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One of the most fascinating things about tabby cats are their eyes. Just like their coats, their eyes can come in a variety of amazing colors. Not only does their eye color make them wonderful to look at, but it says a lot about the cat’s uniqueness.
So, what color are tabby cats’ eyes? The most common eye color in tabby cats is red, copper, orange, yellow, hazel, blue, and green. Vertical pupils are usually black. Eye color is determined by melanocytes in the iris and sometimes coat color. In rare cases, cats can have two different eye colors.
There is so much to figure out when it comes to understanding cat eye color and how different factors such as breed, melanin, and coat color play a part in it. In this article, we’ll share 15 fun facts about cat eye colors that every cat owner should know!
1. Melanin Determines Cat Eye Color
Did you know that melanin has a huge impact on a cat’s eye color? It’s not necessarily the melanin in the cat’s skin, but rather the melanin in the eyes. Depending on how much melanin the cat has in its eyes, the color and brightness of its eyes are determined.
Melanocytes are small cells that help produce melanin. Generally, the more melanin the cat has in its eyes, the darker it will be. Darker colors include hazelnut, orange and red. Copper is actually the darkest color you’ll find in a cat’s eyes. Cats do not generate enough melanin to produce black or brown eye colors. Cats with low amounts of melanin in their eyes will have lighter colors. Low to moderate amounts of melanin will produce green eyed cats.
Perhaps the most fascinating of all cat eye colors is blue. Cats that have a total absence of melanin in their eyes will usually have blue eyes, although there are some exceptions to this. Blue eyes mean the cat has no pigment in its irises. Light reflecting off the surface of the cat’s eye is what makes us see blue.
2. Cat eye color can change with age
From infancy to adulthood, cats may see a change in their eye color as they age. It’s not uncommon to see a yellow-eyed kitten grow into a happy yellow-eyed adult cat. The cause has to do with genetics and the melanocytes that develop as they grow. It can happen with any breed of cat and with any coat color.
This is usually something a cat owner can figure out early in a kitten’s life. Kittens are born mostly with blue eyes, then these colors will begin to change over time. Usually a month or two after a kitten begins to grow, you will notice changes in eye color. Sometimes it can take longer, but between 4 and 6 months later is when the true eye color is present.
3. Adult cats usually do not experience changes in eye color
Although eye color changes are fairly common in young cats, this is almost never the case in adult cats. An adult cat with changing eye color is usually a sign of a health problem. In most cases, this means the cat has an eye condition. Eye color changes are sometimes difficult to see, but are usually inflammatory in nature.
The eyes may appear more red or yellow than usual. If the eye color change is gradual over a period of months and years, then it’s just genetics and aging. However, when an adult cat experiences a sudden change in eye color, something is probably wrong.
4. Blue-eyed cats don’t have melanin in their irises.
Have you met a kitten or an adult cat with blue eyes? It turns out that this is not such a rare case. Blue-eyed cats simply have little to no melanin in their irises. With fewer cells available to produce these pigments, cats end up with blue eyes. The blue color we see in a cat’s eyes is due to lighting. Certain breeds are more likely to naturally produce blue eyes. Below is a list of purebred cats that may have blue eyes.
- rag doll
5. Fur color does not necessarily determine eye color
There is a misconception that the color of a cat’s coat will determine its eye color. This is not necessarily true. Fur color and eye color in cats are not entirely related. The main reason is that the genes that control the color of a cat’s fur have nothing to do with the genes that determine the color of a cat’s coat. This is why you can see that cats of the same coat color have totally different eye colors and intensities.
White cats, on the other hand, work a little differently. The overwhelming majority of them actually have blue eyes, and that’s partly because the white gene is dominant. This gene is dominant and has an effect on other genes. In this case yes, eye color is controlled by the epistatic gene in white cats.
6. Some cats have two eye colors.
Cats do not always have the same colors for both eyes. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find a cat with two different eye colors. This is caused by the melanin content inside each eye. If one eye is darker than the other, it means one eye has fewer melanocytes than the other.
