Do cats get grey hair as they age?

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Our question this week was:

Dear Dr. Debra, I would like to know whether cats get gray hair when they get old. If yes, where? Whiskers? Facial hair? Body hair? Also if yes, is gray hair visible on a white cat? What other visible signs are there that a cat is an old cat? And how many years can a cat live? Thanks very much for your help!

Sincerely,

Jan Cleri

Answer

Hi – thanks for your email Jan. You asked several good questions about the aging of cats. First, do cats get grey hair as they age? The answer is that some do and some don't. When they get grey hair (assuming they do get grey hair) also varies. Graying in cats is sort of like people – some get grey, some grey when they are fairly young and others don't get grey when they are very old. In general, graying is not common or consistent. Most cats will retain almost all of their original color pigment for their entire lives.

If a cat gets grey hair, the most common area where cats get "grey" is their face – along their muzzle and whiskers. It is relatively subtle.

Cats will also develop a normal aging change called lenticular sclerosis as they reach about 7 years. The lens of the eye becomes denser and looks white or cloudy.

How long do cats live? I have a good article on that for you. It depends a lot on where they live – indoors vs. outdoors.

A couple articles that might be helpful to you are The Effects of Aging on Cats, Lenticular Sclerosis in Cats and How Age Affects Your Cat.

Dr. Debra

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