Englishenglish Contact

The Ticked Pattern in Maine Coons

© Copyright Anneke Kuys 2010


Mainelyclassic Rocky of Broadsway (breeder Rae Sammis/ owners Jennifer Sable and Jean Thompson / Photo: Tamila Aspen)

The four tabby patterns
In the FIFé standard of the Maine Coon the following tabby patterns are mentioned: unspecified tabby pattern (21), classic (22), mackerel (23), spotted (24) and ticked (25). The tabby code 21 is only used when the tabby pattern is unknown or unrecognizable (Vans and Harlequins).
For years the general idea was that the four tabby patterns operated independent from each other. Recent research of the exact locations of genes (so-called genemapping) however has proven otherwise.
There are in fact only two tabby patterns: mackerel and classic. They can be influenced or masked by genes that result in spotted and ticked patterns. To what extend these genes have an effect is dependent of whether the cat has inherited this gene of each parent or just one parent.
We make a distinction between large effect (one of each parent), little effect (only one parent) and no effect (none of each parent).
The Spotted (SP) gene can modify both the mackeral as the classic pattern in a way that spotted patterns appear by breaking it in pieces.
The Ticked (TA) gene masks the original pattern by a patternless agouti pattern in the case that the cat has inherited this gene from both parents. It will resemble the look of the Abyssinian and Somali. Has the cat the gene only from one parent then you will still see stripes on the head, legs and tail.


The origin of the ticked pattern
In the Maine Coon the ticked pattern is less prevalent. When you compare the pedigrees of ticked Maine Coons you will notice that when you go back in het lines far enough, they all have a specific background in common. That is the line that ends with Cork Felix (shaded silver) who has as foundation parents: father Snowball (shaded silver) and mother Fluffy (black). In Pawpeds two litters of Cork Felix are registered: one from a mating with Mladia Titania of Cork and one with the daughter from this mating: Cork Missy.

In the early 1970 a breeder and judge in Memphis, called Mary Bolles, wanted to breed for shaded silver American Shorthairs. For this purpose she mated them with an Abyssinian. That way it was much easier to produce a shaded cat without a pattern. The breeder of cattery Cork wanted to have shaded silver Maine Coons and purchased one of her cats and mated this with her own cats until she got to the point that she could register one of the longhair cats as a foundation cat. This was all according to the rules at that time. Marla Vales of cattery Marala continued the work that cattery Cork started and built her own cattery, specializing in smokes and shaded silvers, with the offspring of this stock.

Silver Spring
Marala's Silver Spring (breeder Marla Vales, photo/owner Ingrid May)

The resemblance in ticked and shaded
The coat pattern is determined by a combined action of the agouti gene and the genes for the various tabby patterns. The agouti gene) controls the deposition of alternately much or less color in the hairs. Separate from the agouti gene there is another gene that influences the color of the hairs: the inhibitor gene I. This gene is responsible for the silver expression in silver tabbies, shadeds (chinchilla's, tippeds) and smokes. The inhibitor gene suppresses the synthesis of pigment after a certain point. In a silver tabby only the agouti bands, the tips and the solid hairs are colored. Due to the contrast of colored and non colored parts of the hairs the pattern is enhanced. In a shaded cat that effect is less. Shortly after the point where the agouti pattern starts the color disappears. This means that the pattern maybe visible at birth, but when the cat matures the silver wide band area increases and the cat appears to be only tipped with color. The tips of the hairs are colored for 1/3 of the hair length.


Because you do not see an actual tabby pattern shaded and ticked silver look very much alike. The overall appearance of a ticked cat is more dark then a shaded one. This is due to the fact that a ticked cat has several bands of color on the hairs.

grijsshaded      grijsticked

Most people will not recognize the difference between shaded and ticked silver, but will also not imagine that the cat could be ticked. Another problem is that the ticked pattern can hide under the solid pattern of for instance a smoke or a black cat and can be inherited unnoticed. If this solid cat is only mated with other solid cat the pattern may appear again generations later when a tabby cat is used as a mating partner. These both situations can be the cause that the pattern is not correct registered because people think that this concerns a shaded or a "bad" mackeral.

