Like most color pointed breeds, Ragdolls can change colors much more often and in very striking ways. While other cats will get whiter fur as they become older, Ragdolls might change their coats almost entirely from one season to the next, which begs the question – Why is my Ragdoll cat changing color? Is there anything wrong with it? Is there something I can do to help? Has this happened to any other Raggie? This is what one of our readers wanted to know so she wrote to us and I posted it on Facebook:
Since many of our readers have also been dealing with the issue of coloring, they were more than happy to share their experiences. In this post, we’ve summed up what our readers had to say about the special changes in Ragdoll coloring to give you a broader view on the matter:
“Pointed cats are essentially mood-rings for temperature”
As one Floppycat reader pointed out perfectly, the essential element of color change in Ragdolls is based on temperature. So much so that they are walking meowing moods-rings for temperature. Like a mood-ring will change color every time it is exposed to a different temperature, so will a Ragdoll cat. This leads to the following questions:
How fast does a Ragdoll change its color due to temperature?
The comparison to a mood-ring is brought on by how fast Ragdolls change colors compared to other cat breeds, but this does not mean that the change in colors and shades is instantaneous. It takes weeks, maybe even months for the change in color to be perfectly visible because the process is gradual.
How does the temperature affect Ragdoll cats?
This breed of cats does change its color due to temperature and the mechanism behind this is complex because all of it is in their genetic code. Ragdolls have a genetic mutation that affects a specific enzyme that plays a key role in pigment production for their coats. This mutation is what makes pigment production dependant on body temperature. If the temperature is lower, pigment production is possible, but as the temperature rises, the pigment is produced less and less. If you want to find out more about this, then read our article on Ragdoll color progression and development.
How does body temperature affect coloration?
The vast majority of Ragdoll cats are bi-colored and their genetic mutation is the reason why. Their coat will be lighter in color where their body temperature is higher (their chests, their backs, their heads), and darker where their temp is lower (their extremities – paws, mouth, tail, ears). Keep in mind that there is a variation in body temperature throughout a cat’s body, which is particular for each individual. Moreover, the limits of the chemical reaction behind the pigment production process which depends on this temperature, are also different from one individual to another.
I consulted Serge Martinod, DVM, PhD of ArcaNatura about Charlie’s coat color change as well. Here is what he had to say about cats changing hair color.
“Thank you for sharing those nice pictures of Charlie. Changes in hair color in cats is not very common but it does happen from time to time. Although I am not sure I have enough of Charlie’s history to thoroughly answer specifically; here is a summary of what I do know on changing hair color in cats.
Hair color is mostly genetically controlled but several factors can influence the color of hair:
1- The Diet:
Diet deficient in the amino acid thyrosine and/or phenylalanine causes the hair color to change from black to reddish color with a reduction of the pigment melanin in the hair. The requirement is 18 mg thyrosine + phenylalanine/kg diet.
Copper deficiency or zinc excess may also cause achromotrichia; a complicated word that means loss in hair color. Liver, kidney or thyroid deficiency can also cause the same change in color.
2- The Environment:
Lightening of the coat can occur with excessive exposure to chlorinated water (cat spending too much time around the pool) sunlight or if the hair growth is very slow.
3- The Skin Temperature:
Skin at a higher temperature has lighter colored hair and cooler areas have darker hair. So for example if an area is clipped, it is cooler and therefore hair re-growth is darker. Different outside temperatures and hair density could have similar effects.
In the case of Charlie, one thing to determine is what was his normal color: The lighter colors in the beginning (in this case, the question has been solved by his change of diet) or is his coat the darker color now? Please also keep in mind that several causes may exist at the same time.
Omega-3, although certainly helpful with maladies, it will not do much for the color of the hair. Charlie has other good reasons to be supplemented with Omega-3 but not this one!”
Serge Martinod, DVM, PhD
Body Temperature Is Translated into Skin Temperature for the Color Change
As Dr. Hofve explained when I asked her about why Charlie lost his color, “Their coats change color depending on skin temperature. That’s why they have dark “points” where their the skin is coolest”. It’s not only about body temperature, but how about skin temperature because the pigment production process takes place in the skin. There are a great many external and internal factors that affect the cat’s body temperature, but it is how this is translated into skin temperature that makes the difference. “there is not much insulating tissue. E.g., ears are thin, tail and legs don’t have much between skin and bone…”, she said.
What Causes a Ragdoll’s Body Temperature to Rise or Drop?
