How Do Siamese Get Their Color?
What is so special about a Siamese cat?
Admired for their unique appearance, the Siamese is one of the oldest and most recognized cat breeds. Originating in Thailand, their name was derived from the country’s former name, Siam.
The Siamese has two types – the “traditional” and “modern” variations. The traditional Siamese is usually slightly chubby in relation to the size of its head, which is almost apple-shaped. The modern Siamese is skinny compared to the traditional, and has a larger head.
Like many other breeds, Siamese are intelligent, affectionate, curious, loyal, very vocal, and highly trainable.
However, the Siamese have a unique color pattern that sets them apart from all other cats. There is a sharp contrast between the lighter color on their bodies and the darker color of their extremities. This sharp contrast is referred to as color restriction, or color pointing. Siamese’ faces have the same color pointing which also surrounds their eyes.
The Siamese’ coloring is due to genetics – the same reason that people have brown or black hair and green or blue eyes. The secret lies in the biochemical makeup of their skin. All Siamese cats have a gene that makes them partially albino.
A protein (or enzyme) called tyrosinase, is mainly responsible for production of melanin (the pigment that creates our skin and hair color). A research team from the University of California discovered that the tyrosinase in Siamese cats has mutated, which they have found is due to changes in the DNA helix. This mutated enzyme is sensitive to temperature. Increasing the temperature decreases tyrosinase activity. This explains how warm areas of the Siamese are coated with white or lighter colored hair that lacks melanin. So, in the cooler areas of their bodies, tyrosinase is very active and melanin is produced. The hair turns out darker in those areas. The lighter fur occurs on their main body, and darker fur around their extremities. This is the same reason Siamese have the “mask” appearance on their faces.
Scientists have further validated this explanation through observation of the fact that Siamese living in cooler environments have darker fur than those in warmer climates.
Siamese kittens are born white for the same reason. The kittens’ environment (their mother’s womb) is at a constant warm temperature. Because the environment is too warm for the tyrosinase to be active, the kittens stay white until at least a week after they are born.
Pretty neat, huh? So, the next time you are considering a new fur baby, consider the unique Siamese.
Guest Post by:
Jamie Wade is a freelance writer. She uses her knowledge, skills, and personal experience to help clients present their product or convey their message. When not working, you can find her with her teenage son and two beloved babies-adopted dogs, Tipsy and Buddy. She is also a writer for Pet Wellness Advisor.
Nothing more beautiful than Siamese. I love them all!