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The Story Behind Color Points

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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If you've ever seen a sleek sand-colored cat with big blue eyes and a coat that gets strikingly darker around the paws, face, ears and tail, you've probably had the pleasure of meeting a seal-point Siamese. This sophisticated beauty can range in color from flame to lilac to seal point. The pattern is called pointed because only the points (ear tips, paws, face and tail) are colored differently than the rest of the cat's body.

The pointed pattern is created by genes that are affected by body and external temperature. Therefore, the same cat can appear quite different in different climates. The cat's pattern is affected by temperature in two ways. The first is the actual pattern. The cooler the body, the darker the fur. Since the body temperature of the ear tips, face, paws and tail is lower than the body's core, they tend to get darker. This happens because cooler temperatures tell the genes to add more pigment into the fur.

The second way is the actual outside temperature. Again, the cooler the temperature the more pigment there is in the fur on the points. That means that a cat in Hawaii will have lighter-colored points than the same cat in Alaska. It is interesting to note, however, that regardless of how warm or cool the body is, the pigment in a seal-point is always diminished. Even if a cat has the gene for jet black, it only appears dark brown, which is known as seal.

Another pointed breed is the Himalayan, also known as the Himmy, which is a cross between a Siamese and a Persian. It is usually a happy mix of the points and blue eyes of a Siamese, with the face and long lovely fur of a Persian. Other breeds that come in pointed patterns include Javanese, colorpoint shorthairs and snowshoe.

An important thing to keep in mind is that when a color-pointed cat has a surgical procedure and her fur is shaved, it may grow back a different shade. If your cat undergoes any of these procedures, keep the cat in a very warm environment for a few weeks to help encourage the light-colored hair to grow back.

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