Maine Coons are widely adored, but the shaded Maine Coon cat takes the level of admiration up a notch. Keep reading to learn where these head-turning cats get their gorgeous coats.
A rare type of Maine Coon cat is the shaded variety, which has a silky, dimensional look. Maine Coons are shaded when the tips of their fur are darker than the shaft. The shaded effect is created by an interaction of genes associated with the tabby pattern, and breeders use DNA testing and careful selection to produce these unique cats.
Up next, we explore the exact genetic composition that is necessary to produce the beloved shaded Maine Coon.
We will also give you a solid understanding of the Maine Coon shaded cat’s background, which is sure to make any cat-lover appreciate this beautiful variety.
Shaded Maine Coon Cat
There are plenty of fascinating and unique features that make the Maine Coon cat stand out amongst other cat breeds.
This well-known breed is the largest domesticated cat breed in the world, and comes in a wide range of stunning colors and mesmerizing patterns.
Impressively, Maine Coons can be purchased in any one of 75 possible colors!
If you have got a spare minute, why not learn more about the variety of different Maine Coon colors and patterns available, in this article I wrote.
Maine Coons are also known for their:
- Adorable tufted ears (aka lynx tips)
- Noble Appearance
- Broad, muscular bodies
These large cats also have a reputation for being friendly, loving, and “dog-like” because of the way they follow their humans around.
Shaded Maine Coons are perhaps one of the most intriguing variations of this giant cat breed.
When the individual hairs of a Maine Coon cat have two different colors, it creates the “shaded” effect.
On a Maine Coon cat’s shaded coat, about a quarter to a third of each hair is a darker tint. It is a stunning, dimensional look that is both rare and pricey.
What Causes The Shaded Maine Coon Coat?
Have you ever asked yourself, how do cats inherit their colors?
If you have, keep reading to learn more about the shaded Maine Coon coat genetics, in our cat genetics guide below.
Below are the key factors that result in the shaded Maine Coon coat color:
1. Tipping Explanation
The “shaded” coat pattern is not to be confused with the smoke and shell patterns.
On smoke coats, more of the length of each hair is a darker color. By comparison, on shell coats, just a fraction of each hair’s length on the tip is a darker shade.
All these varieties are called “tipping” in the Maine Coon breed, and shaded coats are in the middle of the three types.
When discussing tipping, the darker color at the tip is called the top color, and the lighter color at the shaft is called the under color.
2. Inhibitor Gene
To create the shaded cat coat, the “inhibitor gene” must be present. This gene is also called the “silver gene” because it suppresses yellow pigment in cat fur.
Other names for this gene are “Inhibited Pigment Gene” and “Melanin Inhibitor Gene.”
If a kitten inherits one inhibitor gene instead of two, there is a chance of “tarnishing.” Tarnishing refers to red pigment breaking through, usually showing around a cat’s muzzle.
One or both parents must have the inhibitor gene for it to be passed along to their offspring.
Thanks to the inhibitor gene, shaded Maine Coons have many beautiful color varieties.
Wide band genes and agouti genes modify inhibitor genes. Read on to learn more about these specific genes below.
3. Wide Band Gene
The wide band refers to a gene also known as the “tabby” gene because it is responsible for tabby patterns.
However, when combined with the inhibitor gene, it can also result in a shaded coat.
To be clear, all shaded Maine Coons are tabbies because of this gene. The tabby pattern is just pushed to the tips of the fur.
So, wide band genes play a key role in producing a shaded Maine Coon.
In order to be functional, though, the wide band gene must be accompanied by an agouti allele, which will be explained below.
4. Agouti Gene
The agouti gene causes individual hairs to have more than one shade, presented as dark and light bands on each cat hair.
The wide band gene modifies how long those dark bands are on agouti hairs.
Breeders who want to produce shaded Maine Coons try to select cats with agouti hairs that have fewer longer bands as opposed to short bands. This is because fewer long bands on the coat exaggerate the shaded effect.
The combined effect of the wide band and agouti genes is quite variable. This variability may be due to interferences from other genes, possibly polygenes.
Polygenes refer to multiple genes that work together to influence complicated traits.
For reference, an animal’s polygenic traits are generally responsible for coat patterns and colors.
5. Tabby Parents
Shaded Maine Coons must have at least one tabby parent.
