Skip to main content
Striped cat showing belly

Determining cat’s belly color

Q: Why do some cats have white bellies and/or feet, while others have the same solid color or striped pattern across their entire bodies?

A: It all starts with melanocytes, cells that contain a pigment called melanin, found in the kitten embryo when it’s just a tiny sphere.

The melanocytes congregate on the outer surface of the embryo, where the skin and fur will form, along what will become the kitten’s back. As the embryo develops, the melanocytes migrate along the surface toward what will become the kitten’s belly and feet.

If many melanocytes divide quickly, enough of them reach the kitten’s underside to produce color everywhere. But if they divide slowly, there aren’t enough melanocytes to reach the underside of the embryo, and the fur on the tummy and/or paws will remain white, devoid of pigment.

I have a handsome tuxedo cat, which means he is black with white fur on his chin, chest, belly and paws. It looks like he’s wearing a black tuxedo with a white shirt—and white socks, surely a fashion “faux paw.” Now you know how his tuxedo color pattern came to be.

Look closely at dogs and many other species, and you’ll see similar color patterns.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com.

Protect your pet from the unexpected with Figo Pet Insurance, rated “Best Pet Insurance” by Reviews.com since 2017.

samoyed dog standing in the snow

Do you live in an area where you're...

Child and dog sitting on stairs dressed in costumes

Halloween is a time for ghoulish family...

depressed pug with head on pillow

Can dogs suffer from depression? Could...

Small dog chewing on a red toy bone in front of Christmas tree

Recreating the perfect Christmas scene...

Advertisement for pet insurance.

More From Figo Blog
Labrador Retriever retrieving a blue frisbee from the yard

One of the best things about owning a dog is...

man working on laptop in coffee shop with a dog in his lap

September 29th is #NationalCoffeeDay, and we...

Cat scratching on a cat post

You may have heard the phrase, “Cats can’t...

Puppy crate training in progress

There are many tools I utilize when training...

Dog and pet parent listening to music in front of speaker

Whether you’re rocking out to your favorite...

Woman drinking coffee and holding small cat near

On any given day, between 50 and 70 million...