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Some mammals can have a black, pink or spotted skin, depending on race - see for example humans or pigs. But I recently learned that this is not the case with mice. Even black furred mice have pink skin, and there is a rare mutation which produces black skinned mice.

I was talking with a friend about cats and we got to wonder if (domestic) cats are the type of animal which can have dark skin, like pigs, or the type which doesn't, like mice. The tons of cat related sites on the Internet seem to all talk about black furred cats only, or about diseases presenting with skin discoloration, but they don't mention the skin color. So, which type of animal are cats?

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    $\begingroup$ A minor data point for you: look at the skin on the pads of the paws - our black and white cat has some black pads and some pink. You might also look for pictures of cats that have been shaved for operations (e.g. spaying). $\endgroup$ – Chris H Feb 28 '15 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Just for humour: Any topic on cats is likely to attract huge human attention- Oatmeal effect I guess. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Feb 28 '15 at 21:09
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Easy: look at images of hairless cats. You will see they can be not only all black, but also grey, spotted, pink, and a few other rarer colors.

enter image description here

Also, take an average cat - and shave for surgery:

enter image description here

Note pigmented skin matching dark stripes.

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This source seems to suggest that cats' skin colour is determined by their fur colour, as the same genes expressed in the fur which produce the colours (melanins) are also expressed in the skin.

The density of melanin can vary from one part of the body to another, down to patterns within individual hairs or gradients across skin, thus accounting for a wide variety of cat colors. Cats' skin appears strongly tied to fur pigmentation.

A cat who has darker fur probably has darker skin and vice versa on account of the melanin content of his skin and fur. Tortoiseshell cats and their white-stricken siblings, calico cats, have patches of both dark and light skin.

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The color of mammals is determined by the pigment melanin. More specifically it is the mixture of the dark brown to black Eumelanin and the red to yellow Pheomelanin. These pigments are made a specialized cell type called melanocytes, which are located in the hair follicles (when they pigment the hairs) and in the skin.

Some animals (like mice) almost completely lack melanocytes in their skin (except for their ears, nose, parts of their feet and sometimes the tip of the tail), so they can only be pigmented when their fur is pigmented. For cats there is only very little data available and more, I haven't really found a good scientific article yet. From the descriptions (like here) I would say that the skin of cats is pigmented. Additionally they can get cutaneous melanoma which have their origin in skin melanocytes which would be possible if they weren't be there (this is the reason why mice cannot get cutaneous melanoma if they are not engineered).

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