Grey cat genes are an interesting thing. For example, did you know that most grey cats get their coloring from a “diluted” form of the black fur gene?
It’s kind of like the difference between a tortoiseshell cat and a “dilute tortie.”
Fascinating facts about grey cat genes
The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene is responsible for black fur in cats. This gene controls the production of eumelanin in the hair shafts. In cats, there are two versions of this gene. So, an “active” version produces black or brown fur. A “diluted” version results in a grey or “blue” coat color.
The “diluted” version of the MC1R gene is caused by a specific genetic mutation. This mutation turns off the production of eumelanin in the hair shafts.
Grey cats can also have other colors in their fur, such as white, orange, or other shades of grey, and this depends on the specific genetic variations that are present. As you might have guessed, the color of a cat’s coat is determined by the interaction of multiple genes and environmental factors. The genetics of coat color can get pretty complex.
Cat fur color doesn’t tell us a lot
Grey cat fur can come in different shades and patterns. Some grey cats may have a light, silver-gray coat, while others may have a darker, charcoal-gray coat. Some grey cats may have a solid-colored coat, while others may have tabby markings or other patterns.
If you have a grey cat, you can’t necessarily tell what breed they are just by their fur color. But you can likely narrow it down if the cat is entirely grey.
The color and pattern of a cat’s coat can also be influenced by other genetic factors, such as the presence of white spotting or the agouti gene.
Grey domestic cats could be a mix of different breeds, which leads to variations in size, shape, and overall appearance. So, while grey cats share the common characteristic of having a grey coat due to the diluted form of the MC1R gene, each one still has other characteristics to be considered.
Did you know a female cat is known as a molly (unless she is a purebred, then she is called a Dam). Female cats are called queens when they are pregnant or still feeding babies. Males are called “toms” or “tomcats” (and purebred fathers are Sires).
According to The Cat Fancier’s Association (cited below), there are some general rules about cat genetics.
For example, male kittens always obtain both color genes from their mothers. “The male offspring in a litter will always be either the color of the dam (or one of the colors in the case of parti-colors) or the dilute form of the dam’s color.”
On the other hand, “Female kittens take one color gene from each parent. The color of the female kittens in a litter will always be either a combination of the sire’s and dam’s colors, or the dilute form of those colors.”
We also didn’t realize that “Only the immediate parents determine the color/pattern of a kitten” or that “A kitten’s pattern can be inherited from either parent.”
There’s always something interesting to know about cats, even if it’s technical! — WTF fun facts