cats fur yellowing
Cat Health and Wellness

Why Is My Cat’s Fur Turning Yellow?

A cat’s health is often reflected in its fur. A healthy cat will have a soft, clean, and shiny coat. But sometimes, cats get their coats dirtied. This is especially true in cats with lighter coat colors, like white cats. But more often than not, yellowed fur is nothing to worry about.

The most common reason for yellow cat fur is an accumulation of dirt. This will often go away when the cat grooms itself. However, there are some cases where owners should take action. This is so when the cause of yellowing is toxic to cats, or when yellowed fur is a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

In certain cases, it may be necessary to bathe your cat yourself. Cleaning cats can be a difficult experience for the pet and its owners. However, when done right, it can help to keep your cat healthy.

Yellowing Cat Fur Reasons

More often than not, a cat’s white fur turning yellow is nothing to worry about.  Yellowed fur is often caused by dirt and grime.

In these cases, cats can easily clean the spot themselves. In the case of tougher stains, a quick bath can easily remove dirt and grime. Here are some of the common reasons why a cat’s fur is turning yellow.

Food Coloring

Cat food is often made of coloring, both natural and artificial. When eating, this coloring may rub off of your cat’s fur, resulting in discoloration.

Note that this does not only happen in cat food that looks yellow. Even food that looks orange or red can rub off of fur as yellow. However, this is often more common in dry cat food.

Cat Litter

Much like cat food, the coloring in your cat’s litter may be the reason for the stain on your cat’s fur. Litter with corn in its ingredients may have natural yellow coloring. The yellow present in corn can rub off of your cat’s fur.


Medication may have yellow coloring added in its ingredients. The most common source is flea medications, which are applied to the fur.

Oral medications can also get onto the fur. This happens as a cat grooms itself with saliva. Much like litter and food coloring, stains from medication are often groomed by a cat and are nothing to worry about.


Dirt and skin oils can easily stain a white fur coat yellow. This happens more often in outdoor cats, or cats who are allowed outdoor play. These should be easily cleaned up by your cat.


Pollen will also turn a cat coat yellow. Cats can easily clean pollen off all on their own. However, some pollen can be toxic to cats. These include lily pollen, which can harm a cat’s liver, according to Topics in Companion Animal Medicine.

Urine Stains

Urine stains are often caused by two things. Being unable to use a litter box, and medical conditions. If you notice your cat regularly stained with urine, make sure to check for any other symptoms of poor health. Otherwise, check to see if your cat has trouble using its litter box.

Inability To Clean

Cats will want to groom themselves, but sometimes they are unable to reach some parts of their body. This can be because their tag is hiding dirty fur, or if they have a limb amputated or congenitally deformed. In this case, you will need to take care of your cat’s grooming duty.

Some cats may also have a medical disorder that stops them from cleaning some parts of their fur. If this seems to be the case, talk to your vet.


All cats will undergo depigmentation when they grow older. In white cats, this often appears as yellowed fur. Old age, in itself, will not harm your cat. However, old age often comes with a host of medical conditions. In this case, keep a close eye out to determine if your cat has other symptoms.

cats white fur looks yellow

How to Clean a Cat’s Yellow Fur

There are times when you should take over your cat’s grooming. But how exactly do you do that? Here are the steps on how to bathe a cat:

  1. Prepare your bath: Place a non-stick mat or bath towel at the bottom of your sink or tub. Fill the container with about three inches of warm—not hot—water.
  2. Place your cat in water: Hold your cat with one hand under its belly. With your other hand, hold your cat’s front paws. Lower your cat gently into the water.
  3. Wet your cat’s fur: Use a hand-held spray or plastic pitcher to rinse out your cat’s fur. Make sure not to get water in the eyes, ears, and nose.
  4. Shampoo: Use one part cat shampoo and gently rub it into your cat’s fur. Make sure to spread the shampoo evenly.
  5. Rinse: Rinse out the shampoo. If your cat’s water becomes murky, replace it with the same amount of warm water.
  6. Drain: Remove the water from your cat’s fur using a stroking motion. Try to remove as much water as possible.
  7. Dry: Pat dry your cat with a towel. Then, once most of the water has been absorbed, blow dry your cat. Make sure your dryer is on the lowest setting, with a cool temperature.

How To Remove Yellow Stains from Cat Fur

White fur stains more easily than other fur colors. Stains that have set in cat fur cannot be removed by bathing alone. If stains remain after bathing a cat, do the following:

  1. Make a paste: Mix cornstarch and 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.
  2. Add paste to the coat: Using an old toothbrush, add it to the coat in a circular motion. Make sure to cover all parts of the stain.
  3. Let sit: Leave the paste on the coat for 15 minutes. Make sure to watch your cat so that it does not ingest the paste. If necessary, cover it with a cloth to remove it from your cat’s reach.
  4. Brush: Using a slicker brush, remove as much of the paste as you can.
  5. Rinse: Rinse the rest of the paste with warm water. Make sure to remove all of the mixture.

When Is Yellow Cat Fur a Problem?

While this is normal, there are some instances wherein you need expert assistance. These instances include the following:

Regularly Unable To Groom

You may notice your cat losing the ability to groom itself, without an obvious cause. This regularly happens due to old age, likely as a result of stiff back legs due to arthritis.

Diarrhea (Runny Stools)

Diarrhea can cause your cat’s coat to be soiled with fecal matter. Severe diarrhea could also leave your cat too weak to groom itself.

Diarrhea is a symptom in cats for many medical conditions. These include poisoning and parasitic infections.

Heavily Matted Fur

Dirty fur is often accompanied by matts. Hard-to-remove matts in fur should be removed by snipping off the fur.

