Smoke, Shaded, and Shell in Maine Coon Cats – Simplified Explanation
Smoke, Shaded, and Shell are coat color patterns in Maine Coon cats caused by the “inhibitor gene” or “silver gene.” Each pattern varies in the amount of color left on the cat’s coat.
- Smoke: Smoke Maine Coons have a solid color coat with the inhibitor gene suppressing the color in the hair shaft. The hairs are dark (usually black) at the tips but have much lighter-colored bands near the bottom. Smoke Maine Coons have more than 33% of the hair ends colored.
- Shaded: Shaded Maine Coon cats have 33% or 1/3 of the hair ends colored. The coat shows a lesser degree of wide banding than a “shell” and more than a smoke.
- Shell: Shell Maine Coon cats have 12% or 1/8 of the hair ends colored.
Tarnishing and Wide Band Effect:
Tarnishing occurs when the inhibitor gene fails to completely block pigment, resulting in a breakthrough of reddish color. The wide band effect refers to the pale band between the pigmented tip and the follicle. The presence or absence of the inhibitor (silver) gene does not affect the wide band effect. Golden Shaded cats lack the inhibitor gene but have a shading pattern comparable to Silver Shaded cats.
- Non-agouti + Wide Band = Solid Color
- Non-agouti + Wide Band + inhibitor gene = Smoke Pattern
- Agouti + Wide Band = Golden series
- Agouti + Wide Band + inhibitor gene = Silver series
The inhibitor gene is a dominant gene, which means a cat without this gene cannot carry it. Offspring can receive this gene from either parent, but at least one parent must have the gene. The inhibitor gene affects yellow pigment more than black pigment.
Examples of Coat Colors:
Please note that the genetic codes mentioned are simplified, and cat coat color genetics can be quite complex and involve multiple interacting genes.