Why Siamese Cats Have Light & Dark Fur

by Mark Salzwedel, Demand Media
    Siamese cats often have darker coloring in ears, face, paws, and tail

    Siamese cats often have darker coloring in ears, face, paws, and tail

    Siamese cats have such striking markings! Their fur is white or cream-colored fur through most of their body, but darker in the ears, face, paws and tail. The darker color comes from a special gene that is trying to regulate the cat's body temperature.

    Siamese Cat Coloring

    There are four principal variations in Siamese cat coloring. Cat breeders refer to the darker colors on the light or white body as pointing. The traditional Siamese is a seal point, with dark brown, almost black points. The chocolate point is a lighter brown. The blue point is actually light gray in color. The lilac point is actually a light reddish gray. Although the pointing can vary from cat to cat, generally the face, ears, paws and tail are the darker areas on a Siamese cat.

    Heat Regulation

    Darker colors retain more heat, and lighter colors reflect heat. Humans produce melanin that darkens their skin if they live in areas that expose them to more sunlight. The darker skin reflects more of the sunlight to keep a person cooler. In a similar way, cats have a gene that allows their skin and fur to darken in the parts of their bodies that need to retain more heat, their extremities.

    Warm Bodies, Cool Faces

    Because the heart, other organs and muscles create natural warmth in the torso and legs of a Siamese cat, evolution made those parts of its body white to reflect additional heat from sunlight. Areas farther from the warmer heart and torso and with smaller muscles have a harder time staying warm, so those areas are darker to retain more heat. But unlike human skin color, which may darken and lighten many times over the course of a lifetime, Siamese color tends to stabilize shortly after birth.

    Tyrosinase and Albinism

    When Siamese kittens are born, they are all cream or white in color. By the time they are four weeks old, darker coloring sets in. Siamese cats have a genetic mutation that is similar to albinism, but it does not give them pink eye coloring. The mutation is sometimes called the Himalayan gene, and it helps the cat produce tyrosinase, an enzyme that suppresses melanin production where heat is sufficient. So Siamese are actually dark brown or black cats that have a special albino gene.

    About the Author

    Mark Salzwedel, writing professionally since 1992, is a hypnotherapist, masseur and game designer in New York. He studied seven languages and worked in publishing, childbirth education, film/TV and foreign policy. Since receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from Macalester College in 1984, Salzwedel has studied biology, astrophysics and world religions.

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