Basic Persian and Exotic Color Genetics, Part 2

BY Carissa Altschul
Cacao Cattery

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In Basic Color Genetics, Part 1, we looked at a few of the basics of genetic terminology, the 2 basic cat colors that exist, and the 8 different modifying genes that can affect those basic colors.

How the genes work together to create all the colors of Persians

Now that the 8 major groups of genes have been described, we can actually start mixing and matching them to understand how you get all the varied colors of Persians. Since the Silver/Golden group isn’t really mixed with the other groups, they will be left out of this part of the article.

There are two ways you can go about applying the knowledge of genetics. You can either “construct” or “deconstruct” a cat’s color.

To construct, you start with black, red, or tortoiseshell and add the modifier genes until you get the color of the cat.

To deconstruct, you remove the modifier genes one at a time until you get to black, red, or tortoiseshell. It’s probably a lot easier to construct than deconstruct, but deconstructing is what breeders have to do more often in order to determine what color possibilities a mating of two cats can produce.

Constructing:

  1. black + tabby + bicolor = a brown tabby and white (tabby makes the black a brown tabby, bicolor adds the & white )
  2. red + smoke + tabby = a cameo tabby, or red silver tabby (smoke makes a red smoke, tabby changes it to red silver tabby)
  3. tortie + dilute + tabby + bicolor = a blue patched tabby and white (dilute changes tortie to blue-cream, tabby changes it to blue patched tabby, bicolor adds the &white)
  4. black + dilute + smoke = a blue smoke (dilute changes black to blue, smoke makes it a blue smoke)
  5. red + dilute + tabby + bicolor + pointed = a cream lynx point and white (dilute changes red to cream, tabby makes it a cream tabby, bicolor makes it cream tabby and white, two copies of the pointed gene make it a cream lynx point and white. Lynx is the word used for “tabby point”)
  6. tortie + tabby + pointed = a tortie lynx point (tabby makes tortie to brown patched tabby, add pointed and you get the lynx)
  7. black + choc + tabby = a chocolate tabby (choc changes black to chocolate, add tabby and you get a choc tabby.)
  8. red + choc + tabby = a red tabby (*remember the choc gene doesn’t work on red)
  9. tortie + white + bicolor + dilute = a white cat masking dilute calico (you would only know it masked dilute calico by careful test breeding and knowledge of the parents.. sometimes you might never truly know what a white is masking, but you can make educated guesses.)

When I mention a modifier gene that is recessive, it means there must be TWO copies of the gene for it to actually take effect. That means both parents must have the gene, or carry it. IE: you cannot get a pointed kitten out of a parent that doesn’t carry colorpoint.

Deconstructing:

  1. A blue and white. First, remove the dilute, and you get a black&white. Then you remove the bicolor and you get a black. So a blue&white has two modifier genes that are visible – dilute (2 copies, since it is recessive) and bicolor (one copy if only one parent is a bicolor, possibly 2 copies (and a van) if both parents are bicolors. So the color can be written as black + dilute + bicolor. (There is a chance, of course, that such a cat could have one copy of the recessive genes for either pointed or chocolate. The pedigree must be studied and considered to determine if it could actually have them. This is true to any cat that does not show the recessive genes – pedigrees must be studied to see if they could carry one copy of the recessive genes.)
  2. A silver patched tabby. This one can be confusing – you can either remove the tabby, leaving a smoke tortie, or you can remove the smoke, leaving a brown patched tabby. Once you remove the first modifier in either case, the second is easier to identify. The cat’s genetics can be written as tortie + smoke + tabby.
  3. A blue silver tabby. Again, this cat could be hard to start with, but I would start with the tabby – then you have a blue smoke. Remove the smoke, you have a blue. Remove the dilute, you have a black. So it is black + dilute + smoke + tabby. (you could remove the dilute first and get a silver tabby, then remove tabby, get a black smoke, then remove the smoke, get a black. Or take off the smoke (silver) first, and get a blue tabby… and go from there.)
  4. A seal lynx point. You can remove the tabby first, and get a seal point. Then remove the pointed, and you get a black. Or remove the pointed first, get a brown tabby, then remove the tabby, and get a black. So it is black + tabby + pointed.
  5. A solid cream. Remove the dilute, get a red. So it is red + dilute.
  6. A lilac cream point. A little more complicated… remove the pointed, get a lilac-cream. Remove the dilute, get a chocolate tortie. Remove the chocolate, get a tortie. So it is tortie + dilute + choc + pointed.

