Genetic defects & white cats with different coloured eyes


(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)


Someone left a message in the TEC youtube mailbox asking why Snowball‘s got different coloured eyes. Such questions get my goat sometimes since Google is there for the googling, and just now it was one of those sometimes as I happened to be feeling a little snarky. But then I did not want to turn off a potential sympathiser, so I googled “white cats with different coloured eyes”, and gave the emailer the link. I might as well add it here – it is found on messybeast.com, one of our fav cat stuff sites. I’ll also quote a bit of it, the main gist of the answer to the million dollar Q:

A few years back I was asked three related questions on a newsgroup. This article is adapted from my answer.

– Are white cats, particularly blue eyed white cats, always deaf or is this an old wives’ tale?
– Is deafness linked only to odd-eyed white cats?
– Some blue-eyed whites aren’t deaf – why?

There is an established link between the white coat color, blue eyes and deafness.

(source: WHITE CATS, EYE COLOURS AND DEAFNESS)

Bottomline? Our mantra is

Please don’t breed or buy while shelter animals die

Even before the ugly truth about the heightened occurrences of genetic problems caused by deliberately breeding for white-furred cats and dogs, we also say no to breeding because of the plight we inflict on animals, merely for a whim or fancy – selective breeding in itself is causing genetic problems for these dogs and cats we are supposedly fans and lovers of.

Of course there are responsible breeders, but money makes the world go round after all. So please be discerning about your pet supply source if you must “buy your best friend”, in the words of a local pet selling chain. Don’t support puppy mills or kitten mills.

My personal bias against breeding animals for specific traits was reinforced by a website – it was a shelter in the U.S. that specialised in rescuing blind, deaf, crippled dogs of any combination. They also open their doors and hearts to other disadvantaged animals.

The shelter owner found an inordinate number of her rescues were white dogs. Many were puppies. People, and probably breeders, kept leaving white dogs with problems at her doorstep that she took off the address and location of the shelter, because they were overflowing. The stories of the dogs she had were very poignant. Many were white dogs that were bred for profit, ala puppy mills, and given the high odds of blindness/deafness/other issues with white-furred dogs, most white puppy-mill born puppies are destroyed or abandoned. Then there are those who look ok and then developed problems later. All are unceremoniously dumped. And that’s how many of these end up at this shelter. Most are calm, loving, and accepting of their fate – their greatness of heart to resign themselves to their fates is heartwrenching. I cried as I read the stories of these crippled angels, and I have been even more bothered by the concept of breeding animals for specific traits ever since.

I can’t provide a link to this wonderful woman’s site as I lost the url when my last webmail provider’s servers crashed.

I can provide more info ref though.

“I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. Upon answering it, I heard a voice say, “How would you like to adopt a deaf dog?””

“In the weeks that followed, I discovered that thousands of deaf pups are born each year. I learned that there are over 60 breeds of purebred dogs that report hereditary deafness. The breeds which report the highest number of deaf pups are the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bull Terrier, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Dalmatian, English Cocker Spaniel, and English Setter. (A complete list of effected breeds can be found at the end of this article.)”

“But with deaf puppies, a group of nerve cells in the ear that detect sound begin to deteriorate. This process is usually complete by the time the pup is 6 weeks old, and cannot be reversed or corrected.”

– source: Deaf Puppies, Deaf Dogs: More common than you think

Breeding for specific traits has caused many genetic problems for the so-called purebreeds/pedigree “pet” dogs and cats. People are willing to breed dogs and cats for sale because there are people willing to pay. And, all things being equal, white cats and dogs you buy from the petshop do cost more for a reason – it is very difficult to get a healthy white-furred purebreed baby through breeding, as borne out by genetics.
This is a good read on this issue: Genetics and Animal Welfare

Why the fixation with fur colour or looks of a cat/dog? After all, humans parents don’t discriminate against their own flesh-and-blood.

Ever wonder what happens to the kittens and puppies who are not good enough for sale, whether they are white or normal coloured? How about the ones who are good enough for sale, but outgrew their sell-by date, and stopped being cute?

TEC appeals again: Please don’t breed or buy while shelter animals die

(Created: 5 Nov 06)


(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)

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18 responses to “Genetic defects & white cats with different coloured eyes

  1. hi my cat was white with green and blues she was not deaf she lived to be a extermly old cat she was 15 we lost her to coytes yesterday!!!!
    just wanted to let you know about the gentices of this cat she was a good hunter and loved mice!!
    let the emailer know that!!!

