Rare 'Galaxy Kitty' Has Condition Which Gives Him a Starry Coat

When a woman adopted a pair of homeless cats, she thought they were just your average mixed-breed domestic shorthairs. But when one of them developed a rare skin condition, she soon realized that she had in her household a feline that looked like it had stepped out of the pages of a fantasy novel—one with a beautiful coat that resembled a night sky full of stars.

When she adopted the kitties, a normal brown tabby and a black and white “tuxedo” cat, they looked like any one of a million other cats. She brought them home, where they soon became fast friend with her fancy pet rat. She named the bicolor cat Gatsby, but as he grew, his coat began to change, developing strange white speckles all over the black fur. Soon, she realized that Gatsby was a very special animal—a “galaxy cat."

Related: Rare Tri-Colored Siberian Cat Baffles Everyone with His Gorgeous Coat

Vitiligo in Cats

Gatsby the Galaxy cat has a condition that exists in many animals—and even humans—called vitiligo, which is when cells lose the ability to produce color. This lack of color shows up in spots or splotchy areas of the skin or hair of the animal. In Gatsby’s case, it shows up as tiny dashes of white sprinkled in among the black of his fur. The condition began appearing as Gatsby got older.

The vitiligo doesn’t hurt him, and is merely cosmetic. It is likely hat as he grows older, the spots may grow larger and larger, turning into entirely white patches on his fur. He may one day become all white. But no one knows how quickly or thoroughly the condition will spread. It’s different in every case.

For this reason, unlike with other cats who have genetic mutations that have been exploited to create fancy new breeds like the Lykoi or the Scottish Fold, there is no guarantee that if Gatsby were to have babies, they would have a coat like his. Not even Gatsby’s coat is a permanent condition.

How Cat Coat Color Works

Though cats come in a large variety of colors, it’s actually due to a complex array of genes working in tandem.

At their core, every cat is either black or orange, or a mixture of the two. On top of this base color is another set of genes that “filters” this base color, either “diluting” it or letting it be as dark as possible. This is how you get gray (sometimes called blue) cats, or creamy orange ones. Another gene determines whether or not a cat will have stripes (agouti) or be a solid color, and what those stripes will look like. Still another genre, known as the “masking” gene, will determine if those cats have white patches anywhere on their bodies, such as in Gatsby’s initial “tuxedo” coloring of black and white.

And we’re not done. Some all-white cats are that color due to the “masking” gene being expressed all over their body. Other cats are white due to being albinos. And a third type of white cat has a different kind of albinism, one that expresses itself according to body heat. Cats with a “point” pattern—like so-called Siamese cats— have a unique type of albinism that means their hair follicles only produce color away from their body heat. This means their color only appears at their extremities, such as the bottom of their legs, their faces, and the tips of their ears.

So while Gatsby’s galaxy coat seems like magic, it’s only part of the mysterious colors of a cat.

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