However, in the case of matts that are flush against the skin, this could be a dangerous and even ineffective procedure.

In the case of large matts in the fur, a vet visit can be helpful. A vet can sedate your cat while removing the matts.

Jaundice And Liver Disease

More often than not, yellowed fur is caused by dirt and grime. However, yellowed fur can also be a sign of jaundice.

Jaundice is one of the most prominent symptoms of liver disease. Technically speaking, jaundice only affects the skin. It makes the skin yellow, a condition also known as icterus.

However, some vets also consider yellowed fur a symptom of jaundice. If the fur does not return to its natural color, yellowed fur may be a sign of jaundice, and by extension, liver disease.

Liver disease is a serious medical condition. Jaundice can happen to any cat, no matter the breed, age, or whether they are an outdoor cat or not.

Jaundice is a symptom of liver issues. Without treatment, this can lead to more serious symptoms, and even death.


  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive urination
  • Orange Urine
  • Weight loss


Liver diseases can be caused by the following:

  • Fatty liver
  • Cirrhosis
  • Inflammation of the bowels and liver
  • Toxins, like drugs and heavy metals
  • Cancer


Your vet may prescribe a blood test. This is to determine the bilirubin count in your cat’s blood. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance found in the blood.

It is formed after red blood cells are broken down and are then excreted. High levels of bilirubin cause a yellow tinge of the skin.

Your vet will also take note of other symptoms to plan for the best course of treatment. This includes changes in urination, bowel movements, and diet.


There are many reasons why cats develop liver disease, including cancer and diabetes. The main treatment for liver disease is promoting a diet that gives cats a healthy liver. In cats with severe liver diseases, a feeding tube may be necessary.

In cases of liver cancer, there is still a high chance of recovery. Up to 75% of a cat’s liver can be removed without decreasing its function.

In most cases, liver cancer can be treated with chemotherapy. This can be done on an outpatient basis without the need or surgery.

yellow spots on cats fur

Cat Fur Turning Orange

A white can easily have their fur yellowed. This yellowing can be due to many reasons. But what if you’re having problems with a black cat? A black cat can turn orange, or reddish. This condition is also referred to as ‘rusting.’

Why Cat Fur Rusts

A cat’s fur turning orange can be due to two main reasons:

Tyrosine Deficiency

A deficiency refers to the lack of tyrosine in a cat’s body. Tyrosine is a type of amino acid, which are the building blocks of protein.

In cats, there are 11 amino acids that cats need to have in their diet. These are called essential amino acids because cats cannot produce them in their own bodies. The only way for them to receive these amino acids is through the food they eat.

Tyrosine has many important roles. These include being a component of neurotransmitters and thyroid hormones. However, another role of tyrosine is the creation of melanin.

Melanin is the pigment that gives hair its color. With a lack of melanin, a cat may become depigmented, which means that a cat loses its color. In the case of black cats, this can lead to turning cat fur into a reddish-brown color.


There are two main symptoms of tyrosine deficiency. They are the following.

  • Rusting or reddish coat: For black cats, this is the main symptom for tyrosine deficiency
  • Weight loss: Weight loss is a side effect of a lack of phenylalanine. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that cats can use to create tyrosine.

When tyrosine is deficient for more than six months, other symptoms may occur. This includes the following.

  • Increased vocalization (meows, growls, and purrs)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Abnormal posture (tail held forward)
  • Drooling
  • Loss of balance
  • Lack of coordination


Being an essential acid, tyrosine deficiency is often caused by an unbalanced diet. Cats should be fed meat and fish in order to gain enough levels of tyrosine in the body.


To determine whether or not your cat has a tyrosine deficiency, your vet may ask for an amino acids plasma test. This test is done to determine the amount of amino acid in the blood.

On the other hand, the reddening of a cat’s black coat is a fairly uncommon symptom. More often than not, the presence of this condition is already enough to provide a diagnosis.


The treatment for cats with tyrosine deficiency is giving them a better, balanced diet. This diet should be adequate amounts of tyrosine and phenylalanine, as observed in the Journal of Small Animal Practice. Phenylalanine is an amino acid that cats can use to create tyrosine.

This diet should be made up of meat and fish. Notably, rice also contains a significant amount of tyrosine. However, as cats are carnivores, they will be able to absorb the tyrosine in meat better than rice.

Copper Deficiency

Copper is also a cause for turning black cat fur to a rusty brown. This is a less common condition than tyrosine deficiency. It is often the last condition considered after all causes have been ruled out.


  • Decreased weight gain: A study in the Journal of Nutrition observed that copper stunts weight gain and growth. 
  • Less ability to conceive: According to the Journal of Nutrition, cats with copper deficiency took more time to conceive.
  • Anemia: Anemia can be caused by nutritional deficiencies. Copper is one of the nutrients that are likely to cause anemia.


Tyrosine is needed to create melanin, the pigment that gives a cat’s skin and fur its color. However, copper is also necessary in this process.

Without copper, tyrosine cannot be turned into melanin. This eventually can lead to black fur turning into a copper color.


To diagnose copper deficiency, blood tests may be done to determine copper levels. Other than blood tests, copper deficiency is often determined when other causes have been ruled out.

Copper deficiency is an uncommon disease. It is often considered last when diagnosing a discoloration in cat fur.


Similar to tyrosine deficiency, the treatment for copper deficiency lies in giving your cat a balanced diet. Copper is present in foods like liver, fish, whole grains, and legumes. However, quality cat food will include copper supplement to ensure your cat has enough copper in its diet.

A healthy coat is a big part of a cat’s health, but yellow fur in cats isn’t always a sign of an underlying health problem. With the right knowledge and veterinary support, it’s easy to keep your cat’s fur clean and healthy.