the chest, or flame between the eyes, with an extension below 25% of the surface of the coat, the cat is generically defined with white . If the white area is from 25 to 50%, it is called a coat  two-tone , if from 50 to 75% we are talking about  high-white . There is also the  coat  harlequin  if there are 5 or 6 spots of color completely surrounded by white on an all white body, if the spots are fewer and with a patch on the head and the tip of the tail, it is called a coat  van .   The white starts from the belly upwards, whatever the amount of white  to be on the back it must also be on the belly and legs.

MCO f 03 22

Calico cat, EMS code: MCO f 03 

MCO n 02

Harlequin cloak,  EMS code: MCO  n 02


Cats deserve a separate discussion  white, which are not an evolution of the white patched coat, but whose color originates from a different genetic makeup. They don't have the same white gene as the "with white" cats we just talked about,   but it is a color that covers other colors. In fact, when they reproduce, they do so by transmitting the colors "covered" by white, and therefore it turns out  what color is "under" a white cat, just by making it reproduce. In these cats, which have never brindle, there are often mono / bilateral deafness and uneven eyes (of different colors). 

 EMS code: MCO   w

The two main colors, black and red, also exist in a so-called version  diluted .  Dilution is an aspect of the coat in which the original color is less intense, i.e. instead of black or red it becomes respectively (gray-)  blue and cream . This also applies to tortie, which then becomes blue-cream tortie.


Brindle blue coat, EMS code: MCO at 22

Ercole 02_edited.jpg

Finally, we have to talk about the so-called color  silver . In these cats, the base of the coat is bleached, giving rise to a noticeable silver color when brushed against the grain. The effect differs depending on whether the cat is solid or tabby.  The  smoke  they are solid cats in which only the base of the hair is lightened, up to about 1/3, giving it a dark silver color, evenly over the whole body.

Black smoke cloak, EMS code: MCO  ns

THE  silver tabby ,  instead, they are brindle cats in which the base of the hair is lightened and the warm / brown tones of the various agouti bands are transformed into silver.  In these varieties, the base of the hair is silvery white, without traces of reddish hues. The whitening is much more visible on the light areas than on the markings of the stripes, giving rise to a brindle design sometimes with very high contrast, more evident if we talk about  black silver  ,   equally beautiful, although very different, if we talk about red silver .  Obviously, silver can be superimposed on any other color characteristic mentioned above, so we can have for example silver  tortie tabby blue-cream with white.  In the drawings   shaded , on the other hand, the bleached area reaches 2/3 of the hair, and the effect is a pure silver color with ample shading (black, blue, cream, red). And if the bleached hair reaches 7/8 of the length of the hair, we are talking about cats  shell , in which you have the so-called chinchilla coat, makes the cat look almost white, with green eyes outlined like black kajal, with black fingertips. It is not a typical color in Maine Coons, but it is starting to have many admirers.

MCO ns 09 22

Silver tabby cloak with white, EMS code: MCO   our 09 22

How these color characteristics are transmitted to litters will depend on the characteristics of the parents, and we will talk about them elsewhere.

Finally, two words  on the EMS code, which you see quoted everywhere, and in particular on the pedigree of your cats. EMS stands for Easy Mind  System (easy to remember system), and associates each breed with a three-letter identifier (MCO for the Maine Coon), each base color a letter of the alphabet, and  to each color modifier (white spots or stripes) a numerical code. As silver is added to a pre-existing color, its letter s is also added.

For example, a  Maine Coon red  silver   with  white and blotched stripes is identified as MCO ds 09 22.

We see below the EMS codes that apply to Maine Coons.

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