You’ve likely seen cats that are clearly supposed to be black, but instead their fur is a reddish brown color. You may have seen cats with dark fur on their sides and back, as well as on their tails, faces, and feet. Or maybe you’ve seen one of your own cats change color over the years. Here are some factors that can affect cat colors and why cat fur can change color over time.
1. Temperature can affect cat colors
In Siamese, Himalayan and other oriental cats, the color of the cat’s fur is determined by the temperature of their skin. The skin is cooler on the extremities of the body – feet, tail, and ears / face – which is why they have white or cream colored bodies and darker “spots”. However, skin temperature is not the only determining factor. The temperature of the cat’s environment can have a similar effect: my mother’s Siamese cat turns darker during the cold Maine winter months.
2. The sun can change the color of a cat’s fur
Believe it or not, dark cats can get bleached in the sun. If your cat is outside a lot or if she spends her time indoors, her coat may lighten.
3. Diet plays a role in cat colors
A diet lacking the amino acid tyrosine can cause the hair color of black cats to change from black to reddish. Tyrosine is needed to make melanin, the dark pigment in cat fur. If a cat doesn’t get enough tyrosine in their diet, their ebony fur can fade. Other nutritional problems, such as copper deficiency and excess zinc, can also lighten the black fur. However, be sure to consult your veterinarian before giving your cat any supplements, as a change in coat color can also indicate a kidney, liver, or thyroid disease.
4. Cat colors can change with age
As cats get older, just like humans, they get gray hair. But unless your cat is dark in color, you probably won’t notice the silver strands creeping in. The fur of seal-tipped Siamese and other dark-tipped oriental races also darkens with age. Siamese kittens are born white and do not begin to develop their colored spots until they are outside the womb. Hence, this phenomenon is likely to be a continuation of this process.
As always, your vet is your best resource if you are unsure of what is wrong with your cat.
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