Cat freckles are brown or black spots and markings that will appear on your cat’s nose, lips, gums, eyelids, and footpads.
It is most often seen on orange cats. But it is also common on other cats with pale fur.
This condition is called lentigo simplex, but it has no bad health implications for your cat.
Let’s take a closer look at cat freckles, and when to be concerned about black spots on cats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions about cat freckles.
- What are cat freckles?
- Do all cats develop freckles?
- What age do cats get freckles?
- Where can cats get freckles?
- Does the sun affect cat freckles?
- Do cat freckles hurt?
- Are black spots on cats dangerous?
What are Cat Freckles?
Cat freckles are actually caused by a condition called lentigo simplex. This isn’t harmful to your cat at all.
It is simply the appearance of flat marks on your cat’s skin, caused by an excessive production of melanin. These marks are often either black or brown in color, but have a clearly defined edge.
Your cat may start with just one or two marks at first. Such as black marks on cats’ lips or black marks on cats’ noses.
But, as your cat grows and ages, more lentigines can appear on your cat’s skin. Each individual mark can grow to be between 1mm and 1cm wide.
Is Lentigo Simplex Dangerous?
If your cat has started to show these markings, you don’t need to worry. They aren’t dangerous, and they aren’t a sign of cancer in your cat.
However, there are other times when black marks on your cat can be dangerous.
If you notice a change in pigmentation in your cat’s eye (iris), for example, this can be a sign of something more serious.
Do All Cats Get Freckles?
Now that we know cat freckles aren’t dangerous, they are actually quite cute! But, not every cat will develop lentigo simplex.
In fact, it is quite a rare condition in cats. It is most commonly affected in cats with certain colored fur. Cat colors that have been associated with lentigo simplex are:
What Age do Cats Develop Freckles?
If you have a kitten that is one of the colors mentioned above, you might be waiting to see if they develop any of these cute little markings!
Cat freckles will usually show up in cats before they are a year old.
But, they may only have one or two markings at this point, and it could be somewhere that is hard to see, such as their gums or inside their lips.
Cats with lentigo simplex usually develop more markings as they grow, generally until they are middle aged.
So, if your cat has this condition, you should see the markings develop throughout the first half of his life.
But, you don’t need to worry if your cat doesn’t develop lentigines! It doesn’t present any additional health benefits, and it’s perfectly normal for a ginger, or light colored, cat not to have these markings.
Where Can Cats Get Freckles?
There are lots of places that you might notice these markings on your cat’s body. Lentigo simplex can commonly be seen in the following places on your cat:
Black spots on your cat’s fur aren’t lentigo simplex. And, black marks on your cat’s iris are also not this condition.
Do Cat Freckles Grow in the Sun?
Unlike human freckles, cat freckles aren’t actually influenced by the sun. Lentigo simplex is not linked to sun exposure.
And, cats will commonly start to develop lentigines in areas that the sun can’t even access! Such as the inside of their mouths.
It can be hard to see if your cat has these markings inside their mouth, as most cats don’t like you taking a look!
Do Cat Freckles Hurt?
So, does it hurt cats to develop black spots on their nose or mouths?
Luckily, cat nose freckles, and lentigines anywhere else don’t hurt your cat. They are safe, flat markings that shouldn’t itch or irritate your cat.
If your cat has raised markings, or spots develop that seem to be causing your cat pain or irritation, this isn’t lentigo simplex.
When Can Black Spots be Dangerous?
Although lentigo simplex isn’t a dangerous condition for your cat to have, there are times when black marks on cats can be dangerous.
Lentigines are flat dark markings that will only appear on your cat’s skin.
If you have found markings that are raised and appear to be causing your cat irritation, you should contact your vet to determine the cause.
Let’s take a look at some conditions that could get mistaken for cat freckles.
Allergies and Dermatitis
Cats who have allergies to something can develop markings on their skin. However, these are often accompanied with irritation.
Lentigo simplex should not irritate or hurt your cat. So, markings that do can be a sign of something else, such as skin problems or allergies.
Some symptoms of these include:
- flaky skin
- and redness.
If you notice your cat displaying any of these symptoms, you should go to the vet for a check up.
Another, potentially quite dangerous, problem that can be mistaken for cat freckles is melanoma. Melanoma is a type of tumor that involves pigmented skin cells.
Melanoma can be benign or malignant, and this can depend on where the tumor is based.
Melanomas are more threatening when found in the mouth, lips, eyes, and feet of cats.
Compared to harmless cat freckles, dangerous melanomas tend to be larger, less uniform in color, and have a blurry outline.
Never be embarrassed to ask you vet for a second opinion if you’re uncertain about any of your cat’s freckles.
Melanomas can also present in the eye, and 60 – 70% melanomas in feline eyes are malignant and have the potential to spread. So, we will concentrate on this type in a little more detail.
Melanoma in your cat’s eye can start to appear as a flat marking on the iris, very similar to lentigo simplex on the skin. But, lentigines will never appear on your cat’s actual eye.
These flat melanomas can develop into raised tumors.
If you notice markings on your cat’s eye, you should take them to the doctor straight away. In extreme cases, your cat’s eye may need to be removed.
Iris melanosis is slightly different, and less of a concern. This is a benign condition, where your cat will develop flat dark spots on its iris.
This is more common in older cats.
But, it is very difficult to distinguish between iris melanosis and malignant melanomas in their early stages.
So, if you notice any dark marks developing on your cat’s eye, take them to the vet straight away.
Cat Freckles Summary
So, if your cat has flat markings on its nose or lips, you don’t need to worry! Lentigo simplex is harmless, and can develop in cats less than one year old.
You should take your cat to the vet if any markings appear irritated or painful. Or if they appear on your cat’s eye.
Does your cat have freckles on its nose or mouth? We would love to hear about your experience with freckles on your kittens!
More Cat Info
If you love reading about new, fun cat facts, we have plenty of other guides that you will enjoy. Take a look at a few below:
References and Resources
- Friberg, C. ‘Feline Facial Dermatoses’, Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice (2006)
- Scott, D. W. ‘Lentigo Simplex in Orange Cats’, Companion Animal Practice (1987)
- Guaguere (et al), ‘Feline Pododermatoses’, Veterinary Dermatology (1992)
- Campbell, J. ‘Clinical Atlas of Canine and Feline Dermatology’ (2019)
- Gent, G. ‘Feline Diffuse Iris Melanoma’, Companion Animal (2013)
- Campbell, K. ‘Small Animal Dermatology Secrets’ (2004)
- Sabattini, S. (et al), ‘Evaluation of Ki-67 Expression in Feline Non-Ocular Melanocytic Tumors’, BMC Veterinary Research (2018)
- Bajwa, J. ‘Atopic Dermatitis in Cats’, Canadian Veterinary Journal (2018)
- Favrot, C. (et al), ‘Clinical Symptoms, Diagnoses, and Therapy of Feline Allergic Dermatitis’ (2014)
- Rest, J. ‘Eye Tumors – Melanoma in Cats’, VCA (2009)
- Brooks, W. ‘Malignant Melanoma in Dogs and Cats’, Veterinary Partner (2009)
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