You could have sworn that your cat looked different when you saw him this morning. You dismissed the idea, thinking that the change in his appearance was a result of him standing in a sunny spot in your home.
But when he sits on your lap after you plop yourself on the couch, your initial suspicion has been confirmed: your pet’s fur has changed its color.
Reasons why your cat’s fur has changed its color
A cat’s fur can change color because of aging, overexposure to the sun and something more concerning like jaundice or hormone problems.
Like in humans, the hair on a cat can turn gray upon reaching old age. In cats, this occurs because their bodies can no longer produce enough melanin.
Typically, gray hairs start growing in the muzzle. In some cases, the gray hairs are confined in that area. But in other cats, the gray hairs can grow in other parts of the body.
If your cat has a dark coat, the gray hairs will be noticeable.
If your cat is otherwise healthy, there is not much you need to worry about your cat having gray fur. This is just part of his natural growth cycle. In fact, cats spend a huge portion of their lives in this life stage.
However, you should take this change as an indicator that your pet is aging. And along with that can come a few health problems that you must prepare for sooner or later.
2. Overexposure to sunlight
If your pet spends part of his days outdoors or if he has been lounging around in a sunny spot inside your home, one possible reason behind the change in the color of his fur is overexposure to sunlight.
Imagine the last time you spent at the beach. Most likely, you got a tan and your hair color probably changed a bit too. The same thing happens to felines.
The primary reason behind this is melanin which is a natural skin pigment. Melanin is responsible for the color of the skin, eyes, and hair in people and animals.
Eumelanin gives black and brown cats their fur color. On the other hand, pheomelanin is responsible for the fur color of red and orange cats.
Apart from dictating the fur color of a cat, melanin also provides sun protection for felines. Upon exposure to the sun, melanin gets destroyed. In turn, this results in a change in your cat’s fur color.
However, this color change is temporary. As the melanin stores in your pet’s body are replenished, the fur goes back to its original color.
3. Fever coat
If you have a kitten, one possible reason for the change in his coat’s color is fever or stress coat.
Fever coat occurs when a pregnant cat gets sick due to an infection or becomes stressed during this period. It is also possible for a cat to get a fever coat if she is given medication by his humans who are unaware of her pregnancy.
The coat of kittens that have a fever coat may appear to be red, cream, or silver because the pigments on their fur have not been properly deposited.
But like overexposure to the sun, a fever coat is a temporary condition. Once the kitten reaches six to eight months, the color of his fur changes to its permanent state.
4. Nutritional deficiency
If your black cat looks reddish-brown, he may be severely lacking in the amino acid known as tyrosine.
Tyrosine is critical in the production of eumelanin, which in turn, is responsible for giving your cat his black color. Tyrosine deficiency in black cats often starts with the discoloration of the tips of the fur.
Your cat is capable of producing tyrosine. Additionally, the amino acid is readily available in animal products and rice.
Most of the cat food that you can find in the market is fortified with tyrosine. However, you can also ask your vet about using tyrosine supplements.
It is also possible that your black cat has turned reddish brown because he is not getting enough copper in his diet.
Copper is responsible for converting tyrosine to melanin. Apart from that, the mineral is critical for other bodily functions, including the transport and absorption of iron.
Most cat foods contain sufficient levels of copper and you should talk to your vet if you think that your pet is not getting enough of it.
Do you own a cat with point colors like the Siamese, Balinese, Birman, Himalayan, or Tonkinese? These cats and related breeds change their colors depending on their skin temperature.
When their skins are warm, the color of their coat is pale. The kittens of these breeds appear to be white because of the warmth of their mothers’ wombs.
Upon reaching the age of one week, the color of its extremities, face, tail, and ears begin to change to a darker color because these areas are cooler than the rest of a feline’s body. The depth or darkness of the color will depend on how cool the skin is in these areas.
Vitiligo is a rare skin condition that can affect humans, dogs, and cats. The condition manifests itself in the form of depigmentation or the loss of natural pigments in the skin.
In affected cats, their skin can appear to be pink or white while the fur in these areas may also take on a white hue. Typically, the body parts that are affected are the nose and face.
