There's something about black and white cats that's sentimental. Many people have childhood memories of growing up with the classic tuxedo cat: a cat whose white chest and black back provide a very formal look. Note that black and white, or piebald, is a reference to a color combination, not a specific breed.
The white cat with black markings color combination can appear in several breeds, including the British shorthair, American shorthair, Maine coon, Persian, and Cornish rex to name a few. Interestingly, black and white cats are actually black cats with a white spotting gene. This gene is dominant and switches off color randomly throughout the fur, creating white patches.
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Long-haired black and white cat breeds
The Persian cat is not only one of the oldest and most popular cat breeds but it's also one that's most likely to be black and white. The thick, lustrous fur of the Persian (originally from Iran) looks particularly regal in black and white. Purebreds have a flat face, while black and white crosses will likely have regular cat facial features but maintain the characteristic flowing fur. Persians of any color require daily grooming.
Likewise, the thick-coated fur of the large Maine coon, sometimes referred to as the gentle giant of the cat world, is also stunning in contrasting black and white. Maine coons, however, can be any of an assortment of colors. They are an independent, outgoing breed that's usually good with all family members, including children and dogs.
Short-haired black and white cat breeds
Two short-haired cat breeds that commonly appear as bicolored black and white cats are the British shorthair and the classic American shorthair. These are two different breeds, not simply two different geographies, as many first assume. A visual distinction is that the British shorthair eyes are larger, and the head is more rounded than its American counterpart. Either can appear black and white, though they are often tabby-colored.
The small-bodied, sleek Oriental shorthair cat is often confused with the Siamese unless they are black and white cats — then, they have a distinct look missing the Siamese sandy markings. The Oriental is particularly striking in black and white thanks to its characteristic green eyes. Similarly, the smallish 6- to 10-pound Cornish rex — a good choice for many allergy sufferers — can also sport short, curly black and white fur in addition to its usual coloring of browns and copper.
While the Cornish rex lacks guard hair (the outer layer of fur), the Devon rex's curly coat is made of all three types of fur: guard, awn, and down. The Devon rex is a different breed than the Cornish rex, stemming from an entirely different gene, but the Devon rex can also be born black and white. This bicolor variation is acceptable in the show ring.
Black and white cat associations
Black and white are clearly contrasting shades, and the combination gives any animal a striking look that's very regal and elegant with a hint of comical. Looney Toons' Sylvester the cat might be the source of that last association. That cartoon feline was a classic tuxedo cat of no identifiable breed, but he solidified the white cat with black markings in our cultural lore.
Not all black and white cats are purebreds. Some are a mix of different lineages, and bicolored cats, also called magpies, can result from the crossing of almost any cat breed. Interestingly, black and white is the most common bicolored combination among felines, which might explain why so many people have fond memories of snazzy, tuxedo black and white cats.