There are a lot of internal and external factors that can cause a Raggie’s body temperature to rise or drop. In some cases, these factors are obvious, like the change in season, but in other cases, you may not be able to figure out why your Ragdoll has changed colors. To help you rule out some of the usual suspects, here are the main factors that affect body temperature:
Factors that cause a cat’s body temp to rise:
- The weather / The temperature in the house (Environment Temperature)
- Acute Inflammation – Local or General
- Digestive Diseases
- Dermatological Issues
- Losing Weight – as explained by Dr. Hofve – “Fat is a good insulator for the internal organs, but doesn’t have a great blood supply itself…when he lost all that fat, the skin actually got warmer because the tissue immediately underneath has a more robust blood supply…therefore lighter color.”
- Factors that cause a cat’s body temp to drop
- The weather / The temperature in the house (Environment Temperature)
- Kidney Problems
- Liver Disease
- Old Age
- Circulatory Issues
- Dermatological Issues
- Gaining Weight
Cat Winter Coat vs Summer Coat
Most Floppycats readers who have answered the post told us how their Raggies change colors from one season to another. Obviously, this depends on just how much the temperature of the cat’ environment changes specifically. One one hand, during late spring, summer, and early autumn, the outside temperature will be much higher. This causes the cat’s body temperature to increase, which translates to a lighter coat color during the hot season. On the other hand, during late autumn, winter, and early spring, temperatures are low to freezing. This means that the cat’s body temperature will also be lower, which translates to a darker color overall. However, there are still some things you have to consider regarding the Ragdoll’s seasonal change in color:
Environment Temperature Is More Important Than Outdoor Temperature
A cat’s body temp will indeed change as the outdoor temperature changes, but you have to take into consideration that a cat (most likely) spends (at least most of) its time inside the house. If you have a thermostat, then this is the defining factor for your cat’s environment temperature. You may open windows to air out the house, but that reduces the influence of the outdoor temp.
Does the Cat Go Outside?
If you have a 100% indoor cat, then clearly, it is all about the thermostat, but if your cat has access to a yard or a garden, then the situation is very different. In this case, the outdoor temperature plays a much bigger role, which leads us to the following conclusion:
Color Change Is More Obvious in Outdoor Ragdolls Than Strictly Indoor Raggies
Outdoor cats are exposed to fluctuating temperatures of the natural environment, whereas indoor cats live in an environment with controlled temperature (the thermostat makes a difference). Moreover, the temp inside a house is close to constant, while the temp outside presents more acute fluctuations. This means that outdoor Ragdolls will suffer much more notable changes in body temperature, and, therefore, in coat color, than indoor cats will.
Indoor Cats Change Color More in the Hot Season than in the Cold Season
This is another consequence of the change in the cat’s environment temp. People are much more likely to keep their houses warmed up all day during the cold season than to keep their homes cooled down during summer. Why? Because people react much better to warmer temperatures than lower ones. During summer, people will most likely not set a very low temp in their homes when they are away at work. Since heat is not usually perceived as a threat to cats (except for extreme temperatures, of course), indoor cats are much more likely to be warmer inside the house during the hot season than they are to be cold inside the house during winter because the cold is perceived as being dangerous, for cats included. The bottom line is that indoor cats are exposed much more to the outside temperatures during the warmer seasons, which causes their coats to get lighter in color than they are during winter. We could even say that indoor cats are more likely to become lighter in color than they are to darken their coats.
Never Ignore Color Changes You Can‘t Explain
If you notice that your Ragdoll cat has changed colors, you have to figure out why. If it is not related to the seasonal temp change, you have to find out which of the other factors is causing their coats to change color. It is very important that you do that because your cat may be ill. Observe your cat and see if you notice any unusual behavior (like the inappropriate urination from our reader’s story). It may be stress, or it may be something entirely different. A good starting point is to take your cat’s temperature, but the best thing to do is to take your cat to the vet to be examined. The change in color is a tell-tale sign for Ragdoll cats. So, to sum up, one of the many fantastic things about Ragdolls is that they change colors. They do it as they grow up, they do it as the seasons change, and it is always related to the temperature of their bodies.
How has your Ragdoll cat changed colors? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below!
Hi, I’m Jenny Dean, creator of Floppycats! Ever since my Aunt got the first Ragdoll cat in our family, I have loved the breed. Inspired by my childhood Ragdoll cat, Rags, I created Floppycats to connect, share and inspire other Ragdoll cat lovers around the world,