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snow leopard (wild big cat)
silver bengal, markings resemble a snow leopard!
Silvers should have a white to grayish white background color, with black markings. The undercoat will be a pure white, unlike the snows which have a creamy off white undercoat.
Silvers are generally born with dark markings although some silvers have lighter markings then others. The markings may darken some as the cat matures.
silver kitten at 12 weeks
same silver at 1 year old
Silver is not really a color and can be very complicated to understand. Silver is actually lack of color. It is caused by the Inhibitor gene which keeps the background color from showing but allows the pattern to still come through.
Because the silver gene is a different gene then the color gene, any color of cat can also be silver. You can have a blue silver, a silver - snow, etc, etc. A silver brown would be a regular silver. So if someone says they have a silver, then it is genetically a brown bengal that carries the "I" (Inhibitor) gene.
So then, can you have a silver melanistic? Sure you can! Remember, that silver is a different gene then the gene that causes melanistic. A melanistic that is also a silver would be called a silver smoke. This cat looks like a white cat with a black "smokescreen" over it's whole body. The fur on top is black but all the fur underneath is pure white.
Silver is the most dominant gene. It is even dominant over brown. So it only takes one silver parent to get silver kittens. A silver can have brown kittens, even if mated to another silver. Again, the reason for this is that a regular silver is actually a brown/black cat but carries the "I" gene. So if the offspring doesn't receive the "I" gene from one of the parents, the cat will show it's true color.
Interestingly though, a brown (also called black, see explanation on the "brown" page) cannot ever "carry" for silver. So if you mate two brown cats, even if they had silver parents, you will still never get any silver kittens. The reason for this is because the "I" gene is dominant so if the cat carries for it, the cat will also show it.
If a cat is silver, sometimes it's very difficult to tell what "color" the cat actually is. Remember, a cat is always silver "something". If it's regular silver it is a brown with the silver inhibitor ('I") gene. This kind of cat is simply referred to as "silver". If it is a snow that carries the "I" gene it is a "silver snow". It may be difficult to tell what color the cat actually is because the silver gene masks the actual color of the cat. The key to determing silver is the color of the undercoat. If the hair close to the skin is pure white, the cat is a silver. That still does not tell us what color the cat actually is though, that just tells us that the cat is a silver-"something" (that the cat carries the "I" gene). Many times, even very experienced breeders can't tell is a cat is a silver-snow or a regular silver or a regular snow. Sometimes, test breeding is the only surefire way to tell. For an example, I have a seal mink snow that was believed to be a silver seal sepia because one of his parents was a sepia and one of his parents was a silver. Later, when he grew up his eye color turned out to be light aqua blue. Seal Sepias do not have blue eyes. Test breeding confirmed that this cat was a seal mink snow, not a silver and not a silver sepia. The cat never produced any silver kittens. His offspring also carried for seal lynx point. Seal sepias cannot carry for seal lynx point so he had to be a seal mink in order to pass the seal lynx point genes to his offspring. In this case it took 2 generations to know for a certainty what he was!
Seal mink snow as a kitten (mistaken for silver)
same cat as an adult
SILVERS THAT LOOK BROWN:
Sometimes also silvers can be mistaken for browns and vise versa. I had a kitten that looked brown when born. (see picture below) Now that he's older, he has a white undercoat and his brown is starting to get lighter and lighter. Most of this cat is a silver color now and he may even totally shed his brownish coat when he loses his "fuzzy coat". Brown color on a silver is called 'tarnish". Bengal breeders want to stay away from tarnish as much as possible. Sometimes a silver kitten can be born with no tarnish and develop it later and some can be born with tarnish and shed it later. So a kitten shouldn't automatically be rejected as a "tarnished silver" before it's had the chance to mature. Most silvers will have varying amounts of tarnish, usually on the face, feet and along the back. Bengal breeders are striving to produce very clear coated silvers with no tarnish but those cats are usually few and far between. We should start to see clearer and clearer coats as time progresses with less ticking and less tarnish.
Most bengal coats go through great change as they mature, especially throughout the first year of life. Bengal breeders can try to predict how the kitten will look as a mature adult by looking at the parents and looking at the kittens coat before 4-5 weeks of age before they reach a fuzzy stage but they cannot always tell for a certainty. The more experienced a breeder is in any one area the better the guess usually is, but even experienced breeders can be thrown through a loop every now and then.
silver kitten that looked brown at birth
same kitten at 10 weeks old and looking more silver
Sometimes silvers are born that are very dark, almost black. Some people might mistake them as a silver smoke which is a melanistic that also carries the silver gene. Charcoal silvers are not silver smoke though.
At first these kittens will have a dark body but you can clearly see the white markings on the face, that's how you can tell the difference between them and a silver smoke. A silver smoke will have the "smokescreen" over the entire body, even the face.
Charcoal silvers go through an amazing transformation. The background color starts to lighten until a pattern is revealed. Charcoal silvers end up with a jet black pattern and a silver to white background coat. The hair near the skin will still be pure white.
Take a look at the pictures below to see how a charcoal silver kitten transforms in color. It is interesting to note that most charcoal browns transform colors in much the same way, most are also born with very dark fur over much of the body except the face (for more info on that see the 'brown" page on this site).
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