What is Vitiligo in Cats?
Why is it that doctors, pharmacists, and scientists seem to have a name for everything? It may be necessary but some of those names sound worse than the disease or condition actually is. Vitiligo in cats just happens to fall into this category. Actually, vitiligo can occur in cats, dogs, and even people. It’s not contagious but it can be caused by a number of things, as we will find out by reading this article. What’s more, the condition is really very harmless unless looks are very important to you. Now this is not to say that there is no underlying medical condition that causes vitiligo in cats. Only a qualified veterinarian can determine this. The condition will be noticed by patches or areas of your cat’s fur losing their color, a process known as depigmentation. Normally you will see white or pinkish fur coloring where there used to be black, grey, brown, etc. This depigmentation will also be seen on their skin, but again, there is no call for alarm as long as you stop in to the vet and have your cat examined.
There are two types of vitiligo – focal and generalized. Vitiligo may only affect one specific part of the animal, and this is the focal type. If the fade to white occurs all over the body in random patches, then it is the generalized type] The majority of cases of vitiligo are genetic, meaning they may be passed on from one generation to the next. What causes vitiligo in a specific cat can be the result of any number of things. One cause is that the cat has an autoimmune disease that underlies the condition. It is also possible that the cat has a neurological disorder. If this is the case, treating the disease may possibly stop the vitiligo from progressing. However, there are environmental factors that also bring on the onset of the condition including: exposure to toxins and high levels of stress. The most important thing to remember is not to think that it is simply a discoloration of the fur. A visit to the vet is likely to determine the reason.
Now there is an easy way to know if your feline has acquired the condition. Look at their face, particularly the nose but also around the eyes. (One web site said to look at the cat’s lips, but that brought about a certain amount of skepticism. Additional research revealed that cats do indeed have lips.) What is good to know is that the condition is not a progressive, lifelong thing. All of the affected areas should appear no later than six months after the first occurrence. In many ways, vitiligo is a relatively simple condition that will not affect your cat’s health one whisker. It is one of those that may look bad and be a cause for concern, but that visit to the veterinarian will identify the cause of the problem and put your mind at ease. The fact is, many cat owners whose cats are affected by vitiligo actually find the depigmentation unique and interesting. Also, identifying the cat can be done without the use of a microchip since the discoloration will not occur in the exact same area on two different cats. All you have to ask is whether they know what vitiligo is. One picture is worth a thousand words. (But you nevertheless should get you cat microchipped.)
If the condition bothers you, there are a number of ways it can be dealt with or treated. Any medical condition can be diagnosed and the appropriate medication given. Apart from any underlying medical condition being the case, there are some veterinarians who recommend exposing your cat to more sunlight. This is thought to stimulate the production of the pigment and restore the fur to its normal color. If you are a health-conscious type of person you have heard of the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. Sharing your supply with your cat along with doses of vitamin C has been tried with some success. Finally, if you are inclined to try a different approach you can actually have the affected areas tattooed. No one will know you have a Tat Cat and life will continue as normal. But this is an actual solution to the problem, and will make cat owners very happy since the total area that needs to be treated will already be known. There is some question how this works on the facial and lip areas, so if you have a Tat Cat, share your thoughts in the comment section.
Except for something being physically wrong with your cat, having vitiligo is nothing that should cause a stir in the home. The cat is not likely to notice it, and even if it does will go on about its business meowing, purring, and ignoring you as usual. You might consider starting an Instagram or Pinterest page where you can show other cat owners your distinctive cat and maybe connect with other owners who have experience in dealing with the problem. Vitiligo is one of those genetic conditions or acquired problems that sounds worse than it really is. Once identified, the condition has a short term progression (6 months) and then you will know the whole story. Because it affects dogs and humans as well, it tends not to discriminate.
But from the available evidence it seems that stress is a major culprit when the condition is not genetic. Many pet owners are not able to identify when their animal is undergoing a period of high stress that can not only trigger vitiligo but other physical maladies that will create more problems down the road. Cat owners need to be able to identify what stresses their own cat out, because it can be different from one cat to another. A cat living mostly in isolation can end up being stressed just as much as one that is subject to constant noise and clamor.