Siamese cats are famous for a long list of reasons. From their starring roles in movies and books to their ancient ties to the kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), the Siamese cat seems simply designed to stand out from the rest.
One of the many most striking aspects of the Siamese cat breed is their unusual coat coloration. Typically the body of a Siamese cat is one color and their extremities – ear tips, tail tips, paw pads – are another color.
Another unusual feature of Siamese cats is how they can seem to change color over time. But is this actually happening or is it just a trick of your vision? Let’s find out!
Do Siamese Cats Change Color?
The short, simple answer to the question “do Siamese cats change color” is “yes.” But how that process happens is a much longer explanation and it is what we will investigate in the remainder of this article now.
Learn About Siamese Cat Coat Colors
According to this SciShow YouTube video, Siamese cats have a very unusual genetic mutation that causes coat color changes with exposure to different temperatures.
Interestingly, the enzyme that causes temperature-based coat color changes can malfunction not just in Siamese cats, but also in some rodent species like mice.
Understanding the Unique Siamese Coat Color
The Siamese cat is perhaps best known for its piercing blue eyes.
But their unique coat coloration, with the light-colored bodies and darker “tips” or accent colors on the ear tips, nasal bridge, tail tip, and paw pads, are also part of this breed’s signature look.
The Siamese cat coat is always two-toned. But the actual color pairs can change depending on a specific kitten’s DNA.
There is quite a bit of disagreement amongst breeders in this area regarding exactly how many color patterns exist. Actually, there can be a range of colors depending on the specific DNA of each parent cat and how that DNA influences a given kitten.
But the official breed club, the National Siamese Cat Club, states that there are four main color combinations as follows:
The seal is actually a type of brown color that gets its name from the color of – you guessed it – seals. Seals often appear to be a mix of brown and black, which is the color of the seal.
The body is a pure creamy white color.
Chocolate is a richer brown and is more of a true brown than the seal. The National Siamese Cat Club describes it as a range between milk chocolate and dark chocolate.
The body – the lighter color – is described as white chocolate.
There is no such thing as a truly blue cat. In this case, the color blue is really more like a slate grey. The blue color is considered to be one of the hardest “true” Siamese coat colors to breed for.
The body color of a true blue point Siamese is bluish-white.
In the same way that there is no true purple cat color, lilac is actually more like a pink-gray coloration. The lilac is also a more difficult color to breed for in Siamese cats.
A true lilac point Siamese cat will have a deeper, darker blue eye color than the other color combinations.
The body color contrast between the points and the main color will be less stark and look more blended. The body color will have a pinkish undertone to the white coat.
Meet the Siamese Cat’s Coat Color Changing Enzyme
As Arlington Animal Hospital explains, the Siamese cat is actually not the only cat breed that can change coat color over time.
Many cats that hail from Asia (so-called “Oriental” cat breeds) have a similar phenomenon where their coat color changes as they get older.
The enzyme responsible for the coat color change is called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is the enzyme required to make melanin. Melanin is a form of pigment.
In Siamese cats, the type of tyrosinase they have is a mutated version. This version of tyrosinase is very sensitive to temperature.
While you might think that the temperature we are talking about here comes from the surrounding environment, such as sunlight, actually the tyrosinase is sensitive to the temperature inside the cat’s body.
A Siamese cat’s normal body temperature hovers just above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). At this temperature, the tyrosinase becomes largely inactive and does not produce melanin. A lack of melanin production results in white or whitish fur.
This explains why cooler temperatures, like on a cat’s ear tips, paw pads, nose, and tail tip, can result in more melanin being produced and thus, darker coat color.
In contrast, warmer temperatures, such as on a cat’s body and upper legs and tail, result in less melanin being produced and thus, lighter coat color.
As Technology Org points out, where this becomes especially apparent is in how Siamese cats living in naturally cooler regions will often have a darker overall coat color than Siamese cats living in warm regions.
How Is Mutating Tyrosinase Different Than Albino Cats?
Most people don’t realize that a true albino cat (or any albino animal) is actually quite rare. All-white animals can exist and still not be albino animals.
This is because a white coat caused by a lack of melanin production is not the same as a true albino coat.
Albino animals lack tyrosinase and melanin altogether. This is quite different than having a mutating gene that simply turns off melanin production in the presence of warmer temperatures.
This is easier to visualize if you watch how a Siamese kitten’s coat color will change over time.
Siamese kittens are born with a completely white coat. Over time as they grow, the temperature in their extremity areas cools due to contact with the cooler outside air around the cat.
This triggers their tyrosinase to produce melanin which causes darker fur to grow in these areas.
Other Factors That May Cause a Cat to Change Coat Colors
While the tyrosinase mutation is the best-known cause for Siamese cats to change coat color, it is far from the only reason a cat’s coat color may change over time.
Diet deficiencies, skin and pest conditions, UV exposure and sunburn, and even simple aging can all impact your cat’s coat coloration as well.
When your cat isn’t eating the right completely and balanced feline diet for their breed, age, and life stage, this may cause coat health issues as well.
Skin conditions and pest infestations
Skin conditions are one of the most common causes of a cat’s skin or coat to change colors. Sometimes skin issues or pest infestations can also cause the hair to fall out, revealing more of the underlying skin tone and making your cat appear to change colors.
Sunlight can have a bleaching effect on a cat’s coat. So even if your cat’s normal coat color is quite dark in places, if you have an indoor/outdoor Siamese that likes to stay out during the day, you may notice a lightning effect over time.
Cats, like people, can actually “go grey” over time, developing a greying coat that may look lighter or darker than the surrounding fur.
Will Your Siamese Cat Change Color Over Time?
As the Pet Health Network points out, a cat’s coat coloration is genetically determined.
But as you now know, sometimes other factors can also intervene to cause coat color changes over time.
So at this point, you may be wondering what type of color changes you have to look forward to as your Siamese cat grows older. Will your cat change a little in color or perhaps a lot? What can you expect?
What is most important to understand is that lots of cat breeds (and dog breeds as well) can change color somewhat over time.
As you just learned, diet, the simple process of aging, health issues (especially skin or pest issues), exposure to sunlight, and other factors can also cause the coat of any animal to change color as the years past.
If you feel unsure about what may be causing a sudden or gradual color change in your Siamese cat, your feline veterinarian is always the best resource. Your veterinarian can run tests to rule out underlying health issues or diet deficiencies.
Has Your Siamese Cat Changed Color?
As the National Siamese Cat Club explains, within each of the four major color variations can exist additional variations.
This is part of what makes selecting and owning a Siamese cat so exciting. You will get to see your Siamese kitten change color from pure white to a coloration that is totally unique based on where you live as well as underlying feline genetics.