The Siamese cat is a very popular cat of oriental origin, has a large number of admirers all over the world, and is famous for its distinctive colorpoint coloring that contrasts with the color of the rest of the body, white or cream.
The color points themselves come in a number of different shades, and this is reflected in the breed standard of the Siamese cat, which over time has expanded to include new shades and variations of color points.
Not all the possible combinations of color points that can be observed in a Siamese cat are officially recognized by the feline associations, however – the original color of the Siamese cat was Seal Point, and over time the Blue Point, Lilac Point and Chocolate Point variants have also been accepted.
Nowadays, Siamese cats can also have Red Point, Tortie Point, and other types of color points – but the thing that all Siamese cats have in common is the fact that these cats have darker points on the tail, muzzle, and paws, while the rest of their body is of a lighter color.
The color of the body and the points that characterize the Siamese cat are to be attributed to a particular gene that determines the coloring of the hair, the Himalayan gene, the combination of the expression of this gene, which codes for the black color, in association with the partial albinism that characterizes Siamese cats ultimately leads to the appearance and coloration typical of this breed as we know it today.
That said, you may occasionally hear about completely black Siamese cats or Siamese-type cats with black coats, and this raises the question of whether indeed a Siamese cat, purebred and with a pedigree that certifies it, may or may not have a coat completely black.
In this article, we will try to answer this question by explaining in the meantime how the inheritance of the genes that encode the color of the coat in Siamese cats works. Read on to learn more.
The Himalayan gene
As we have mentioned, the Himalayan gene is the gene responsible for colorpoint coloring in the Siamese cat, because in this feline breed, the Himalayan gene – which codes for a thermosensitive enzyme responsible for the black color of the coat – is expressed in association with partial albinism.
This leads to a white or in any case very light body color with darker color points, in fact, when Siamese cats are born they are white, and they begin to show off color points only over time.
This is because the Siamese cat’s dark points are only evident in the coldest parts of the body – literally as the expression of this gene is activated by low temperatures. Because kittens in the womb are kept at a constant temperature throughout the body, when they are born, they are all white.
Since the external temperature is more variable, naturally, the cat’s core – the body – is warmer than its extremities – the muzzle, the tail, and the legs – which therefore darken, although the rest of the body remains light in color.
This is the reason why in a Siamese cat that is spayed, with consequent shaving of the hair and incision on the side (sterilization with a lateral incision) rather than on the stomach (sterilization with a ventral incision), when the hair regrows, at the level of the incision, it will have a slightly darker shade than the rest of the body because that will be a colder area!
In order to inherit the Himalayan gene, responsible for the colorpoint coloring characteristic of Siamese cats, every kitten must necessarily inherit the gene from both parents, not just one of the two.
This is because it is a recessive gene, which with time and the succession of generations would have been easily lost if it had not been for selective breeding, which led this gene to be so well known and widespread.
In terms of crosses between Siamese cats and other feline breeds that do not carry the Himalayan gene, the results of the body color and the fact that the newborn kitten may or may not have color points can be very variable. The probability that a kitten inheriting the colorpoint color will be born from a cross between two feline breeds can be determined using the following information:
- If both parents have the Himalayan gene, the kitten will exhibit the colorpoint coloration
- If neither parent has the gene, the kitten will not have colorpoint staining (unless one of the parents involved in the cross is from a different breed and potentially has colorpoint staining due to the expression of a different gene).
- If one parent has the gene but the other does not, the kitten will not have a colorpoint color, but it can still be considered a positive carrier of the gene, so her offspring could inherit this gene.
So, does something similar to a black Siamese cat exist in nature?
Basically, a Seal Point Siamese cat from the genetic point of view is a black cat, even if it does not appear black in color since in these cats there is a partial expression of the alleles that give an albino phenotype. The Seal Point color is actually black, although it often appears to be darker brown than pure black.
If you see a cat that has an all-black coat, but aesthetically looks like a Siamese cat, you are probably looking at an Oriental cat, an extraordinary cat of oriental origin and large that has physical characteristics very similar to those of the Siamese cat. Another option is the Havana cat, which has the gene coding for the expressed black color and therefore has a dark brown or black color of the coat.
Ultimately, a cat that is completely black in color may not be a purebred Siamese cat with a pedigree that certifies it – but in all the various oriental cat breeds it has been found that the genes that code for coat color are genetically close enough that cats belonging to these breeds will certainly have some ancestor in common!