Tabby markings can be the following types:
Ticked tabbies have a salt-and-pepper effect, classic tabbies have blotched patterns, and mackerel tabbies have vertical stripes or spots.
Regardless of the type of tabby that is passed on, it must be present to produce the shaded effect on a Maine Coon cat.
Silver and Golden Shaded Maine Coon Cats
There is no doubt that silver and golden shaded Maine Coons are both unique and gorgeous.
The Silver and Golden series comes from a delicate genetic balance.
Silver-series shaded Maine Coons are most likely to come from one Chinchilla (shell) or tipped parent and one silver tabby parent.
As mentioned, the extent of tipping is variable. So, breeders could expect any of the following Maine Coon colors:
- Shell Maine Coon
In cat shows, judges have specific requirements for shaded silver Maine Coons.
For instance, the shaded silver Maine Coon cat’s eyes must be a green hue, and their noses must be pink.
Additionally, these cats should also have a dark nose outline and dark eyeliner shading. Breeders carefully select all of these traits to achieve this rare look.
Golden series Maine Coons are special because their pale undercoats have a honey tint rather than silvery white.
The golden shade is produced when the inhibitor gene is non-presenting or recessive.
Golden shaded, or shell Maine Coons may result from a recessive inhibitor gene, depending on the variation of the wide band gene.
The golden shaded pattern could be the same as any silver shaded pattern.
Maine Coons of the Golden series have much brighter coats than Silver series cats. This is because most of their hair is a shade of gold, and only the tips are darker.
Furthermore, the golden color may range from pale honey to richer gold. The variety is best explained by how the agouti gene interacts with the inhibitor genes.
As mentioned, other genes may interact to produce color or tipping varieties.
Other Shaded Maine Coon Colors
While golden and silver are the rarest shaded cat colors, this pattern comes in many other hues.
The boldest shaded colors are as follows:
In these darker shades, there is more contrast to the light under-color.
One striking combination is the blue-silver shaded Maine Coon coat, which has subtle hints of bluish-gray tips.
Next to blue is the black-shaded Maine Coon coat variety, which ranges from dark to light.
Blue and black are the darker color options, while red and cream present a brighter look.
Within the red-shaded Maine Coon range lies the golden-shaded Maine Coon, but the hue of red can range from a deep rust color to a light cream shade.
All of these possible colors can be combined with any one of the tabby patterns. So, shaded Maine Coons come in a large variety of colors, and when combined with ticked, classic, or mackerel tabby patterns, the combinations seem endless.
No matter what color a shaded Maine Coon comes in, it will proudly display that dimensional look.
Shaded Maine Coon Breeders
Some breeders use DNA testing as they produce new cats, to find out which genes have been passed along.
DNA testing helps confirm the exact genetic makeup of each cat.
It can confirm, for instance, whether a Maine Coon has agouti or non-agouti genes. This is very helpful because it can be difficult to properly categorize tipped Maine Coons.
Any potential pet parents looking for a shaded Maine Coon must carefully select a reputable Maine Coon cat breeder, like these breeders in the United States.
These lovable cats are priced in the thousands, so it is best to review the breeder’s pedigree papers and confirm the genetic background via DNA testing.
Background of Shaded Cats
One of the first likely mentions of a shaded feline variety was at a British cat show in 1879. Based on the judges’ descriptions of the cat, it was like a shaded silver.
Over the decades, silver cat varieties were further outlined.
By 1900 they were categorized by the amount of tipping on the fur, similar to how they are officially categorized today.
As the shaded cat became more popular, shaded cats of breeds, including Persians, British Shorthairs, and Scottish Folds were recognized.
It is not clear when the first shaded Maine Coon was recorded, and it was likely first remarked as a variation of the tabby pattern.
Other Maine Coon Color Information
Below are some other Maine Coon colorings and patterns, that you might be interested to learn more about:
- Black Maine Coon
- Black and White Maine Coon
- Cream Maine Coon
- White Maine Coon
- Orange Maine Coon
- Gray Maine Coon
- Blue Maine Coon
- Silver Maine Coon
- Smoke Maine Coon
In summary, many complex genetic factors must combine to create the stunning shaded Maine Coon cat.
Breeders delicately select for the inhibitor, wide band, and agouti gene combination necessary to produce one of these rare Maine Coon colors and patterns.
There is no doubt that this variety of Maine Coon will continue to be prized and recognized in cat shows around the globe (source 1,2,3).