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Fever Coats in Cats: What Is It? Is It Bad? What You Need To Know!

kitten with fever coat

Kittens are amazing and, at times, downright magical to behold. They can make you laugh when you’re feeling down, leap tall objects in a single bound, and sometimes even change colors! Wait, what? How could a kitten change colors?

It may seem like a nonsensical idea, but it’s true! Kittens who have fever coat can and do change colors. What exactly is fever coat? The name has negative connotations, but in reality, it’s a harmless (and impermanent) thing.

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What Is Fever Coat?

Fever coat, or stress coat, is a phenomenon that doesn’t occur very often. It results when a pregnant cat is subjected to a high fever, overwhelming stress, or certain medications. When these things happen when mama cat is pregnant, the coats of her babies are affected and do not develop as they should.

Why would that happen? Since the pigmentation in a feline’s coat is sensitive to temperature, a higher temperature while kittens are in the womb means the pigments in their coats don’t get deposited as they normally would. The result is kittens born one color who gradually change into another!

Kittens born with fever coats tend to have coats that are silver, red/brown, or cream in color. Often the roots of their fur will be darker and lighten as it goes out from the body. Fever coat can happen in any type of cat — patterned or solid — and doesn’t last for very long. It only takes a few months to a year for a kitten’s coat to change to the color it should be.

rear of kitten with fever coat
Image Credit: Tongik, Shutterstock

Does Fever Coat Have Any Negative Effects?

Nope, not at all! Fever coat in cats is purely a pigmentation issue, so there will be no lingering problems after their coats change colors. Despite the “fever” in the name indicating possible harmful effects, there won’t be any health issues or genetic abnormalities or anything else of the kind. Really, the only potential negative is if you prefer the kitten’s original coat more than the one to which it changed.


Fever Coat Types

There are a few different types of fever coat a cat can have.

1. Color Patches

Some kittens will develop color patches, which means some of their coat is the correct color, while other parts are the fever coat color. A good example of this would be a brown tabby who has the correct coloring on their head and tail but has fever coat coloring on their stomach. Another example would be a kitten whose coat is lighter at the roots but has its typical coloring on the tips of its fur.

2. Dorsal Stripes

Dorsal stripes are a rarer type of fever coat. Think about the stripes on a tabby cat, but imagine them in red, grey, or white. It’s pretty adorable (black kitties with white stripes look like little skunks!). Like the other types of fever coat, this too will eventually fade away into the correct color.

3. Color All-Over

Color all-over is probably the most common type of fever coat. This fever coat occurs when a kitten is born completely silver, red, or white, but look closely, and you will see a hint of what its real coat will look like underneath that. A great example of this is Bruce, the cat — you can watch his complete change in this video!

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Conclusion

While the name may sound a little frightening, fever coat is nothing to be concerned over. It’s just a matter of the pigmentation being off in a kitten’s coat due to mama cat having a high fever, stress, or certain medications while pregnant. So, if your cat has a type of fever coat — whether it be their entire coat, stripes, or patches — just sit back and enjoy having a neat story to tell your friends about your magical pet!


Featured Image Credit: Tongik, Shutterstock

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