Fever Coat Cat: Should I Be Worried

icon July 10, 2023

Kittens are amazing and come in a variety of coat colors and patterns. One, in particular, is called fever coat, a rare phenomenon in which fever coat kittens can and do change color. Fever fur is also known as stress fur, and one or more kittens are born with a smoky gray coat. Fever fur occurs when the mother develops a fever during pregnancy and the unborn kittens are exposed to elevated body temperatures in the womb. Stress and certain medications are also thought to be a cause. However, sometimes a cat will exhibit unusual fur changes that may cause concern to the owner. It is natural to wonder if you should be concerned. In this article, we'll explore what fever coat is, what causes it, and whether it's a cause for concern.

Related: Why Has My Cats Fur Gone Lumpy?

What is A Fever Coat in Cats?

Fever coat, also known as "ghost coat" or "shadow coat", is a temporary change in the color and pattern of a cat's fur. This condition is most common in kittens, but may also occur in adult cats. The coat appears lighter, faded or discolored compared to the typical color of the breed or individual cat. Although fever coat can result in some gorgeous and striking color patterns, it is not a permanent condition. It tends to last four to eight months, gradually fading to the cat's true color over time.

What Causes Fever Coat in Kittens?

Since pigmentation in feline fur is temperature sensitive, the higher temperatures while kittens are in the womb mean that the pigment in their fur is not deposited as it normally would be. The result is that kittens are born one color and then gradually turn to another!

What Do They Look Like?

The appearance of fever coat can vary, but it often manifests as a lightening or dilution of the cat's normal coat color. The affected areas may appear pale, grayish, or frosted compared to the rest of the coat. The degree of color dilution can range from subtle to more pronounced, depending on the severity and duration of the fever or illness.

There are three main types of fever coats:

Patchy Coat

This type of fever coat results in irregular patches of lighter or darker fur appearing on the kitten's coat. These patches can vary in size and can be randomly distributed across the body. For example, a kitten with a predominantly black coat may have patches of gray or lighter-colored fur.

Smoky Coat

Smoky fever coat gives the fur a hazy or smoky appearance. The coat may appear dull and lack the usual vibrant coloration. The smoky effect can affect the entire coat or be more prominent in certain areas.

Marbled Coat

Marbled fever coat creates a marbled or mottled effect on the fur. The coat may have swirls or blotches of lighter and darker colors, giving it a unique and distinctive appearance.

Fever coat tends to be most noticeable in areas that would typically have a darker pigmentation, such as tabby stripes or points (ears, tail, and paws) in breeds like Siamese or Birman. The dilution of the original color can give the affected areas a faint, washed-out appearance. As the kitten grows and sheds its kitten fur, the fever coat usually fades away and is replaced by the cat's genetically determined coat color.

How to Tell If Kitten Has Fever Coat?

Identifying a fever coat in a kitten can be challenging, especially since it is a temporary condition that typically affects the fur during early development. 

If you notice patches, smoky areas or marbled patterns on the kitten's fur, or if the fur is rough, brittle and the kitten's coat appears dull or lacks the usual luster and vibrancy associated with its breed or coat color, this may be a sign of a fever coat.

Before and After Fever Coat Cat

Little Bain was born with the lightest of coats, but this adorable kitten turned out to be a tiger-spotted cat.

As he grew up, his stripes began to show.

Does Fever Coat Have Any Negative Effects? Should I be Worried?

The fever coat itself does not have any negative impact on the health or well-being of the cat. It is primarily a grooming condition that affects the color and texture of the coat. Changes in the coat caused by the fever coat are temporary and usually do not cause any harm to the cat. You do not need to worry about it either. However, learn to recognize other causes of discoloration in your kitten's coat.

Other Causes of Coat Color Changes

While fever fur is one of the causes of kitten fur discolouration, there are other possible causes that are worth noting:


Vitiligo is a skin condition that can affect cats, just like it does in humans. It occurs when the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, fur, and eyes, are destroyed. As a result, patches of white or lighter-colored fur may appear on the cat's coat. The extent and distribution of these white patches can vary and can develop at any age.

Nutritional deficiencies

Inadequate nutrition or deficiencies in certain nutrients can affect the coat color and quality. For example, a lack of essential fatty acids may lead to a dull or dry coat.

Health conditions

Certain health issues can cause coat color changes in cats. For instance, hormonal imbalances, such as hyperthyroidism or Cushing's disease, can alter the pigmentation of the fur. Additionally, some skin conditions or allergies may affect the coat's appearance.


Certain cat breeds have coat color patterns that change as they age. For example, some Siamese cats are born with lighter coats and develop darker points as they mature. This is known as "pointed" or "colorpoint" pattern.

Sunlight and UV exposure

Sunlight and UV rays can cause the fur to lighten or darken. This is often seen in cats with lighter coats, as they may develop a "sun-bleached" appearance when exposed to prolonged sunlight.

How Long Does Fever Coat Last?

Fever Coat tends to last four to eight months, gradually fading to the cat's true color over time.

When Does Kitten Fur Change?

Around 3 to 4 weeks of age, the kitten's fur begins to change. The neonatal coat starts to be replaced by a denser and slightly coarser coat, known as the "juvenile coat." The color and pattern of the juvenile coat may be different from the adult coat.

As the kitten continues to grow, it will go through several stages of shedding. This shedding process helps remove the old fur and make way for the development of the adult coat. Shedding can occur at different times and rates, but it commonly starts between 3 to 6 months of age.

By the time the kitten reaches around 6 to 12 months of age, the juvenile coat is mostly replaced by the adult coat. The adult coat is typically thicker, longer, and displays the true colors and patterns of the cat's breed.

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