Well, I think I need to start this article with a clarification, not long ago we had shaded, shell, and chinchilla, today this is changed. I will go by the new names remember this so that you do not get confused. I will not go into golden either, golden will have an article of it’s own.

Old designation


ns 11, as 11, ds 11, es 11, fs, 11, gs 11 and so on.


Only ds 12 and es 12


Only dark colors ns 12, as 12, fs 12 and gs 12

New designation


ns 11, as 11, ds 11, es 11, fs, 11, gs 11 and so on.


ns 12, as 12, fs 12 and gs 12 and  ds 12 and es 12

So nowadays all cats with the ems code 12 is a shell, not chinchilla, though Chinchilla Persian who become a breed of their own many years ago, of course, will still be Chinchilla. But we are not going to talk about Persians in this article, I will focus on the Maine Coon.

There has been a LOT of speculations and a lot of theories about the Shaded and Shell, I will quickly just mention them here.

 The One-Gene Theory
Some time ago, it was suggested that a single unique gene was the origin of all silver colors. It was thought that the Inhibitor gene was the one responsible for Shaded and Shell, in combination with ticked. Nowadays we know this is not true.
The geneticist Roy Robinson, in its well-known book Genetics for Cat Breeders (Cambridge, 1972, 2nd edition)
The Two-Gene Theory 

State that silver colors result from the combined action of two genes, one of which (erase) inhibits pigmentation at the hair’s base, while the other (bleaching) cancels rufism. We shall call the latter “silver gene”, and denote it by Sv. The eraser gene will be denoted by I, but the reader should be warned that some recent books denote by Shaded the mild form of the gene I, which gives rise to shaded silvers, and by Shell its strong form, which gives rise to Shells. There is not enough evidence that these two expressions of I are due to two different alleles rather than to a group of polygenes. (Indeed, the transition from shaded silver to Shell is more gradual than sharp. Therefore, we do not make use of two different alleles shaded and shell and do not distinguish between the genotypes of shaded silvers and chinchillas (as far as principal Mendelian genes are concerned). But the reader can easily adapt our results to the Shaded/Shell notation if so desired.
J. Jerome, TICA Trend vol. 13 n. 6 (dec. 1992/jan. 1993), pg. 14 and TICA Yearbook 12 (1991), pg. 218

 The wide-band-Gene Theory
This is the theory that makes the most sense, the Wide-band Gene was for a long, long time supposed to be a dominant trait, which meant that at least on of the parents needed to be Shaded or Shell to be able to give the traits to the kittens. A shaded was heterozygous on the wideband gene and a Shell was homozygous on the wideband gene. Nowadays we do know by looking at pedigrees and investigate pedigrees that everything points to this gene being a recessive trait. I think it's pretty safe to even say that we today got breeding proof of this since we do have a lot of non-shaded or shell parents that actually do get shaded kittens.
The full article of the different old theories: http://www.mat.uniroma2.it/~picard/Cats/Feline_genetics_notes.pdf

Well, I will continue with the Wideband Gene, first of all, I will share some of my own thoughts around all this. From the beginning, the trait was supposed to be dominant and was therefore typed WbWb for a Shell (old designation Chinchilla), and a Shaded had Wbwb right? 

Well as you do know if you know your genetics dominant traits are set to uppercase, like for instance the inhibitor gene (the silver gene). 
Homozygous Silver II, heterozygous Silver Ii, and Non-silver ii. When we talk about the dilution-gene which is instead recessive it's the opposite, we type in lowercase like this: Diluted dd, Not Diluted but carrier Dd and Not Diluted and not carrier DD. Can you see my point?

We will use, WbWb, Wbwb, and wbwb when we were talking about a dominant trait.

For a couple of years, we were tricked into believing that the wideband trait was in fact recessive, this is not the fact. 
I was wrong others with me were wrong, but as we all do with breeding, no matter how long we are doing this, we always learn new things.

I will explain a bit more about this, the reason why we thought that the wideband gene was recessive was the high amount of very pale cats that suddenly started to arise from all kinds of matings, and none of the parents were visibly shaded. Well here we have two scenarios, one is that one of the parents in fact is a wideband cat but not good enough to be called a shaded, this cat might still give the trait to its offspring.
The other scenario is that we are dealing with the other trait, the trait that has been given the name "Nifty-silver", which I think is a bit wrong. Since the trait has been seen from lines further back but the line we are talking about here is the line: Aloa Nifty Wolf - Allycoon Brightstar - Belushies Utah and Kumskaka Many Waters of Belushies. 

