Casper is a healthy male who was rescued with his sister Lily by the SPCA. His health and personality blossomed after adoption.
White cats are stunning, rare and you must pardon our insistence that white cats are probably the most beautifully colored of all cats. But, it’s not all about the color. Among the top favorite colors in the world, white is ninth on the list (blue snags the top spot).
Nonetheless, the pristine beauty of the white coat often complemented by sparkling colored eyes can unarguably make you want to tear up in awe.
That said, white cats make up a tiny percentage of the general domestic cat population. This rarity may be one of the reasons why people often rely on inaccurate stereotypes, conjectures, and anecdotes as the basis of their knowledge about white cats.
This article aims to set the record straight on many white cat-related issues. And more importantly, provide comprehensive information about our white fluffy companions.
Earlier on, I referred to white cats being a minority. You’ve probably already observed that. But do not know specifically how rare white cats are.
Now, there aren’t many standard books and scholarly reports about the prevalence of white cats. However, some sources have tried to pin a number on it. Some sources estimate it may be as low as 2% while other studies show that it may be as high as 5%. Regardless, the percentage is low and this rarity means that white cats can be particularly mysterious and unusual to see as they are so rare.
Eye Color Variation in White Cats
While the population of white cats may be below, the color variation of the eyes of white cats is widely known. Typically, the eye color may be blue, green, golden (hazel), or pink.
Sometimes though, each eye may have different colors. The common name for this is “odd eyes,” while the technical name is heterochromia.
In general, white cats like-colored cats may succumb to any of over a dozen ailments. However, two health issues are prevalent for white cats. If you’re looking to get a white cat, then I cannot overemphasize the importance of being abreast of these health issues.
White Cats and Deafness
This is perhaps the most well-known health issue with white cats. It is so prevalent that many believe that all white cats [with blue eyes] are deaf.
This is not accurate.
The link between white cats and deafness appears to be a triangle, with blue eyes being the connecting angle.
You see, white cats lack melanin, which typically gives color to your hair and skin. White cats lack melanin in their skin. In addition, white cats (especially white cats with blue eyes) also lack melanin in the irises of their eyes. Which is one reason why the eyes are blue.
However, the more important fact is that the stem cells that should turn into melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) are also the stem cells responsible for turning into a cell layer in the inner ear that is vital for hearing.
Since these cats do not have these stem cells (evident by their lack of melanin), they also do not have this vital cell layer that should be in the inner ear. This absence is the cause of the deafness associated with white cats and blue eyes.
The keyword is associated because different genes cause blue eyes and white coats. Although a particular gene/gene complex causes white coat, blue eyes, and deafness, not all cats get their white coat and blue eyes from this particular gene.
Therefore, the probability that a cat is white, blue-eyed, and deaf depends wholly on the genes the cat inherits and not just the appearance.
That said when a cat is diagnosed to be deaf. It may be deaf in both ears or just one ear. Oftentimes, an odd-eyed white cat with one blue eye may be deaf on the blue-eyed side.
What the statistics say
- Of the 2-5% of white cats, 15-40% have at least one blue eye.
- Of this percentage, 60-80% are deaf.
- 30-40% of white cats with blue eyes are deaf.
- Only 10-20% of white cats with non-blue eyes are deaf.
White Cats and Skin Cancer
The melanin deficiency in white cats uncovers another surprise. That white cats can’t tolerate sunlight as much as colored cats. It’s a fact that you have to take seriously. Because if you do not, repeated exposure to sunlight can cause squamous cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that is painful and prevalent in areas of the skin where there aren’t many hairs—ears, eyelids, and nose. Treatment can often involve freezing the nose or lopping off the ear. It can also be fatal if it is not diagnosed early enough.
It’s an avoidable condition, so it’s best to keep white cats indoors.
Caring for White Cats
For starters, white cats do not belong to only one specific breed of cats. A white cat may belong to any of several cat breeds. This can be worthy of note when caring for a white cat, especially if the breed has peculiar attitudes and attributes.
Regardless of breeds, there seems to be an arguable consensus that white cats have a timid, aloof, shy, or lazy personality. It’s arguable because while some studies establish a link between a cat’s coat color and personality, others do not.
However, an explanation for this unflattering consensus is that white cats that fit this personality like a glove are often white cats that are partially or completely deaf. This can be frustrating in social interactions with your cat.
This can transcend from being frustrating to dangerous, as deaf cats are considerably vulnerable to attacks by predators. It can also be a secondary reason to keep your cats from going outdoors to avoid any unsavory accident.