Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nikki: Hypercolor Cat

An interesting fact about Siamese cats is that their characteristic "pointed" fur coloration is temperature-dependent. This is related to a particular form of partial albinism, though the temperature-based aspect of that is certainly not universally found in albino animals.

In short, the enzyme activity for melanin production works differently in Siamese cats than in other kinds of cats, and this can lead to some very interesting effects when the cats experience highly localized temperature differentials (as opposed to highly localized distortions of the spacetime continuum -- sorry, Star Trek joke...).

Ahem. Anyway, Nikki had a followup appointment with the vet last weekend, and received a clean bill of health. Her wound is basically fully healed and her bloodwork looks good overall (one kidney value was apparently "a little high" but the vet didn't seem overly worried about this, so I'm just going to make sure it gets monitored). She is definitely feeling better...I can tell in part because she's gotten extremely assertive again. (When she isn't feeling well she tends to get more passive, so I've actually learned to watch for that as a warning sign.)

Here Nikki is earlier today, sunning herself on my bed, and very happy to no longer be wearing the lampshade cone:

You can sort of see the interesting fur coloration she's developed here, but it's a lot more apparent in the close-up image below:

The darkest area is right in the middle, which is where her fur was shaved closest (right around the wound). It's sort of a grey-brown color. This area is surrounded by a patch of less closely-shaved but still short medium-brown fur. This, in turn, is surrounded by the cream-white fur that is normal for the parts of her body other than the "points" (ears, face, tail, paws).

Eventually everything will grow back in cream-white on that side, but that won't be until enough fur has grown in to normalize the surface temperature across the formerly shaved area with the surrounding area. In the meantime, Nikki is just going to look rather interesting for a while.

Incidentally, sometimes I wonder if Tim (pictured below, stalking a mouse that got into the living room!), the Siamese cat I had as a youngster, was very dark overall in part because we lived in Connecticut, which got a lot colder than this part of California does.

He was an indoor-only cat (his former human had gotten him declawed, grrr...) but my parents weren't really the types to blast the heat in the wintertime so who knows. On the other hand, Tim was a Seal Point Siamese whereas Nikki is a Chocolate Point, so that could account entirely for the color difference.

Either way, Nikki doesn't seem particularly fashion-conscious so she's likely not stressing over what Matt refers to as her "bull's-eye", and certainly I'm not. Most likely both of us are just happy her injury has healed.

(Oh yeah. And the term Hypercolor in this post's title refers to a type of clothing that a lot of my junior-high classmates in the early 1990s wore, which had the interesting property of changing colors in response to the combination of the wearer's body heat and the ambient temperature. I never had any of this clothing myself but I certainly saw plenty of it and the whole Siamese temperature-based-color-changing thing reminded me of it, even though of course with the cats the color change doesn't happen right before your eyes in realtime; it's a fairly gradual process that involves the fur actually having to grow in a different color.)


  1. Wow, I have so much catching up to do!

    This post is interesting to me because both my sister and I have flame point Siamese males. She lived in northern Minnesota with him for about four years, while mine is about a year and a half old and been here in Washington his entire life.

    Her cat is a light orange/tan color all over his body and not really what most people would think of as Siamese.

    My cat has classically Siamese coloring patterns.

    This is very fascinating!

  2. Also, I showed my co-blogger Queen Emily the link from your post with the science, and her first reaction was hypercolour as well. :)


This blog has been archived and can no longer receive comments.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.