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Dear Doctor: Do Cats Fade as they Age?

Q I’ve noticed recently that our grey DSH cat, Pal, is showing some lightening of his fur. He has been an indoor-outdoor cat his entire life (he’s 15 years old), so while I first thought it was a matter of his becoming sun-bleached, now I’m not so sure. Otherwise, his health and behavior seem exactly the same.

Debbie Brownstein

A Dear Debbie: Coat color may slightly change with age. In breeds such as Siamese, Himalayan-Persian, Balinese and Birman, dark hair color is due to temperature-dependent accumulation of pigment in the hair coat (which causes “points” to develop: dark nose, ears, feet, tail). Cats of these lineages — when kept in warm climates — are lighter than those kept in cold climates. Could your cat have an Oriental background, and be spending additional time in warm spots?

Rarely, dogs present for color coat changes due to hormonal issues, but I’ve never encountered a cat with that issue. If your cat is otherwise happy and healthy, discuss the color change with your veterinarian at Pal’s next exam. I suspect the coat color change is normal. However, if any signs of illness develop (such as weight change or excessive thirst), an examination should be performed more promptly.

Michael Stone DVM, DACVIM (SAIM)
Clinical Assistant Professor
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University


This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Tufts Catnip