  2. Kar,
    You’re not reading the whole message: the problems tend to happen to white cats that have TWO, ie BOTH eyes being blue.

    I presume you mean your cat has 1 green and 1 blue eye. So does Snowball, the male cat mentioned at the top. That’s why your cat and Snowball AREN’T totally deaf or blind.

    I suggest you try to READ the post and get your facts straight before jumping to conclusions about its message, genetics is not a simple issue of colour matching.

    And if you lost your cat to coyotes, here’s a message for you: if you love your cat, keep your cat INDOORS!!!

  3. I have two white cats. Both always seem to have something coming out of their eyes. One is worse than the other.

    I never have any eye problems with my other cats.

    Is this something that’s just common in white cats?

  4. Pam Rowse,
    Wouldn’t know that – am not a medical health worker but I do know this: you should consult your vet asap!

  5. janna maisel

    I had a Awsome kitty named “Kimmy” … He was pure white long hair with blue eyes lived to 15 and he was deaf, it accually made him a great cat not affraid of things that a cat that could hear, do keep in mind that that wouldn’t be a good thing if he were an outdoor cat. I kept him inside at all times. My heart hearts when I think about not having him anymore. It has been a couple of years that he has been gone. I am ready to look for another white male with blue eyes and hopefully he will be deaf too.

  6. janna maisel,
    I would ask you: if you are pregnant, would you wish your baby is born deaf?

    Nevertheless, it is your perogative what you wish on your cat. But if you did not adopt before, I do hope you will be adopting your next deaf blue-eyed pure white male cat instead of buying. Don’t encourage kitten mills: most pure white cats with blue eyes are defective – deaf or blind or both – and are disposed of callously by breeders to cut losses.

    Adopt, save a life.

  7. Pam,
    I have a white kitty myself, our adopted stray. He had the same substance coming out of his eyes. The vet said that most cats have it, some worse than others, but the reason that it seems most common in white cats is because the liquid is so light it usually only shows up on their fur. We were also told it’s nothing to worry about, so I’d just wipe their eyes with a wet washcloth or paper towel every few days.

    “And if you lost your cat to coyotes, here’s a message for you: if you love your cat, keep your cat INDOORS!!!”
    No “Sorry you lost your cat”? Just because somebody doesn’t keep their cat indoors doesn’t mean they don’t love him or her. Catrina, who I love dearly, is an outdoor cat since her wild nature that comes with her being a Norweigan Forest Cat makes her miserable being inside. Would you keep your kids locked in your home all day just because of all the dangers of the world while they mope miserably?

    Calsifer, no need to be so harsh in your corrections and judgments of people. I suggest you try to get your facts straight before jumping to conclusions about people and their intentions.

  8. Ana,
    Now, now. Who’s the judgmental and crooked-facted one? Did you understand the context of that comment and then see my response before you jump to conclusions yourself? Do you understand the situation for cats here where we live, and most anywhere when they are allowed outdoors, especially without supervision?

    You say: “Would you keep your kids locked in your home all day just because of all the dangers of the world while they mope miserably?”

    Do your kids get picked up by the pound if someone complains about them roaming the streets or just because someone thinks they’re being a nuisance? Does the pound euthanise your kids if they can’t remember their address or your contact numbers?

    Here’s another thing, if any indoor cats really do “mope miserably” indoors like you seem to assume they all do, then their guardians are not good guardians and have no business caring for cats.

    Yes, just because someone doesn’t keep their cats indoors may not mean they do nor love their cats, but in the same vein, they may not know how to love their cats either. There’s SO many such cases ending in tragedy, for the cat, happening here.

    Here’s one more thing, Ana: this blog isn’t a place for molly-coddling.

  9. Pingback: Japan: The horrors behind your made-to-order best friend « Tipped Ear Clan

  10. hi, my cat is white and he has a blue eye and a green eye he always has problems with his blue eye why?

  11. dlan,
    Consult your vet.

  12. Sometimes its just a mixxed breed gene. It happend to my friends cat. the male had blue eyes and the female had green eyes. They matted and had a white kitten with one green and one blue eye. Is that what it was. if it wasn’t then u should call ur vet.

  13. horsielover123littleme

    i have a white cat called charlie he is white and has 2 blue eyes we only ever take him out on a cat leash

  14. My13 years old white-haired cat, was born deaf. I had to research a great deal about deaf cats to take care of her. Deaf cats and kittens really do require to have just a little extra attention and concern than other cats, Also I have 2 other cats that in fact taught me how to train her. Mother nature is unbelievable, My other cats, sensed there was evidently some thing not right and they’ve taken proper care of her right up until now.