I'm not sure I like that naming, I would rather call this trait pseudo-shaded or something, this trait seems to impact smoke to a very high degree.
Also, it seems very common with pseudo merle in those cats.

This leads us back to the fact that a shaded will be Wbwb and a shell WbWb, this also makes it very logical for us to get a lot of normal silvers out of one or even two shaded parents since we all know that if we do have two cats who both are Wbwb, the can very well get offsprings being wbwb, which is a non-wideband cat.

I myself still believe that the shaded and shell colors are due to the wideband gene, this gene will turn the trait on or off like with agouti, where the agouti-gene is turning the visibility of the cat's pattern on or off, the cat still has their pattern, the agouti-gene is just turning the visibility on or off. In this case, the wideband turns the widening of the agouti-bands on or off.

When we have a cat who is heterozygous (Wbwb) the widening of the bands on the hair is on and the then normal agouti-bands get wider and we get a shaded cat. If the cat is homozygous (WbWb) the band gets even wider and the cat becomes a shell.

I believe that we also have a lot of polygenes, they will decide how even the tipping will be, how dark or pale the cat will be, and it will affect the rings on the legs, the belly, the necklace, and all those little details. This is where selective breeding comes in to be able to get those really nice shaded and shell kittens. 

Now, have to get in on golden for a while since there is something here that I believe should apply also to shaded.
In golden we do have what is called "golden tabbies" a golden is in short a cat with the wideband turned on, but the Inhibitor Gene (silver) turned off, a non-silver cat with wideband effect.


This means that in goldens we have golden tabby, golden shaded, and golden shell. 
I have my own theory here, that we should have one more "color" on silver. We cannot call it silver tabby, that name is already used so maybe just pale silver or wideband affected silver? Well, I don't really know but it seems like there are a lot of cats who are wideband but do not fulfill the demands to be called shaded but still have the wideband and those would be really valuable in our strive to create more shaded and shell kittens.

Today those kittens are registered as normal silver which is kind of wrong, but since we do not have any ems code for them, we do not have a choice but to register them eighter as shaded although they are not really shaded, or normal silver tabby although they are not normal silver tabbies eighter.

Don't mind my very terrible skill in painting, but here are some, well visually pictures of the coat with the different patterns.

 silvershell Silvershaded  palesilvertabby  Silvertabby  goldenshell  goldenshaded  goldentabby  blacktabby 
Silver Shell Silver Shaded   Silver (pale)
Still only in theory 
 Silver tabby  Golden shell  Golden Shaded  Golden tabby Normal tabby 


Below are some explanations of the different colors, I will handle golden in another article.

Silver Shell  1/8 Of the hair is colored, the hair from the root and up to the last 1/8 is pure white. 
Silver Shaded  1/3 Of the hair is colored, the hair from the root and up to the last 1/3 is pure white.
Pale Silver You can see that the cat has some wideband effect but it does have more coloring from the tip and down the hair than 1/3 so it cannot be called a shaded.
But you can see that the cat got some wideband effect as you can see above like the golden tabbies those have bands on their hair but the white parts are wider and the colored parts are smaller than on a silver tabby.
Silver Tabby  Well, we all do know what a Silver tabby looks like and you can see above that they got even agouti-bands on their hair, unlike the Shaded and Shell cats.


Determining Shaded, Shell, and Pale Silver (wideband cats that do have more than 1/3 tipping)

When looking at those colors, keep in mind that on Maine Coon we have not been selecting to improve those colors for decades like they have done on, for example, Persians, so we cannot expect to have perfect shaded and shell. The amount of tipping should be correct if you want to register your cat as a shaded, but still, there might be things your cat has that a shaded or shell should not have to be a really good one.

I would say be careful with cats who have very pale tipping (the 1/3 or 1/8 with color) since those can be very hard to determine. 
If the tipping is very pale you will have a very hard time seeing where the silver stops and the tipping begins.



