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History of Tuxedo Cats: Origins & Ancestry Explained

tuxedo cat sitting outdoor

In their jaunty evening wear, tuxedo cats are some of the most distinguished-looking cats around. Wherever they go, they carry an air of sophistication with them. With such charismatic good looks, you won’t be surprised to learn that tuxedo cats have an ancient history and a literary pedigree. Most people don’t realize, however, that tuxedo cats aren’t a breed. However, they sure are easy to spot and love. Since ancient times, tuxedo cats have been loved for their elegance, intelligence, and loving natures. It’s also rather cute that they look like they are wearing a little suit! Let’s find out more about these dapper kitties.

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What Are Tuxedo Cats?

The distinctive coloring of tuxedo cats sets them apart. They always look as if they’re ready for cocktail hour with their black fur and white chests. Tuxedo cats don’t belong to any breed. Their name comes from their fur patterning. Although black and white cats are more commonly associated with tuxedo cats, not all black and white cats are tuxedo cats—and not all tuxedo cats are black and white. Gray, brown, and ginger tuxedo cats are also popular among many cat lovers. There are even some white tuxedo cats with black undercarriages.

tuxedo cat in the tree
Image Credit: bookwurmee, Pixabay

What Breeds Can Be Tuxedo Cats?

Due to the specific pattern of color that defines tuxedo cats, these cats can be of any breed. Some breeds that commonly exhibit this patterning are:

  • American Shorthair
  • British Shorthair
  • Maine Coon
  • Norwegian Forest cats
  • Scottish Folds
  • Turkish Angora

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Distribution of Color on Tuxedo Cats

Tuxedo cats are also black-mask cats. The name is given to felines who, because of their facial coloring, look as if they’re wearing a black mask over their faces. To be considered a tuxedo cat, the cat must have a solid black coat. There may be white fur on the paws, belly, chest, throat, and sometimes the chin or tail. Due to the black coloration of their lower jaw and chin, many tuxedo cats appear to have goatees. Tuxedo cats often have all-white muzzles or vertical stripes on their muzzles.

Tuxedo Cat Genetics

Tuxedo cats are genetically predisposed to being black. Also, they have the white spotting gene (S), which hides some of the black spots on their bodies. It does so by preventing the pigment-producing melanocytes from migrating to those areas. There are different grades of white spotting caused by the spotting gene, from 1 to 10. According to this grading system, the lower the number, the less white is visible. Tuxedo cats fall into the low grades between 1 and 4.

tuxedo cat resting on log
Image Credit: Bettina Calder, Shutterstock

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What Is the Origin of Tuxedo Cats?

Tuxedo cats aren’t a breed, so it’s hard to know where they came from. Tuxedo cats first appeared in ancient Egypt, long before tuxedos existed. Cats were beloved among the ancient Egyptians. Tuxedo cats have been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to the time of the Pharaohs. The cats are thought to have been considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians and may have been buried with their owners to provide them with companions in the afterlife. The tuxedo coat pattern is thought to be particularly striking and therefore may have been seen as auspicious.

Tuxedo Cats in Literature

Ancient Egyptians weren’t the only ones fascinated by tuxedo cats. Among the famous owners of tuxedo cats were Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Sir Isaac Newton. Despite not becoming famous themselves, the cats were popular as companions because of their relationships with these well-known names. They played an important role throughout history, despite not being a distinct breed.

Tuxedo cats have appeared in TV shows and accompanied famous artists over the years. It would be impossible to list all of the tuxedo cats that have achieved great things in the past, but here are just a few:

Felix the Cat

Felix the Cat is an animated character who was created in 1918 by Otto Messmer. Felix is a black and white cartoon cat who has a jaunty personality and a mischievous streak. He is one of the most popular animated characters of all time and has starred in numerous television shows and movies. Felix the Cat was once a familiar sight in merchandise and animation during the silent film era in the 1920s. Tuxedo cats have also earned the nickname “Felix cats” because he was so popular.


TS Elliott’s Jellicle Cats

The phrase “Jellicle Cat” refers to a tuxedo cat character in T.S. Eliot’s poem “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, published in 1939. The Jellicle Cat is a mystical creature who is said to embody all of the positive traits of cats. According to the poem, the Jellicle Cat is able to travel between the worlds of the living and the dead and can bring good luck to those who are lucky enough to meet him. It is possible TS Elliott was honoring the tuxedo cats of Ancient Egypt when he gave his fictional kitty these magical powers.


Sylvester the Cat

Sylvester the Cat is a tuxedo cat known for his love of food, and for his persistent attempts to catch Tweety Bird. He is a character from the Looney Tunes cartoons, created by animator Chuck Jones. Sylvester is usually portrayed as a vain, lazy, and overweight cat, who is always trying to catch Tweety Bird, but usually ends up failing. Despite his shortcomings, Sylvester is a lovable character and has become a pop culture icon.


Mistofelees

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, “Cats,” Mr. Mistofelees is known for his charisma, wit, and magic. The character was based on  T.S. Elliot’s “Jellicles,” which are mystical house cats. Mistofelees is a complex and mysterious character who is difficult to understand. He is a magical cat who can perform amazing feats, and he seems to possess a deep knowledge of the world. He often speaks in riddles, and he seems to have a hidden agenda. He is a very intriguing figure, and his true nature is still a mystery.


The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat is a children’s book written by Dr. Seuss. It tells the story of a tuxedo cat who comes to visit a boy named Conrad and causes all sorts of mischief. The Cat in the Hat is a complex character who represents chaos and disorder. He is able to entertain Conrad and his sister Sally with his outrageous antics, but eventually, the Cat in the Hat must clean up his mess.

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Final Thoughts

Tuxedo cats aren’t less interesting for not being a breed. Many people believe they bring luck because of their attractive appearance, intelligence, and prestige. Since tuxedo cats have made their names known throughout history, it only makes sense that they are considered lucky cats.

Sources
 

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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