Deafness and Albinism in White Cats

Solid white cats are beautiful but rare among the cat world compared to their solid or multi-colored relatives. If you’ve ever seen a white cat with two different eye colors you’ve probably been amazed by its unique appearance. Two different eye colors can happen not only in solid white cats but in cats of other colors as well. Albino cats will have either pink eyes or pale blue. At times one eye may be pink while the other is blue. Many people mistake dominant white cats as albinos.

The white color in cats is due to a gene that masks other color genes. These cats are referred to as dominant white cats. They may have green, blue or gold eyes. They may also have two different eye colors. The dominant white cat with blue eyes has been associated with deafness. Many people believe that all blue-eyed white cats are deaf but this is not true. Some white cats with blue eyes are deaf; others are not.

Although white blue-eyed cats do have a higher incidence of deafness it depends on the cat’s genetic makeup and what genes it has inherited. White cats with two different eye colors, blue being one of those colors, stand a chance of being deaf on the side with the blue eye. A cat is considered to be deaf whether deafness affects one ear or both.

Many people assume that a solid white cat is an albino but this is not true either. Albinism is a mutation that causes an absence of color whereas the dominant white is caused by a gene that masks color. The true albino cat has a reduced number of melanocytes (pigmentation cells). Their eyes will be pink or pinkish blue due to a lack of pigmentation. The albino’s eyes are also light sensitive. Some albinos or partial albinos may have pale blue eyes.

If you have a white cat with blue eyes that you suspect may be deaf or partially deaf it should be seen by a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. White cats are also more susceptible to skin cancer. Special care should be used when caring for a deaf cat such as keeping it indoors. A deaf cat should not be left outdoors since it would not be able to detect many potential dangers due to its lack of hearing sense.

Remember that although white cats with blue eyes may have a higher incidence of deafness this is certainly not the case with all blue-eyed white cats. Deafness is a genetic defect that can occur in cats of other colors as well. Blue-eyed cats of color are not necessarily deaf either. Deafness can also occur as the result of injury or illness. If you have any reason to suspect deafness in your cat of any color consult with your veterinarian.

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