What usually happens is a genetic mutation. Certain genes block the distribution of pigments between the eyes. This is usually an inherited trait, but can also come from other defects. The condition is actually called heterochromia, and it’s something humans can experience as well. What affects this is really how the melanin is distributed to the eyes.
Heterochromic cats are often called odd-eyed, and it’s really not uncommon for this to happen. Although heterochromia mainly occurs in white cats, it also affects other coat colors and patterns. not just tabby cats. The white spotting gene that causes it will always be present in them.
Depending on the breed of the tabby cat, some are more likely to have heterochromia than others. Below is a list of cats most likely to carry the disease.
- Japanese Bobtail
- Oriental Shorthair
- turkish van
Things don’t end there, however. Cats can actually have multicolored eyes. It is essentially a mixture of pigments which makes it difficult to discern exactly what color the cat’s eyes are. Cats with multicolored eyes are considered dichromatic. It’s actually a rare disease that gives the cat a colored ring just around the pupil.
7. Some Cat Breeds Have Unique Eye Colors
While all cats can have interesting eye colors, there are a few breeds that produce colors that are unique to them. It is not a single eye color, but sometimes a combination of several colors within the same eye.
For example, the Ojos Azule cat breed can have blue eyes even though their fur is not white. Some other unique colors involve the Chinchilla which can have turquoise eyes. Topaz can have blue eyes, multicolored eyes, or even dark green eyes that look almost entirely black.
Some other unique colors are specifically linked to Siamese, Tonkinese, and Burmese cats. Birmans, for example, can actually have golden eyes. The Tonkinese can sometimes have blue-green or aqua-colored eyes. The Siamese cat breed can have blue eyes. In general, purebred cats will have more intense eye colors. Cats that are randomly bred may exhibit the same colors, but not as vibrant. Colors may also have more blending than normal, which can make it difficult to choose a specific color for this cat.
8. Melanocyte activity controls the brightness of a cat’s eyes
The amount of melanocyte activity controls the brightness or intensity of a cat’s eyes. The more active these cells are, the more colors will appear, no matter how dark or light their eyes are. In general, purebred cats will have more intense eye colors than non-purebred ones. This is partly because purebred cats try to achieve specific parameters like size and coat color.
Eye color is also an area of interest. Think of two cats that have yellow eyes. The pale yellow-eyed cat probably has less melanocyte activity, which is why its eyes are a little dull. Compare that to a cat whose yellow eyes are rich and vibrant, they actually have more melanocyte activity.
9. Most black cats have darker eyes
Did you know that most black cats have darker eyes? And that’s not just an opinion, but there are actual numbers to back up that assessment. The most common eye color in black cats is orange. This means they have more melanin in their eyes. There are of course also black cats with yellow and copper eyes, although less common. Just like other cats, breed is the main determining factor of eye color. Black cats can also have blue, green, hazel, and other eyes.
10. Cats with certain eye colors can become deaf
Although not set in stone, there are some health issues that cats with certain eye colors may face. One of the main problems that occurs in 40% of all white cats is deafness. The color of the eyes, in this case, is blue. This is mainly the case because the white gene has been linked to deafness in several cat studies.
Sometimes the cat can be born without the ability to hear. Even cats with two different eye colors can experience the problem of deafness if one of those eyes is blue. Deafness will be present in the ear that has a blue eye. Again, this all relates to the white gene itself. Albino cats do not have this problem.
Blindness is sometimes a problem in blue-eyed cats, but it’s still very rare. Vision problems usually occur when the cat does not receive enough nutrients and is less affected by the eye color it was born with.
11. Albino cats seem to have pink eyes
Have you noticed an albino cat with an unusual pink eye color? Well, the color isn’t actually pink, but it may appear to be. It’s actually a dilution of the eyes in which there is no pigment and a little blue. Due to the lack of blue color, pink is what we see. Albino cats with pink eyes are quite rare, so if you see one, you’re in luck!