    Caring For Deaf Cats

  15. A few years back, we were adopted by white cat. He’s got pinkish, ALMOST albino eyes, but they also have a blueish tint to them. He’s very, very pink skinned; especially on his ears, nose, lips, and pawpads.

    His face is goofy looking; as in, his features aren’t as “distinguishable” as our other cats. His face is more rounded and he has almost no chin. His teeth are ugly – he’s very snaggletoothed and it looks like when he’s completely “relaxed”, his lips aren’t touching. He CAN close his mouth, but I think he has to concentrate really hard… (His facial features look a LOT like the Wishdragon thing from The Never Ending Story)

    His coordination and balance are a little… off. Our Vet says he’s healthy and happy – but I swear, he seems to have the feline equivalent to Down’s Syndrome. (I haven’t done much research on whether or not cats can be diagnosed with something like Down Syndrome; and I don’t expect anyone here to research anything I can easily do myself; I’m just sharing my story)

    He knows his name and responds to us when we talk to him, but a part of me is always keeping an eye on him looking for signs of hearing loss. He was a stray that my Bro-in-Law brought home from work. (A litter was born outside by the dumpster and he and his coworkers managed to catch and rehome every one of them.)

    When he first brought him home(to their house), the kitten was completely white. As he got older we saw that his fur was changing colours. Slowly, he was showing orange-y tabby cat colouring on his back, tail, and ears. (I call him Buttercat because it really does look like somebody buttered my otherwise very white cat).

    He’s about four or five right now, and he transitioned from being a stray to being a pet VERY well. We suspect the neutering (and the bottomless cat food bowl) had a lot to do with his attitude… plus he was just a kitten when we got him. He’s very lovey, but only on his terms.

  16. terri santavenere

    I have a very beautiful odd eyed kitty, one eye being blue and the other green. He is mostly white with about ten grey spots and all grey tail. His skin pigment is pretty much pink I cant really see any skin pigment anywhere. He is happy, health, playfull, curious, and larger than his sibblings who at birth were all the same size. His mother is a calico and father is ? But he really looks exactly like an angora. What do u think? Is he partial albino, deaf, blind or anything else I need to be informed of? I love him sooo much either way oh yeah he also has a funky strange little meow. Sincerly, terri

  17. Ana,
    Now, now. Who’s the judgmental and crooked-facted one? Did you understand the context of that comment and then see my response before you jump to conclusions yourself? Do you understand the situation for cats here where we live, and most anywhere when they are allowed outdoors, especially without supervision?

    *You say WE and where you live??? dont pull someone else into your urguement! this person probably does’nt live near you anyhow!

    You say: “Would you keep your kids locked in your home all day just because of all the dangers of the world while they mope miserably?”

    *Kids have just as much risk being outdoors as anmimals do! eg: kidnapped (this happens in people front yards and back yards!), Hit by a motorvehicle, eat something they shouldnt! the risk are all there Calsifer you just need to open your eyes to seem them! it’s the owners choice how to raise there fur baby as it would be to raise thier child! NOT URS or anyone else’s.

    Do your kids get picked up by the pound if someone complains about them roaming the streets or just because someone thinks they’re being a nuisance? Does the pound euthanise your kids if they can’t remember their address or your contact numbers?

    *This is just uncalled for Calsifer no one in thier right or wrong mind would even second guess any of this!

    Here’s another thing, if any indoor cats really do “mope miserably” indoors like you seem to assume they all do, then their guardians are not good guardians and have no business caring for cats.

    *Ana never assumed you assumed she does if you READ it properly she actaully states its in HER cats nature not every cats nature!

    Yes, just because someone doesn’t keep their cats indoors may not mean they do nor love their cats, but in the same vein, they may not know how to love their cats either. There’s SO many such cases ending in tragedy, for the cat, happening here.

    *Nobody knows how to love thier cats! what a F’n crock everybody loves thier cats differently no one loves them the same ur just being silly in this instance.

    Here’s one more thing, Ana: this blog isn’t a place for molly-coddling.

    *Practice what you preach Calsifer this last comment does you no Justice at all!

    P.S

    I am adopting a pure white turkish angora who has one blue and one green eye and is parcially deaf! i cannot wait to get him and make him apart of our family! deaf, blind or dumb they are still smart creatures and should not be treated differently because of it.

    Special care when needed will be given otherwise he will be my moochie!