7 Interesting Facts About Cat Eye Color

The most incredible eyes I’d ever seen belonged to my cat Kissy, whose sea-green hue I was never able to photograph when I caught her with her eyes open on a sunny day. The majority of the images I have of her depict her with golden eyes. But no matter what shade your cat’s eyes are, there is a fascinating tale about how they came to be that way. Check out some interesting details on cat eye color:

1. Cat eye colors start with the iris

Cat eye colors start with the iris. .

We must mention the iris when we talk about cat eye hues. The iris refers to the pigmented region of the eyeball surrounding the pupil. The stoma and the epithelium are the two layers of the iris. Melanocytes, cells that produce pigment, are present in each of these layers. These melanocytes are distributed more densely in the epithelium than they are in the stoma.

2. All depends on melanin

An orange cat with copper eyes.

The pigment produced by the melanocytes is called melanin. A while back I wrote an article on the genetics of cat fur color, in which I explained that melanin plays an important role in determining how dark your cat’s fur coat will be. The same thing is true with cat eye colors: The more melanocytes there are in your cat’s irises, the darker their color will be. But cats don’t get brown or black eyes like people do; the darkest color you’ll see in a cat’s eyes is a deep, rich copper.

3.The intensity of a cat’s eye color is correlated with melanocyte activity

A cat with highly active melanocytes will have bright golden-yellow eyes.

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When the melanin-producing cells are very active, cat eye colors will become more intense. For example, a cat with a medium amount of highly active melanocytes will have bright golden-yellow eyes, but a cat with a medium amount of less active melanocytes may have pale lemon-yellow eyes.Popular Read:  Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box? – Simple Explanation

4.Purebred cats typically have eyes with more vibrant colors

Bombay cat breed standards call for copper-colored eyes.

Because purebred cats are bred to meet a specific breed standard, which often includes eye color, breeders select for cats that have more intense colors or particular colors. For example, the Bombay cat breed standard requires copper-colored eyes; and the Tonkinese has aqua-colored eyes.

5. Blue-eyed cats have no melanin in their irises

This blue-eyed white cat has no melanin in her fur or her eyes. Blue-eyed white Persian cat.

You know how window glass looks clear when you look straight through it, but it looks kind of blue or green around the edges? That’s because of the refraction of light through a clear surface. The same thing happens with blue-eyed cats: They have no pigment cells in their irises, and because the eye has a rounded shape, light refracts through that rounded surface and produces the blue eye color in cats.

6. There is a link between melanin and kitten eyes

All kittens start off with blue eyes.

Kittens are born with blue eyes because their melanocytes haven’t started working yet. As they grow, their melanocytes start to function and the true color of their eyes begins to appear. The adult eye color starts to appear between 4 and 6 weeks of age, and a kitten’s true eye color is usually apparent by the time he or she is 4 months old.

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7. The color of cat eyes and fur have often little in common.

Do fur colors have anything to do with cat eye colors? Not really. 

Different genes control fur colors and cat eye colors, so the melanocytes in the fur may be much more (or less) active than those in the eyes. Thus, a black cat like my Belladonna has pale hazel eyes, but a purebred orange Persian may have dark copper-colored eyes. The only exception to this rule is white cats. Because the epistatic white gene is a dominant and masks other colors, white cats are statistically more likely to have blue eyes than random-bred cats of other colors.Popular Read:  Why Does My Cat Scratch The Sides Of The Litter Box? – Simple Explanation