If you have an orange or “ginger” cat that has developed dark spots or freckles on his nose, lips, eyelids, and paw pads, you may be worried that something is wrong with his skin.
Does he have a skin disease? It looks like melanoma! Is it cancerous?
Don’t worry. Everything is probably fine.
Most likely, these hyperpigmented areas that develop on the sparsely haired areas of a orange or “tabby” as well as calico cats are called lentigo or lentigo simplex.
The spots can also appear on the gums and the insides of the lips.
They can start to develop at one year of age and are asymptomatic. They may develop later.
The lentigines are flat and black, although they can sometimes be slightly raised, but otherwise the tissue will look normal.
They will increase in size and color for a while, then stabilize. The spots are 1 mm to 9 mm in diameter. Sometimes different spot will coalesce to form one larger spot. These black spots are not cancerous and do not become cancerous. They are no more dangerous to your cat than your own freckles and are strictly a cosmetic defect.
What Are These Spots?
It is not precisely known what causes lentigo, but the spots are them but they are areas of hypermelanosis, meaning that they are areas large amounts of melanin, the dark pigment in the skin that causes us to have freckles or to tan. They are caused by increased numbers of melanocytes and by hypermelanosis of the the ajoining basal keratinocytes. The areas are found mostly in the basal cell layer of the epithelium. If you don’t know what any of this means, don’t worry. Just think of them as freckles.
What to Do If Your Cat Develops Spots
If the spots are raised, appear to be inflamed, or undergo other changes, then it may not be lentigo, and could be some other dangerous skin condition. Regardless, if you see any changes in your cats skin you should visit your veterinarian to be sure.
Although those little black spots are likely nothing to worry about, you should always check with your veterinarian if you notice any skin changes in your cat. You do not want to take any chances with your cat buddy!