Tuxedo cats have a prominent bicolor pattern of stark black-and-white that is reminiscent of formal wear for men. Mixed breed cats as well as some pure breeds can possess the tuxedo pattern. Any piebald combination of black-and-white qualifies as a tuxedo cat, but the most striking examples have a black body with a white chest and paws. Sometimes, a black spot at the throat will even resemble a bow tie!
Other Names: Tuxie, Felix cat, Jellicle cat, piebald
Personality: Varies with breed
Weight: Up to 18 pounds, depending on breed
Length: Up to 36 inches, nose to tail, depending on breed
Coat Length: Short Hair, long hair, or curly
Coat Colors: Black and white
Coat Patterns: Bicolor
Eye Color: Various shades of gold, green, or blue
Lifespan: Up to 20 years
Hypoallergenic: No (the Sphynx and Devon Rex breeds are less allergenic)
Origin: Ancient Egypt
Tuxedo Cat Characteristics
Tuxedo is a coloration pattern that can occur in many different cat breeds. The tuxedo pattern is named after the attire human men wear for formal occasions. Nothing is so dramatic as seeing a "tuxie," as it is affectionately called, dressed in its best bib and tucker. Some tuxies also wear "spats," or white boots.
Other variations on the tuxedo theme include a white striped nose and the "masked tuxedo," with white around the chin and nose or white tips on the nose. Another variation infamously called the "Kitler" features a white "mustache."
Because many breeds and mixed breeds can sport the tuxedo pattern, the personalities of tuxedo cats vary much more widely than their coloration. The temperament of the individual cat will depend on its genetics and the environment in which it is raised.
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History of the Tuxedo Cat
Cats have color genes that can produce the tuxedo pattern in the right combination. Tuxedo cats have the genes to be black. They also have the white spotting gene, which masks the black color on some parts of the body. It does this by preventing the color-producing melanocytes from migrating to those areas. The spotting gene produces different grades of white spotting, from 1 to 10. Tuxedo cats fall into the low grades from 1 to 4. The lower the number, the less white is seen.
No one knows for sure when this gene combination began to be expressed in cats, but it is thought to date back at least to the ancient Egyptians, as bicolor cats have been identified in their tombs. Tuxedo cats appear throughout modern popular culture. Examples of famous bicolored kitties include:
- Felix the Cat was a character created during the 1920s silent film era. Felix was featured in cartoons, animation, and assorted merchandise. Even today the Felix clock, with its long black tail wagging back and forth, is a favorite cat collectible.
- In T.S. Eliot’s 1939 book of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a group of nocturnal black-and-white cats were referred to as "Jellical" cats.
- Sylvester the Cat, of Looney Tunes, is another famous tuxedo cat. Sylvester has white jowls, a long bib extending down his belly, white feet, and a white tip on his tail.
- "The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss, published in 1957, also featured a talking tuxedo cat.
- Socks, known as the First Cat during the Bill Clinton White House administration, was a famous real-life tuxedo cat.
Tuxedo Cat Care
The individualized care of a tuxedo cat will depend on its breed. Its coat requires no special treatment based on color pattern. Brushing your cat will help reduce matting and may help prevent hairballs. Trim your cat's nails every two to three weeks and provide a scratching post. Also, as with any cat, stay up-to-date on veterinary visits and vaccinations to help prevent health problems.
Give your cat plenty of chances to play and chase toys, and offer safe places to retreat. Cats like lots of sleep and cat naps, so provide a comfortable bed and other places around your living area where your cat can lounge.
Indoor cats will need a litter box in a quiet area. Be sure to completely dump and clean the box at least once a week. Using clumping litter and scooping out the clumps daily can keep things tidy.
Common Health Problems
Tuxedo cats can be many different breeds, some of which are more prone to particular diseases and conditions. The ASPCA lists these common cat diseases as ones you will need to be aware of for any cat:
- Cancer: Cancer is more common in older cats. Be alert for any lumps or unusual skin changes. Lymphoma is a common type of cancer in cats.
- Diabetes: This is more common in cats who are obese, male, and older.
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus: This is spread from cat to cat when they fight and incur deep bites. The best prevention is to keep your cat indoors and out of territorial fights.
- Feline Leukemia Virus: This virus damages the immune system and makes cats more susceptible to developing blood cancer. There is a vaccine that can reduce the risk.
You will know whether a cat has the tuxedo pattern from birth. Kittens are simply miniatures of the adult pattern rather than having a changing color pattern as they grow up. These black-and-white beauties come in all shapes and sizes, but they always look a little more sophisticated than their counterparts because of their tidy tux-like markings. While gray cats may bear a similar bicolor pattern, they are not generally considered tuxedo cats.
Diet and Nutrition
Your tuxedo cat should be fed the same diet as any other cat of its breed. While it may be dressed to the nines, your cat doesn't need to dine on caviar. A wet food diet is often considered best, but you can leave out dry food for your cat to snack on as well. Discuss your cat's needs with your veterinarian, especially if your cat has diabetes, is obese, or is a senior. Provide fresh, clean water for your cat at all times.
Where to Adopt or Buy a Tuxedo Cat
Mixed breed tuxedo cats are fairly common and may be found in adoption shelters, but the pure breeds that bear the black-and-white pattern must be sourced from breeders. Check the American Cat Fanciers' Association (ACFA) breed directory for reputable breeders in the United States.
Types of Tuxedo Cat
The tuxedo pattern is not allowed in some breed standards, but it is noted in the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) standards for the following cats:
- American curl
- American shorthair
- British shorthair
- Cornish Rex
- Devon Rex
- Exotic shorthair
- La perm
- Maine coon
- Norwegian forest cat
- Oriental (shorthair and longhair)
- Scottish fold
Tuxedo Cat Overview
Maybe you're looking for a boldly colored shelter cat or a specific breed in black-and-white—or perhaps you've found a stray kitten that appears to be wearing a formal suit. No matter the pedigree, you probably won't be able to resist the charm of a tuxedo cat. It may have short or long hair, be male or female, and have a surprising personality, but one thing is certain: a tuxedo cat is anything but ordinary.
Charming pattern resembling a tuxedo
Almost any cat can possess the pattern
Several breed standards accept the pattern
Certain breeds may be prone to specific health problems
Cannot be bred for particular markings
Personality traits vary
More Cat Breeds and Further Research
If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:
Otherwise, check out all of our other cat breed profiles.
Are tuxedo cats always males?
Despite the appearance of wearing traditional male formal attire, tuxedo cats can be male or female.
How much does a tuxedo cat cost?
A premium purebred tuxedo—a purebred with tuxedo markings—can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000. But, save yourself some money and rescue one from your local shelter or pound. Tuxedo cats are plentiful and you're sure to find one that fits in with your family.
What breed is my tuxedo cat?
Tuxedo cats are not one breed; they are named for their markings that look like they are wearing a tuxedo. Tuxedos are commonly domestic shorthairs but can be one of many different breeds.