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 Color, Pattern, & The Siamese

Most kittens at Sarsenstone Cattery are seal points and blue points.
For general information about the quality of Siamese color and pattern, see below.

Hind quarters of two Siamese cats lying side by side. The one at right is much darker than the other and has undesirable barring and shading.

When referring to a Siamese, the word "color" refers to the color of the darkest fur on the cat. "Seal" is the most common of the many possible Siamese colors. It is a dark brown that is almost black.

Pattern refers to the distribution of color on a cat. Siamese have the "colorpoint" pattern, which means the color on the body is of a lighter shade than the color on the "points": the face, ears, tail, and paws.

Consequently, the points of a seal point Siamese are a dark brown that is almost black, and the rest of the body is a much, much lighter shade of seal, which looks beige-white.

The word "contrast" when applied to a Siamese refers to the pattern contrast, the clear-cut difference between the darkness of the points and the lightness of the rest of the body. "High contrast" is considered the ideal in Siamese of all types. High contrast means that the body of the Siamese is markedly lighter than the points. The body is a lighter version of the point color, but ideally it's so much lighter as to be almost white. The emphasis is on getting a lighter body rather than on getting darker points. The points are supposed to be exactly a certain color, such as dark-brown-almost-black for seal point Siamese. Therefore, high contrast is achieved by breeding for a seal point with exactly the right point color and a body as close to white as possible.

In addition to the right color and high contrast, a Siamese with good color should have very EVEN color. There should ideally not be any sign of stripes or blotches, not even shadowy ones, on the body of the Siamese.

In practice, many Siamese have color, contrast, and evenness that are far from ideal. For example, many cats have belly spots, bars on their legs, and even visible stripes over the rib cage. Siamese darken with age—up to about 3 years old. By the time your kitten is mature, if he is a poor quality seal point, he may have body blotches. He may have a body so dark in some spots it may run into the point color. A large part of the entire cat may look solid brownish black. Chocolate points are supposed to be a light milk chocolate color on the points, but many poor quality chocolate points are bred that have points so dark and body color so beige-ish it can be very hard to tell if they are seal points or chocolate points. Some people work long and hard to find a chocolate point kitten to buy, even pay extra for one, but then the kitten ends up looking just like a seal point when he grows up. A poor quality blue point might have points that are a dull, unexciting gray and a body that is almost the same color. A poor quality lilac point may not look much different from a blue point.

Don't get us wrong. Whether or not a Siamese kitten has high quality color, contrast, and evenness, he is likely to have the famous Siamese personality and will make a wonderful pet. By the time he has wrapped you around his charming little paws, you will be too enthralled to notice whether he has high contrast or low contrast, great color or poor. The health and personality of a Siamese are far more important than color.

If you are buying a kitten as a pet, our advice is to never, ever reject an exceptionally bright, loving, outgoing, healthy kitten based on cosmetic traits. Personality and, even more so, health tend to be neglected by breeders. Most will deny that, but it quickly becomes obvious, when talking to a large number of breeders, that many are skilled at evaluating the appearance of Siamese cats, but they know little about doing pedigree research, genetics, and discussing breed-wide genetic diversity issues. So, never take health and personality for granted.When you tell a breeder you want a "pet quality" kitten, by definition "pet quality" means a healthy kitten with a nice personality, not one that is cosmetically perfect.

What we hope you will learn from this discussion is that only novice breeders aim for producing a large number and variety of colors. Inexperienced and uninformed breeders talk a great deal about how many colors they breed and not at all about how they achieve quality in those colors. The quality of the color and pattern contrast play a major part in making an Old-Style Siamese attractive. When breeders want to improve the cosmetic appearance of their cats, they have their work cut out for them breeding for quality in one color. That is especially true when working with a rare breed in which it is hard to find breeding cats. Breeders are therefore better off aiming for good quality in one or two favorite colors than they are trying to breed all the possible colors. Breeders who specialize in a common color, instead of trying hard to find and maintain rare colors in the cattery, are more easily able to find breeding cats that are healthy as well as the right color.

For a description of what the old-Style Siamese colors should look like when they are high quality, see the TICA Thai Breed Standard on the PREOSSIA web page. "Thai" is the name TICA gives to the old-style Siamese. 

Copyright 1996-2011 by Dr. Cris Bird of Sarsenstone Cattery. You may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.