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What Makes a Cat's Coat Change Colors?

By Linda Cole

When I was in high school, my family had a Siamese cat. She had a beautiful light colored coat with chocolate brown markings on her face, tail and legs. As she aged, however, her coat began to darken up. Three of my cats are black, but I've noticed one has a reddish tint starting to show up in his coat. If you have a cat with a darker coat, and have noticed a change in the color, there are reasons why the coat color may be changing.

Sun Exposure 

My cats love to lie in the sun. Since they're all inside cats, I find some stretched out in warm puddles of sunlight entering through a window. As a sun puddle ebbs across the floor, the cats move with it. I can usually find a cat lying in an opened window enjoying an afternoon sunbathing as they spy on the neighbors. Jabbers is my biggest cat and always makes sure he gets a window spot, but his black coat has gotten a red tint to it from lying in the sun. Cats with dark coat colors who spend too much time in the sun can start to get a bleached out look from too much exposure to the sun. The darker colored coats of outside cats who spend a lot of their time in the sun can also have their coats fade in time due to sun exposure.


The coat color of oriental breeds like the Himalayan and Siamese are determined by temperature. More precisely, the temperature of their skin. Himalayan kittens begin life with an almost creamy colored coat. Siamese kittens are born white. As they begin to grow, color changes begin to take place in their coats and the points begin to emerge. Because the neck and body of the cat is warmer, their coat stays a lighter color and the tail, legs, face and ears turn darker because those areas of the skin are cooler. Air temperature can also play a role in coat color and their points can darken or become lighter depending on the season. A change in coat color can also indicate that your Siamese or Himalayan cat is sick and has a higher than normal temperature.

The Aging Process

Just like us, our precious kitties can begin to get gray hairs mixed in with their coat as they age. It's harder for us to see hairs losing their pigmentation on lighter colored cats, but you may notice a change in their coat color the older they get. One of my cats, Scooter, had just turned twenty a few months before she crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. She had a striking gray coat that faded into white on her chest and stomach. Bits of gray around her mouth began to whiten the older she got. It's a reminder to never take for granted the unconditional love we get from our pets and to give them an extra hug at night, in the morning and any other chance you get.


We already know how important diet is for our pets' overall good health. However, it can be a little hard trying to decipher some pet food bags. Conversely, the label on a bag of FELIDAE cat food is easy to read, and you understand exactly what you're feeding your cat. They get the right number of amino acids along with quality ingredients.

Amino acids are the building blocks for good health for both our pets and us. If even one essential amino acid is missing in a cat's diet it affects their health, which is why cats should not eat dog food. Cats require 12 essential amino acids and dogs require only 11. One important amino acid cats need is tyrosine. Black cats who eat a diet lacking in tyrosine can cause their coat to develop a reddish tint to it. This amino acid is important because it's needed to make melanin which is what creates the dark pigmentation in a cat's fur. A diet lacking in zinc or copper can also cause a cat's black coat to become lighter.

Medical Problems

Like dogs, cats will instinctively try to hide an illness or injury. And some medical conditions may not be noticed in the early stages. A changing coat color can be an indication that your cat has developed thyroid, kidney or liver disease.

A trip to the vet is the best way to put your mind at ease if your darker coat or black cat is getting a reddish hue to his coat. We can't stop the aging process, but we can be aware of why their coat may be changing in color.

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

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