Black Smoke Cat With White Mane

On the website, they have an article entitled, “Black Cat Grows Magnificent White Winter Mane”. The story comes from the Reddit website. Nobody who has seen the picture has described why this cat developed a white mane during one winter. The cat’s owner says, ““My black cat unexpectedly grew a white winter mane one year.”

Black smoke cat color variations
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Black smoke cat color variations

I thought I would try and figure out what is going on. I hope Sarah Hartwell has time to chip-in and leave a comment because she is one of the country’s leading experts on feline genetics.

Firstly, this cat is not a black cat. This cat is a black smoke. The fact that this cat is a black smoke cat rather than pure black makes all the difference. Here is a picture of Helmi Flick’s Maine Coon Quin who is also black smoke:

Black smoke Maine Coon cat

Quin: Black smoke Maine Coon cat. Photo copyright Helmi Flick.

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You can see a great similarity between Quin, this magnificent black smoke Maine Coon cat and the cat which is the subject of this discussion.

A black smoke cat could be described as a black cat with part of the colour in the hair strands missing. The pigmentation, eumelanin (melanin) is missing from about a half to three-quarters of the hair strand nearest to the skin but this varies over the cat (white fur = a lack of pigment – transparency).

The pigmentation is missing because of a gene in the cat called the inhibitor gene. It’s symbol is I. When you part the hair of a black smoke at you will see black hair at the top of the coat fading to white or transparent hair lower down. This gives the smoky appearance.

In the case of the so-called black cat with a magnificent white winter mane, this is my reason why the mane turned white:

In winter months there is less sunlight. Sunlight falling upon a black or dark coloured cat is absorbed and vitamin D is created which is then licked off by the cat and ingested. Vitamin D is linked to the production of an amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine is linked to the production of a pigment in the skin which is transferred to the hair strands. The pigment is called melanin – its full name is eumelanin. Less light = less vtitamin D = less tyrosine = less melanin = white fur.

In addition, there are natural variations in the black smoke cat coat.

The well-known book Robinson’s Genetics states that, “the extent of the white undercoat is variable… The white undercolor itself is not always stark white…”

Conclusion: this cat’s coat turned white (transparent) because of a reduction in melanin because of less sunlight.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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19 Responses

  1. Leah says:

    Kylee I have an Ozzie and he goes the same he has the most amazing colours which I love Browns. Reds even a dark Grey!

  2. kylee says:

    wow hes or shes beautiful love the colours. Ozzie goes differnt colours in the summer a redbrown but that is just amazing

  3. Tiffany says:

    Thank you for the information. He’s a pretty unique cat, so it’s only fitting that he would have a unusual coat to go with him. Thank you Sarah, for the link with the pics it’s neat to see what may or may not happen to his coat. We’ll just wait and see. When I get a chance I’ll upload some pics of him. Thanks again. And Sarah I am sorry about Mr. Minns.

    • Thanks Tiffany for visiting and commenting.

    • Sarah says:

      I’d love to see some pics and maybe add them to the page I linked to 🙂 Possibly there is a newly emerging mutation that causes this sort of progressive pigment loss (evenly spread rather than patchy). Thanks to the internet, these things are more often spotted!

  4. Tiffany says:

    Ok, this is strange. The cat up top on the right looks exactly like my cat. He is 7 yrs old he has always been solid, dark black with a white collar, white toes on front and white feet on back and a white patch on his belly. All of a sudden about 2-3 months ago he started turning gray, it started around his neck, on the outside of the white, and then on his sides and now his belly is almost solid gray. He is inside only cat and always has been. It seems he gets more and more gray every single day. Weird!!! His name is Pee Pie!!

    • If he has a smoke coat with the inhibitor gene it seems that the gene is working more and there is less pigmentation. Or due to age + the inhibitor gene the effect is more hair strands that contain less pigmentation. He sounds like a great looking cat. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sarah Hartwell says:

      This sounds like a manifestation of vitiligo where the pigment-producing cells quite producing pigment. It can occur in patches (snowflake) or salt-and-pepper. As the number of white hairs increases the cat turnes progressively paler. The ultimate result is a white cat with perhaps a few residual black hairs. Luckily it’s a harmless cosmetic condition.

      Check out Neptune (Progressive Pigment Loss) at the foot of this page

  5. Dee (Florida) says:

    Brilliant as usual, Sarah.
    I’m so sorry about Mr Minns. It’s so heartbreaking.
    I apologize. I take those things very hard.

  6. Sarah Hartwell says:

    Quite normal – in fact visibility of the pale undercoat is highly desirable in show quality smoke longhairs. The longer the hair, the more white on the hair shaft and the more dramatic effect. The reason it shows up in winter isn’t a lack of sunlight (got to debunk that one!) or anything nutritional it’s purely because the winter coat is naturally longer than the summer coat. That’s why the major British championship cat shows are held from October onwards – the cats are shown in full winter coat.

    PS: Mr Minns, whom you met a while back, has to be euthanized in the next few days so I’ll not be online much. If you need a query answering you’ll need to email me with a URL.

    • DW says:

      I’m so sorry Sarah. Peace to you both.

    • Oh Sarah. My love to Mr Minns and may he have a good journey over the rainbow bridge. Good luck with this.

      The longer the hair, the more white on the hair shaft and the more dramatic effect

      Are you sure you are correct about this? The ruff hair is not that much longer and it is white throughout. It is not just that there is “more white” – it is all white. Therefore it has changed color as well as being longer it seems to me.

      • Sarah Hartwell says:

        Certain – the grey undercoat hair grows particularly thick and long for the winter so there is much more pale grey to balck in the colour ratio. It’s a reaction to day length and temperature (growing the undercoat).

        (Minns took the big sleep at 1.20 this afternoon. He was ready to go and it was quick and peaceful.)

  7. Dee (Florida) says:

    Your “theory” makes sense.
    Stunning cats!

    • Michael Broad says:

      Thanks Dee. I am never quite sure because there in nothing to check against! I just have to try and figure it out and make sense of it. I am pleased you agree.

  8. Ruth aka Kattaddorra says:

    How strange! But what a beautiful cat.

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