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?
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.
I tried to get this answer on line a while back but my computer wouldn’t let me. Hopefully this will go on today. I work with a TNR colony of cats and see many, as they get older, have black fur turning red. (I don’t think it has much to do with the sun). One particular cat had long hair with a black head, hind legs and a huge mid section that was all rust colored. He seemed okay but within a year or so turned completely rust colored and then vanished. I think it might be some kind of vitamin deficiency or a lack of the special care these animals would get if they were owned by someone. I hope the lady took him to a vet for some testing just because he is a pet and not too old.
My grandmother’s cat Freddy Mercury (yes, that really is his name) looks brown in the sun. He is a type of Tuxedo called a “Panda”. Less black more white than a regular tuxedo. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him, I just think it’s interesting. I love cats btw. ??
Hello I agree with the need for more amino acids. My black cat’s fur was turning reddish brown. I added canned high protein cat food to her diet once a day in addition to her usual dry food and within 3 weeks her coat had returned to a glossy black color..she also lost a little extra weight she was carrying…extra bonus her mood has also improved, she’s much more mellow now.
I have a cat that this applies to. His name is little kitty and is a domestic long hair indoor, but I noticed his fur is slowly turning an auburn color. When I saw this I panicked and cleaned off a spare piece of sanded copper piping for him to lick to get more copper in his diet ( plz don’t judge me to harshly as I just care for him so much). Anyways it is only noticeable in sunlight. I do feed him purina one anti hair ball and feed him temptations treats when he is a good boy. He acts healthy to me, but I hope I am just worrying to much and there is nothing wrong.
Chris, how did your cat turn out? I’m going through the same thing now with my kitten Mazda (we rescued her from living under a car, hence her name). She’s very shiny black and seems very healthy, has her shots etc. noticed the “rusting” and I just read a 6 page peer reviewed animal medical journal study, talking about copper, tyrosine and phenylalanine. Did you ever consult a vet? Did his hair stay black or keep changing?