Obviously, there are so many possibilities out there. Once you can “deconstruct” two cats to their base colors and add up the modifying genes, you can determine what colors and patterns you might see in their offspring. You will sometimes have to guess if the cat is “carrying” a recessive gene, as sometimes you cannot know for sure until you do test breedings. There are some DNA tests for some genes, such as pointed or chocolate, but the best thing to do is to study the pedigrees. Remember, if a cat is born from a recessive colored cat (chocolate or lilac, any color pointed, any dilute color) you will ALWAYS know that cat must have at least one copy of that recessive gene, thus, it is a “carrier” if it is not showing that gene.

Figuring out possible kitten colors:

So.... how about a couple of examples?

1. Let's look at a blue & white sire, and a brown patched tabby dam. First, let's figure out the individual genes for the parents:

 

   
Recessive Genes
Dominant Genes
Red/Black Dilute Pointed Chocolate Tabby Bicolor Smoke Silver
Sire:
Blue & White
Black
Yes
 
 
 
Yes
 
 
Dam:
Brown Patched Tabby
Tortie
 
 
 
Yes
 
 
 

So, any offspring could be black, red, or tortie as a base. Because tabby & bicolor are both dominant genes, the offspring have a 50% chance of being tabby, and a 50% chance of being bicolor. If the dam happens to carry the dilute gene, there is also a chance of the kittens expressing dilute - but at the very least, all the kittens will carry the dilute gene.

Possible colors for the offspring are: black, black & white, brown tabby, brown tabby & white, red, red & white, red tabby, red tabby & white, tortie, calico, brown patched tabby, and brown patched tabby & white. If the dam carries dilute, any of those colors could occur in their dilute variety as well.

Of course, both sides could also be carrying genes for pointed, or chocolate, which could also affect the colors of the offspring. Careful study of your pedigree should help you decide if there is any possibility of those genes being involved.

2. How about a blue silver tabby sire, and a cream lynx point dam? Again, let's first break down the genes for the parents:

 

   
Recessive Genes
Dominant Genes
Red/Black Dilute Pointed Chocolate Tabby Bicolor Smoke Silver
Sire:
Blue Silver Tabby
Black
Yes
 
 
 Yes
 
Yes
 
Dam:
Cream Lynx Point
Red
 Yes
Yes 
 
Yes
 
 
 

So, any offspring could be black, red, or tortie as a base. Tabby & smoke are both dominant genes, so the offspring have a 50% chance of being smoke, and a 75% chance of being tabby (since both parents have the tabby gene). Since both parents are dilute, a recessive gene, then ALL offspring must be dilute. If the sire happens to carry the pointed (Himalayan) gene, then there's also a 50% chance of pointed offspring.

Possible colors for the offspring are: blue, blue tabby, blue smoke, blue silver tabby, cream, cream tabby, cream smoke, cream silver tabby, blue-cream, blue patched tabby, blue-cream smoke, and blue silver patched tabby.

Again, one or both sides could be carrying the recessive chocolate gene, which could then also affect the colors of the offspring.


I hope this article has helped clear up some misconceptions about the colors and inheritance of colors. To those who have a really firm grasp of genetics – I realize the way I explained some things might seem a little “off,” but not everyone can understand everything about genetics in their first forays into the wide world of cat breeding. If this article has made you more interested in how these genetics work on a more complex scale, there are many resources on the web and in books that can be used to furthur your understanding. While this article was written with Persian genetics in mind, it could be applied to many other breeds, but most notably, it cannot be applied to any breeds with Burmese or Abyssinian heritage/ancestry, due to additional modifier genes that come from those two breeds.


GC, RW Cacao Fire In My Pachette
Brown Patched McTabby & White Persian Female
Born 5/21/2005
S: GC, RW Cacao Pachelbel Cannon
D: Brannaway Same Song
Breeder: Janet & Carissa Altschul
Owner: Janet & Carissa Altschul
Photo by Larry Johnson

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