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Why Does My Black Cat Have White Hairs?

I am a Crazy Cat Lady who has been rescuing cats for over 30 years. Even though I hold no degree in animal welfare, I am a seasoned nurse with an extensive medical background. My nursing background has helped me assess the cats that came my way. Throughout these years of caring for cats, I continue to be amazed at how close a cat is to a human regarding disease, medicines, illnesses, behaviors, moods, likes, dislikes, and the aging process. Nursing has given me a unique look into how much of a parallel there really is between humans versus cats.

Just as in a human’s hair color, the same holds true for cats’ hair color, of course, with a few exceptions. One would think that there are too many color combinations in the cat species to count. However, there are only six varieties of fur patterns, and these patterns can vary a bit from cat to cat. Color markings are passed along the mother and father’s genetic line to their kits, creating varied colors that can be beautiful, unique, and sometimes odd. The same holds true for all humans.

  • Colorpoint
  • Bicolor
  • Tricolor
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Solid, such as all black or all white
  • Tabby

Why Does My Black Cat Have White Hairs?

The Easy Answer

Throughout those years, I have always had at least one black cat. Currently, I house six cats ranging in age from three years to 17 years of age. Three of these six cats are black. Two of these three black cats started developing sparse white hair throughout their black hair as they age. My other cats are either gray and white or shades of brown, and it is impossible to see any white hairs in their fur. I believe that as they age, they too have subtle changes in fur color and texture.

The body cells responsible for pigmentation die off as the cat (and humans) age. Thus, these hairs turn white. However, a cat does not turn completely gray or white as its human parents’ hair may do as they age.

Color is not the only thing affecting the hair. As cats age, the thickness of the hair changes and becomes coarser, and your kitty may not be actively grooming itself as much. The fur may take on a rumpled appearance. If your cat has renal disease, its hair slowly takes on an unhealthy appearance. My examples are as follows.

  • My Mia is a short-haired, totally black cat with green eyes. In 2021, I noticed a few white hairs cropping up throughout Mia’s black fur. And additionally, she has grown one long white whisker. This has not concerned me because I have seen no evidence of significant changes in her routine.
  • Wee Willy is a long-haired, totally black cat with golden-colored eyes. He has sparse white hairs throughout his black fur that he never had when he was younger. Willy has had one significant change. He meows all the time. Willy never had much to say until recently. This is the only change I see. However, he will go for a wellness visit soon for this one reason. I believe that Willy is trying to tell us that he is in pain or is not feeling the greatest.
  • Lil’ Luke is a short-haired black cat with a dab of white at the front of his neck. I call this Luke’s bow tie. Since he is a teeny bopper, I see no white hair mingled with his black fur. We will give him time.

The funny thing is, the older I become, I see sparse white hairs on my head, and I wonder if I am catching something from my kitties? 

The indisputable fact is that I am not catching anything from my kitties. I am getting older, and with age comes an element of gray or white hair and, aside from using hair dye, this is something that we all must learn to accept and live with, as I think it is called “Growing Old Gracefully.”

As cats age, common sense tells me that cats develop white hair throughout their black hair, similar to humans. As people and cats age, chemical changes occur in the body, causing some black hair to turn white.

As I watch my cats, I don’t believe that those white hairs bother them. At least none has asked me to run for the hair dye. Humans should not let a few gray hairs bother them either and accept this as a part of aging. It is wise to listen to your cat, as the cat species do have a lot of wisdom.

I believe that if a kitten is born with black hair and has white strands here and there throughout its fur, it is all in the genetics passed on by the cat’s mother and father and is nothing to fret about. Kittens can be born with underlying health issues passed on through the mother or father. Hopefully, you will take your new kitten to the vet for its first physical and vaccination shots. Let the vet give the kitten a clean bill of health.

A More Complex Answer

As a cat parent, you must continually monitor your cat for health changes. Cats are masterful at hiding illnesses until health problems have gained a strong foothold in your cat. I have developed the habit of watching out for specific things in my cats, such as,

  • Eating patterns and amounts eaten
  • Water intake
  • Weight
  • Urine color
  • Poop color and consistency
  • Activity level
  • The texture and color of the fur
  • Eye or nose drainage
  • Breathing
  • Their meow or lack of

Medical researchers in the feline area say that the following things can develop in your cat related to seeing white hairs in your black cat’s fur.

  • A diet shift
  • Constipation
  • Spinal cord disease
  • Pelvic trauma
  • Dysfunction of the primary nerves
  • The aging process
  • Genetics
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Tumors or cancer

If you notice your black-haired cat growing white hair and see significant changes in your kitty and believe that it has health issues, you should see the vet as soon as possible. Symptoms such as the following can but do not always make the cat’s fur look whiter. Let the vet decide.

  • Chronic constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite changes
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive meowing (my Wee Willy’s sudden issue)
  • Crying
  • Flea infestation
  • Dust
  • Dry skin flakes or dandruff

Is It Normal For A Black Cat To Get White Hairs? 

As outlined above, it is normal for black cats to get white hair as they age. However, if possible, underlying health issues with the cat appear in some of the above symptoms; I would have to say no; it is not normal for a black cat to develop white hair.

You must remember to be an observant cat parent and constantly monitor your kitty for subtle or abrupt changes that are out of the norm for your cat. You must know the likes and dislikes of your cat, including its daily routine, to recognize changes that may point to an underlying health problem.

If you do not know your cat and its habits, how will you know if there are changes taking place? 

I don’t mean to be abrupt, but it is not being a responsible cat parent to not know everything you can about your cat.

What To Do If My Black Cat Is Getting White Hairs? 

The first thing to do is to monitor, monitor, monitor, and if you see some alarming changes in your cat, it would be best to see the vet and have them examine the kitty. This is the safest thing to do, especially if you notice the following.

Differences in,

  • Water consumption
  • Fatigue or low energy level
  • Vomiting excessively
  • Decreased desire to eat

Just as you should see your doctor at least every year for a wellness checkup, so should your cat see its vet for its wellness exam. A wellness check at least every year may help identify potential underlying health issues that the vet can treat to keep the problem from progressing.

However, aging cats developing white hair is not always a cause for concern, especially if you see no changes in your cat.