  • Tipping 1/8 of the hair and the tipping should be as even as possible (here we have some work to do in our selective breeding)
  • Tipping is shading down from the back of the flanks and lighter on the front of the legs.
  • Face and legs may be slightly shaded with very light tipping.
  • No rings on the legs are allowed.
  • No spots on the chest or belly are allowed.
  • Eyes and Nose leather should be outlined with the color of the tipping and an even, distinct nose/eye rim is preferred.
  • The color on the underside of the feet is not allowed to extend up to the joint of the hindlegs.
  • In general, a shell appears much lighter than a shaded.
  • There are some more things a shell should not have but a lot of shell Maine Coons do have, like uneven tipping, solid-colored hairs, possibly some shown pattern.


  • Tipping 1/3 of the hair and the tipping should be as even as possible (here we have some work to do in our selective breeding)
  • Tipping is shading down from the back of the flanks and lighter on the front of the legs.
  • Broken rings on the legs are allowed, but not unbroken (also here we need to select to get the perfect shaded cats, I have seen many shaded who actually got one unbroken ring but still clearly a shaded cat. 
  • Also, spots on the belly are something we still do see even though we got a Maine Coon that is actually shaded, we need to keep selecting for this.
  • Coat on the head, ears, back, flanks, and upper side of the tail must be tipped with color.
  • Chin, ear tufts, chest, and belly, inside of the legs, and underside of the tail must be without tipping. (also here we need to allow some faults and keep selecting for better shaded).
  • Eyes and Nose leather should be outlined with the color of the tipping and an even, distinct nose/eye rim is preferred.
  • The fur on the underside of the feet is colored with the color of the tipping, on the back of the hindfeet the color extends up as far as up, to the joint.
  • In general, a shaded cat appears much darker than a shell.
  • There are some more things a shaded should not have but a lot of shaded Maine Coons do have, like uneven tipping, visible pattern, all kinds of tabby markings, and solid-colored hairs.

Pale Silver

Well, those ones are not mentioned in the standard since they are not recognized, but they do exist so I will give some hints at least.

  • Tipping 1/3 or close to 1/3 of the hair, at least you can see that they do not have the bands on the hair like a normal tabby.
  • They might have some unbroken rings on the legs, but not look like a normal silver tabby.
  • Overall they look like a bad shaded.

One question I think is asked a lot is: How do I know if I got a shaded kitten in the litter or not? 

There are a few things to look at, a dark shaded (black, blue, or tortie) shaded is most often dark on the body but is white or really pale on the face and back of the ears.
A red or creme shaded will be completely white on the ears and most of the back of the head and the face a lot less color than a black.

NewbornShaded1   NewbornShaded2

Blue Tortie Silver Shaded (gs 11)
She is tested with DNA and she is agouti and completely without white.
This one is particularly white, they can be darker but the red circled
area should be white or almost white on a shaded.

Blue Tortie Silver Shaded (gs 11) 

I will also show some legs here with rings and completely without rings, not even broken rings (remember a shaded is allowed to have broken rings though).

nobrokenrings  ringsonebroken
This kitten got some broken rings,
She is almost pure white on the inside of the legs.
If you look closely you can see that on the left leg she actually got a very pale unbroken ring.
 This one, on the other hand, got unbroken rings, you can clearly see the rings also on the inside of the legs. On the left leg, there is one broken ring.


There is so much more to say about this and I will probably get back to you with more pictures and more details when I get my hands on more pictures. Either by being allowed to use others or by getting the chance to take them myself. I will finish up with a few photos of one of my girls, she is a pretty bad shaded but nevertheless a shaded. 

This is Sally as she was in her darkest period, a lot of cats get darker around 6 months to 1 year just to start to be paler again, at around 3 they are completely finished developing their coat and color. Persian breeders say that you can tell the end color of the cat by looking at it at the age of 6 weeks. Whether this is true for the Maine Coon is yet to be seen.


I guess you wonder how on earth I could get that one to be shaded, even a bad shaded? Well here are some pictures and if you look at this picture above, on the legs, you can see that she actually does have broken rings on her legs.

MCESallyDividedFur1  MCESallyDividedFur2  MCESallyDividedFur3 
In this picture you see the bottom of her fur, she is clearly not a normal silver tabby.  Another picture of the bottom of the fur where it shows that she is actually 1/3 tipped and the rest are white (though if you look you can see that she also got a Merlespot (I will talk about merle In another article), and that the tipping is a bit uneven.

 And yet another picture to show the bottom of her coat.


By: Malin Sundqvist