When Scrappy was born in 1997, he was your basic black cat. Through kittenhood and into adulthood, his coat was the same as you might see on any number of black felines. And then, when Scrappy turned 7 years old, something strange started to happen. That black furry coat began to turn white in patches, transforming him from a black cat to a cat speckled with splotches of white and black fur.
Those who have cats may know that sometimes a cat's coat can change with age. One of my girls was born with small patch of black fur on her head. Nine years later, that cap just consists of a few stray black strands. Other animals, as they age, turn white or grey the same way that human hair changes. Scrappy's situation is different. Based on the Facebook page for the beloved feline, his guardian believes the change in fur is caused by a rare condition called vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a disease that most noticeably affects the skin. On humans, patches of skin lose their color. The same can happen to hair, the inside of the mouth, and even the eyes. Interestingly, as Scrappy proves, people aren't the only species that can get vitiligo. And in addition to our feline friends, dogs and buffalo have also been documented with the disease.
Now, 10 years after Scrappy's coat first started to change, he is 17 years old — and getting a lot of attention online for his unique appearance. In fact, the change has made him a social media star. About 24,000 people follow him on Facebook and he maintains an Instagram presence too.
It seems to be all fun and games for Scrappy, but for humans with vitiligo, it can come with some unwanted side effects. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some complications humans with the disease can experience include psychological distress, sunburn, skin cancer, inflammation of the iris, hearing loss and dry or itchy skin.
Thankfully, according to Scrappy's guardian, his condition has not negatively impacted his well-being. He's your standard healthy older cat who just happens to have an ever-changing fur coat.
When it comes to humans, vitiligo is most noticeable on those with dark skin due to the contrast the light patches create. Scrappy's black coat and its transition to white make the affects of the vitiligo easy to spot. Had he been an all white cat, no one might ever have noticed. Interestingly, Scrappy's tail seems to largely have stayed black, unlike the rest of his body, which is heavily affected by the vitiligo.
His guardian — or we assume it's his guardian, since all of Scrappy's posts are written in first person — tells us that the feline enjoys napping on his back, bird-watching, looking out the window, playing and cleaning himself. As for personality, his human noted on Facebook, "Scrappy is a very affectionate cat but can have his grumpy days." (Don’t we all?)