Paws and Effect

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Hi! I read all about why cats can be a certain color. But, when I was born I was a beautiful cream color Siamese mix. Don’t misunderstand me, I am still beautiful, but as time went by I have darkened to several shades of black and gray, with little bits of tan throughout. Oh and my eyes are a beautiful shade of blue. Why has this color change happened ?

~ Monet

A Siamese cat with a litter of one-day-old kittens

Siamese kittens are born completely white. Photo by S, Zillayali, distributed under a CC-BY-SA license.

Siouxsie: Well, Monet, your fur color change is a pretty natural thing in the Siamese world. It has to do with the genes that create those beautiful dark points.

Thomas: Did you know that Siamese kittens are born entirely white? It’s only after three or four weeks that their colored “points” begin to show.

Kissy: And those points develop on the cooler areas of the body. That’s why Siamese cats’ ears, faces, tail and legs are colored while the rest of their body is white.

Siouxsie: Because the development of color is temperature-sensitive, cats that live in cooler climates tend to be darker than those who live near the equator — or who live in very warm houses.

Seal point Siamese cat

This young Siamese has a clear delineation between her “points” and her body fur. Photo by catwoman92, distributed under a CC-BY-SA license.

Thomas: Grammie’s Siamese cat, Tinka, lives in a cooler climate, and a cool house. In the winter, her fur gets darker, and as it gets warmer and she sheds her winter fur, the new fur that grows in is lighter.

Kissy: Siamese cats can also get darker if they gain weight. When the skin on the body gets cooler because of the fat that keeps the body heat inside, their body fur can get darker.

Siouxsie: Kissy! That’s really rude! We certainly don’t mean to imply that you’re fat! There’s actually another perfectly ordinary reason Siamese cats’ fur darkens: age.

Thomas: Our research didn’t tell us why this happens, but Mama says it might have something to do with the fact that the body’s ability to regulate its temperature decreases with age.

Kissy: In that case, it would make sense that the fur would get darker as the cat’s surface temperature, so to speak, got lower.

20-year-old Siamese cat

This Siamese cat is about 20 years old. Almost all the fur on his body has darkened. Photo by Sascha Lember, released into the public domain.

Siouxsie: But then, really old cats don’t just get darker — they sometimes get gray furs and whiskers mixed in with all that dark fur.

Thomas: You’ve got some gray fur, Siouxsie!

Siouxsie: Don’t make me come over there and swat you! Actually, never mind: I’m much too wise to be bothered with your smart-alecky remarks. Humph!

Kissy: Please swat him, Siouxsie! Please?

Siouxsie: You quiet down there! Go back to your bed and take a nap.

Kissy: But Siouxsie! I’m not tired!

Thomas: Grrrrrrr!

Kissy: Meep!

Siouxsie: Anyway, Monet — don’t be worried about the changing color of your fur. It’s totally natural. And like all cats, you’ll continue to be beautiful for the rest of your life, no matter what color your fur is!

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