When I first got my black cat, Bagheera, I was mystified by some of the characteristics I didn’t realize were specific to black cats. For one, why did he have white hairs if he was supposed to be all black?
I quickly realized that black cats are a special kind of cat with unique traits. With a little digging, I found out some of the answers to my questions about these black beauties. Here are the answers to some of the questions black cat owners must wonder about.
Why does my cat turn brown or “rust” in the sun?
Think human hair genetics are confusing? The hair genetics of cats is even more complicated. Cat hair color has to do with the amino acids Tyrosine, which is necessary to make melanin, the pigment in cat’s hair (1). This enzyme is even more confusing, with cats like Burmese having (cb/cb) chemical makeups and Siamese cats having (cs/cs).
Long story short, according to Fanny Syufy of About.com, black cats have a recessive red gene, which leads them to “rust” in the sun when this is fully activated. Syufy writes that it is also thought that all cats have tabby coats, but each cat suppresses it in different ways. Black cats have a recessive gene that suppresses the tabby gene almost entirely, but you might see some of the markings.
Why does my black cat have a few white hairs?
Just as some people believe that black cats are bad luck, so too do some people believe that a white hair on a black cat is good luck. Of course, this is just a superstition, and you should never pluck these special hairs out of your cat’s fur.
For me, I am fascinated as to why my black cat has a few white hairs on his back, arms, and abdomen. After doing some research, I found out that these stray hairs, called “Smokes,” also have to do with cat hair genetics. Just as the black cat coat rusts in the sun, so too can the coat have a few white hairs. Long story short: it’s in the genes.
Of course, the questions don’t stop there, but we see that many of our questions about black cats’ coloration can be answered by the complex science of cat genetics. The best we can do is love our cat buddies for who they are.
- “Why do some black cat coats turn that reddish brown color?”, Cat-World.
- “Why do some black cats look different in the sun?” Fanny Syufy, About.com