In most cases, vitiligo is inherited. If your pet’s parents had this condition, your cat will likely get it too.
Experts are unsure why vitiligo happens. Many theorize that the condition happens because there is an interference in the production of melanin in a cat’s body.
Although it may be alarming to learn that your cat has vitiligo, there is not much that you should worry about. The condition does not adversely affect an affected cat’s health and wellbeing.
7. Post-surgery recovery
Did your cat recently undergo surgery? It is highly likely that your vet shaved the area which needs to be accessed before the procedure.
Now that your cat is in recovery, you have noticed that the area that was shaved has a different color compared to the rest of your pet’s body.
There are two possible reasons behind this. First, it is possible that the color change arose because the hair grew out outside your pet’s normal shedding cycle. This is only temporary. Once your cat undergoes the next shedding cycle, the fur in the rest of his body will match the color in the area operated upon by your vet.
Another possible reason for the change of color is your cat’s hormones. The action of these hormones may have been triggered by the anesthesia, the actual procedure, or both. This change is also temporary and the color of your coat will return to normal after some time has passed.
Another potential reason why your cat’s fur has changed color is stress.
When humans are going through stressful periods, their hair can also turn gray. The same thing can happen to felines.
Cats can be stressed for a variety of reasons, ranging from the addition of new furniture in your home to the loss of a member of his social circle. Sometimes, stress can manifest itself in the form of gray hair.
Experts are unsure why this happens to cats. They suggest that the stress inhibits the production of pigments which in turn leads to the discoloration of the fur.
Stress can also trigger the release of the hormone known as noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is released into your cat’s body when he is under stress or experiences physical pain or discomfort. It can also be the cause of your cat’s gray fur.
Because graying fur is a sign of other issues, you should also look for other signs of stress. These may include restlessness, lethargy, aggression, anti-social behavior, and frequent vocalization.
Hypothyroidism is a disorder that occurs when a cat cannot produce enough T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones are crucial for a cat’s metabolism and other bodily functions.
Apart from fur discoloration, other symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, lethargy, and shedding.
Hypothyroidism rarely occurs in cats. But when it does, it is usually because the animal is being treated for hyperthyroidism. Sometimes, the disorder will appear after a cat undergoes surgery for the treatment of hyperthyroidism.
Usually, cats with hypothyroidism do not require treatment as the condition can resolve by itself. However, if your pet shows extreme signs of the disorder, the vet can prescribe oral supplements.
Jaundice or icterus is a condition where a cat has excessive amounts of yellow pigments in its blood and tissues. Over time, the accumulation of these pigments can discolor a feline’s skin and other body parts.
If your cat has light-colored fur, you can easily see the change in the skin color. But the change in skin color can be difficult to see if the fur is dark. Discoloration can also appear in the eyes, gums, and ears.
Jaundice is usually associated with liver disease. However, it also occurs when the red blood cells in your cat’s body are destroyed inside the liver, blood vessels, or spleen. A cat may also get jaundice when his bile ducts are obstructed by gallstones or if the gallbladder or liver becomes inflamed.
It should be noted that jaundice is only a symptom of another problem. As such, treating jaundice requires identifying and solving the underlying cause. Although some cases of jaundice are fatal, there is a high probability that a cat can recover from it.
11. Cushing’s disease
Cushing’s disease or hyperadrenocorticism is a condition where a cat has an abnormally high level of the hormone cortisol in his body.
The condition can arise if the pituitary gland produces too much cortisol or if the cat is being treated with corticosteroids for inflammation or allergies. Cushing’s disease can also occur in cats that are being treated with progestagens for their reproductive health.
Apart from fur discoloration, other symptoms of the disease include lethargy, hair loss, muscle weakness, frequent drinking and urination, enlargement of the stomach, and bruising.
Some cats afflicted with the disease may also succumb to diabetes.
Treatment options for the disease include medication, surgical removal of the adrenal or pituitary gland, and radiotherapy.
Should you worry about your cat’s fur discoloration?
More often than not, the underlying cause for this color change is harmless. However, if you notice a change, you should watch out for other symptoms and report these to the vet to rule out any possible life-threatening cause.
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