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Are Brown Cats Rare?

Havana brown cat

Cats seem to come in an endless variety of coat colors and patterns. Not only is rich variety seen in the more common domestic shorthair breed, but also various types of purebred cats as well. Some coat patterns and colors can be rarer than others, but you wouldn’t think of brown as a rarity, or would you?

Brown is an incredibly common color in dogs, but what about cats? Now that you think about it, you have probably never seen a chocolatey brown cat. That’s because brown cats are rare, extremely rare. But why? Let’s find out!divider-cat

It’s All About Genetics

While brown tabby cats are not hard to find, chocolate brown and cinnamon-colored cats are hardly ever seen. They do exist, and even as recognized coat color in some of the purebred lines. The reason for the rarity is because a cat with a brown coat has a gene variant that works to reduce the black pigmentation in the coat, resulting in brown coloration.

Interestingly, brown coat colors were the result of a mutation of the gene that produces black pigment mentation. The rarity all comes down to recessive genes, melanin, and melanin’s two structural components eumelanin (shades of brown and black) and pheomelanin (red and yellow coloration), which is predominant in both black and brown hair.

Certain genetic codes produce the color black, while there are recessive genetic codes with different amounts of eumelanin within the feline primary genes that cause the brown coloration. This gene variant is not so common in cats, but the Havanna Brown and the Oriental Shorthair are great examples of purebreds that showcase a rich chocolate brown color.

What Recognized Cat Breeds Come in Brown Coloration?

1. Havana Brown

The rare Havana Brown is the only cat breed that is known as a true chocolate color. This breed was produced by combining the Siamese, black domestic shorthairs, and the Russian Blue. Not only are they a solid chestnut brown, so are their whiskers. Speaking of rare though, there are only said to be about 1,000 Havana Browns left in the world and there is hardly anything remaining in the current gene pool.


2. Oriental Shorthair

These chatty entertainers also come in a full brown coat coloration and cinnamon coloration. Originating from crossbreeding the Siamese with a variety of others, the Oriental Shorthair eventually made its way into purebred recognition. They have a unique stunning appearance with their lean bodies and triangular heads.


3. York Chocolate

The semi-longhaired York Chocolate has a darker brown coat. This breed first appeared in the 1980s and doesn’t have nearly as much recognition as some other breeds. York Chocolates have a coat that typically darkens as they age. They can have chocolate brown, bicolor chocolate, white or bicolor chocolate., and lilac coat colorations.


4. Burmese Cat

Introduced to the United States in the 1930s, the Burmese Cat had their solid brown coat isolated through selective breeding.  They have four recognized colors including sable (rich, dark brown,) champagne (warm beige,) platinum (pale gray,) and blue (medium gray with fawn undertones.)


5. British Shorthair

These little teddy bears with round, chubby cheeks, thick, soft coats, and large, amber-colored eyes come in a wide variety of colors.  Chocolate British Shorthairs got their coat coloration through crossbreeding with chocolate Persians.

They can vary from any shade of chocolate from super light to very dark, but breed standard does not allow any other hair colors mixed in. Don’t forget the cinnamon color variation they are produced in as well; it complements those amber eyes.


6. Persian

The chocolate Persian comes in many different shades of brown and is one of the rarer coat colorations among the Persian breeds. As mentioned, the chocolate Persians help by providing their genetics that led to the British Shorthair.


7. Devon Rex

The slender, wavy-coated, tall-eared Devon Rex also gets recognition for their brown coloration. These cats come in a wider variety of coat colors, including the rich chestnut brown.

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In Closing

Brown cats are rare, but not impossible to find. You will be much less likely to find a stray brown cat wandering around than most other coat colorations. You can look into some of the purebred cats that come in recognized brown coloration for their breed standard.

All in all, this is a result of genetic mutation and recessive genes. Selective breeding has to take place to produce brown and cinnamon-colored cats and it’s not commonly floating around the gene pool.


Featured image Credit: Joan Wozniak, Shutterstock

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