This is a Phantom of the Opera cat. His name is, appropriately, ‘Ashfur’. This is a name from the Warrior Cats series. In the series Ashfur is a muscular pale, grey, tomcat with darker flecks and dark blue eyes. You can see where he got his name from. His owner is Erin in California. Erin Hunter is the name of the four authors who wrote the Warrior Cat series. So, this interesting looking cat has a connection with the Warrior Cats series because his owner must like the books.
The Phantom of the Opera face comes from a cosmetic condition that affects cat rarely, namely leukoderma or vitiligo. When it is “universal vitiligo” it produces a cobweb or snowflake effect across the body and is often seen in black cats. White spots appear on the coat and they become more extensive over time. You normally see a lace-like pattern but in this instance, it has affected one side of Ashfur’s face. That’s just by chance and it has given his face this split appearance reminiscent of the well-known Phantom of the Opera face.
As a black kitten his coat was normal; no sign of loss of pigmentation. It developed over time.
Vitiligo usually causes loss of pigmentation on the face and feet. In what must be a disruption to the normal metabolism of a domestic cat, antibodies are formed against the melanocytes in the cat’s skin. These produced pigment granules, namely melanin. The melanocytes are destroyed causing white areas of fur because there’s no pigment granules within the hair strands in that area. Ashfur may be affected by ‘acrofacial vitiligo’, which affects the mouth and nose and the paw pads.
An alternative explanation, it seems to me, is that the condition has been caused by the karpati mutation (a dominant gene). It is more pronounced in black cats which inherit the gene. This mutation first occurred it seems in the Carpathian region of Europe: Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Slovakia and Romania. However, what we see with Ashfur is almost certainly a case of leukoderma.
Erin, in an interview with Newsweek, said: “He looked completely different when we got him. He had a fever coat and then developed vitiligo”. I don’t know what she means by “fever coat”.
As mentioned, vitiligo does not cause discomfort as it is a cosmetic condition. The cat will live completely normally and feel completely normal.
Below is another example of vitiligo.
RELATED: Cat With Vitiligo
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