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There are a whole host of terms used to describe the different smoke, shaded and tipped cats. Different terms are used depending on whether a cat is longhaired or shorthaired. A number of terms are historical, but can still be found in print. Where necessary, I have included the various alternative names.

Smoke, shaded and tipped are all forms of tipped colouration - the colour is restricted to the hair tip while the shaft is either white/ivory (silver series) or golden (golden series). Shading causes the normally yellow-brown agouti band to be both lighter in colour and wider, starting closer to the root and ending nearer the hair tip than in tabby cats. The tipping colour is known as the top-colour, while the pale colour of the hair shaft is known as the undercolour. These patterns are most striking on the eumelanistic colours (black, blue, chocolate, cinnamon, lilac), because of the contrast between pattern colour or top-colour and the background or undercolour. Shading and silver also occurs in reds and creams which are sometimes termed cameos.

Chinchilla (also known as "shell") is the lightest tipping. Here, only the hair tip is coloured and the hair shaft is silver. This gives the cat a sparkling appearance. For many cat fanciers, the Chinchilla Persian Longhair (Silver Chinchilla) is the epitome of the tipped cats. It has black tipped fur on a white undercolour. The best known shorthaired equivalent is the Burmilla, part of the Asian group. Because Chinchilla cats are genetically tabby, faint tabby markings can sometimes be seen on kittens. In shorthairs, this pattern is known as "tipped".

The next degree of tipping is "shaded". The colour extends further along the hair shaft, usually about half way. The colour is darkest on the back, creating a mantle of shading. Shaded silvers are the "black" form; but the shading can be a variety of colours. Shaded Silver lies between the extremes of Silver Tabby and Chinchilla and is commonly produced by mating a Silver Tabby to a Chinchilla. The amount of tipping is variable, ranging from a poorly-defined Silver Tabby to a dark Chinchilla.

Smoke is heaviest degree of tipping. The pale undercolour is reduced to a small band near the hair root. A smoke longhair often appears to be solid coloured with a pale ruff or frill. In shorthairs, smoke varieties appear solid colour until the coat is parted or the cat is in motion, exposing the undercolour.

In genetic terms, the silver tabby is identical to the silver undercoated cats but the pattern is dissipated due to the restriction of pigment to the tips of the hairs. Silver tabbies occur in ticked, classic, mackerel and spotted patterns which are described in Striped and Spotted Cats.

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