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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I rescued a young kitten about 4 years ago, who was eating from our trash can. She’s adapted really well and has been spayed, stays up-to-date on all shots, etc., and seems to be in perfect health. She used to be a black and white “tuxedo” cat, but this year all of her black fur is turning brown. I’ve never heard of a cat changing color before. Is this normal at all? Is it caused by some sort of condition she may have?

~ Sylvia

Thomas: Well, Sylvia, black cats can “rust” for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is sun exposure.

Bella: You know how it is with you humans — when you spend a lot of time in the sun, your head fur gets lighter in color? The same kind of thing happens to cats, but it’s a lot more obvious with black cats!

Thomas: And it seems to happen more in long-haired cats than in short-haired cats. Maybe it’s related somehow to the texture of long fur, which seems to be softer than short fur in a lot of cases.

Bella: One interesting reason a cat’s fur may change color has to do with amino acids, which are the building blocks of life.

Thomas: If your cat’s diet doesn’t have enough of an amino acid called tyrosine, that can cause a black cat’s fur to turn reddish. You see, tyrosine is required to make melanin, the pigment that turns a black cat’s fur black.

Bella: Apparently too little copper and too much zinc in the diet can cause black kitties’ fur to get lighter, too.

Thomas: But be sure to talk to your vet before adding vitamins and minerals to your cat’s diet, because there can be other reasons her fur is getting lighter.

Bella: These things are more common to older cats, but sometimes kidney, liver or thyroid problems can cause black cats’ fur to turn brown.

Thomas: Most likely your cat’s color change is due to sitting in the sun. That black color tends to fade really quickly.

Bella: Even I sometimes look brown in the sun, and Mama says you can see my ghost tabby stripes too!

Thomas: I think a lot of black cats are black-on-black tabbies. And of course, as a tabby cat myself, I totally approve!

Bella: So, Sylvia, the first course of action we’d suggest is switching to a high-protein canned cat food diet in order to make sure your kitty gets enough amino acids in her diet.

Thomas: We’d also suggest you take her in for a checkup if she hasn’t been in recently, and ask your veterinarian about why your beautiful tuxedo girl may be getting rusty.

Bella: What about you other readers? Have you had black cats that turned brown? Did you ask your vet about it? Did you change anything in your faded cat’s diet, and did that bring her fur back to black? Please share your answers in the comments.