Saturday 2 December 2023

Are there age-related differences in cat coat colour?

Yes, there are age-related differences in cat coat colour and in fact markings. One comes to mind immediately which is you will see a young mountain lion cub with a spotted tabby coat while their parents are of one uniform colour. 

Image: MikeB

Nature has given the cub the added camouflage of the spotted coat because they are vulnerable particularly when the mother leaves the nest to hunt for food to bring back to her cubs. And at this time, when the mother is away, inquisitive cubs might venture from the nest making them more vulnerable. 

This difference between cubs and parents in terms of coat colour and markings is noted in the name of the mountain lion a.k.a. puma of which the Latin name is Puma concolor which means of an even colour.

In fact, all mammals exhibit important and obvious morphological (visible differences in anatomy) age-related differences. Humans are mammals and all of us realise that human hair changes as we get older. Hair colour lightens and becomes grey. The backs of male gorillas turn white at about the age of 12 which is why they are called silver-backs.

And we have to remember that elderly cats also develop grey hair around the muzzle as do dogs. It's quite a subtle change and its extent depends on the cat but it is sometimes quite noticeable.

And, turning to one of the popular cat breeds, the Siamese, when a new-born arrives into the world, they are pure white because they've been living in an even and warm ambient temperature, inside their mother's womb. 

But when they arrive into the world the kitten's extremities become colder than the central part of their bodies. This temperature gradient triggers the Siamese genetics which causes body extremities such as the distal parts of the limbs, tail, face and ears to become darker while the warmer the central areas remain lighter.

Interestingly, elderly Siamese cats have darker central areas because their cardiovascular system is less effective resulting in the dermis becoming cooler which means the central part of the body which is normally warmer starts to become cooler which means it becomes darker.

These are some examples of how age-related differences can be observed in cat coat colour and pattern.

This is a cross-post from another site.

P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

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