Which associations recognize the ticked pattern in Maine Coons and which do not?
The following associations recognize the ticked pattern: FIFé, TICA, CFF, New Zealand Cat Fancy, Southern Africa Cat Council and World Cat Federation ( a federation of many independent associations). In the standard of the following associations mentions exclusively the patterns classic, mackeral and patched are mentioned and/or the remark is made that unpatterned agouti on the body (i.e. Abyssinian type ticked tabby) will lead to disqualification. These are: ACFA, Australian Cat Federation, CFA, GCCF and the Dutch independent associations*. In spite of that there are ticked Maine Coons known in the Netherlands that have gained champion points at Dutch independent shows.
Since many ticked Maine are incorrect registered and are not recognized it is still possible that there are ticked Maine Coons with titles in associations that do not recognize ticked MC's.

Broadsway Redding rood ticked as kitten (breeders Jennifer Sable and Jean Thompson /photo Helmi)

Ticked in USA
In USA ticked tabbies are shown, but disappear from the show stage after a revision in the CFA standard after 1993 by which they are excluded due to disqualification ( in American Shorthairs too!). This may also be a cause why cats with ticked patterns are not used anymore for breeding and breeders preferred to breed for clear mackeral or classic pattern. But breeders who were breeding with silvers may have used them to breed for shaded silvers and registered them (un)conscious as such or as silver mackerels.
Also in TICA the standard is revised. In the long discussions in 2003 that precede the revision the ticked pattern is subject of discussion, but because there are already ticked cats with titles, it is decided not to exclude this pattern.
At present there is a small revival of the ticked pattern. This is mainly due to Broadsway Redding and his offspring that do well at shows.

Dragonlord Quiddich (breeder /photo Jens and Iris Middelmann)

Ticked in Europa
The ticked pattern is introduced in Germany by the arrival of Bentley's Eartha Kitt, a black female that appears to inherit ticked. Most ticked cats in Germany descend from her son Heavycoon´s Eldrige the Dragonlord, born 26 july 1991. He was registered in both CFA and TICA as ticked tabby and was bred by Jens and Iris Middelmann, who are still active breeders (cattery Dragonlord).

Henning Mueller Rech (cattery Canaletto), the present secretary of the FIFé Maine Coon Breed Council, is in 2000 surprised by two litters with ticked kittens sired by his male BlueSamson the Fabulous. Samson was originally registered as a solid blue/white, which is not so odd, considering that he showed no pattern, but appears to be ticked. At present several catteries in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Austria are using ticked breeding stock. In 2008 even a shaded (ticked) silver Marala cat was imported.
In the Netherlands a descendant from Bentley cats: Maine Dreamer Fan Tourquoisine, is registered as shaded silver. Children of this male are registered as shaded silver or silver mackeral tabby because at that time it was not clear that the ticked pattern in some cases was involved. One descendant, Mo van de Mafiosocats, was indentified at a show as ticked. Two imported cats from the Danish cattery Fuglsang registered as silver shaded and golden shaded are most likely also ticked cats. One of them even became a Eurochampion (at least 21 shows) without any of the judges has noticed this pattern (wich makes no difference in the colorgroup in FIFé).
Of the above mentioned lines there are probably no descendants left in the Netherlands with the ticked gene for breeding.
However very recently a red (ticked) male Quinsigamond Rowan was imported.

Does the ticked pattern spontaneously occur?
A specific mutation does not occur in various breeds. Studies prove for instance that all colorpoint cats, no matter what breed, must have a common ancestor. So a ticked pattern does not spontaneously occur in a different breed.
To show a few examples:

There is no DNA-test yet for the ticked pattern. So unfortunately you cannot verify whether your cat is shaded, ticked or inherits ticked. Especially for breeding solid reds and shaded /ticked silvers ticked Maine Coons can add a contribution to these color varieties.

You do not have to worry about the possibility that the ticked gene will modify other patterns. If the ticked gene is switched ONN then you only see the ticked pattern. If the ticked gene is switched OFF you will see one of the other patterns (spotted, mackeral or classic). The quality of these patterns are depending on how poor or how well defined the parents of the cat inherit this. A nice example you can see on this page.

It is the intention to update this article with more pictures of ticked cats in various colors.

American Native Tatanka Yotanka (breeder/ photo Eve Meier)

Update 2011

Since february 2011 the ticked pattern is also recognized for the Maine Coon by the Dutch Independant Associations(CAClijst).
CFA's position is still not changed but even tightened (2011 Breed Council Poll). Was the ticked pattern first only a reason for disqualification, now one has included in the standard that this pattern (next to the spotted pattern) is not registerable. The reason specifies that with allowing foundation cats the possibility exists that the spotted and the ticked pattern sneaking through the so-called ' feral ' population. By clearly stating that only the classic patterns and mackerel (and the patched version of these) ar eregisterable one prevents that spotted and ticked are registered anyway by a non conclusive definition (as has happened in the past).