Cats are truly magnificent creatures,

and differing colours are one of their features.

There’s tabbys and torties and lilac and blue,

there’s chocolate and ginger and black and white too.

Mmmmm, did somebody say chocolate…

Put that in your pipe and smoke it Dr Seuss!  But seriously, I do love a pretty kitty or a charismatic cat.  The tail-whipping tornadoes that fly across the consult table, teeth all a gnashing and claws switched from cuddle to kill mode, not so much… But honestly, they are remarkably few and far between.  And anyway, we can usually find a compromise – I won’t stick a thermometer in your butt if you don’t rip me to shreds, deal?

angry cat

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little blog too!”

Anyway, white cats.  Why are they special?

I really do have a soft spot for these guys and girls.  One day, when the time is right, I will bring one into my family. I will love him and hug him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George… Or maybe Schnickelfritz… Or Pickles… But I digress.

betty white cat

Blast and damnation! I said WHITE cats, not Betty White’s cat!

Speak up, I can’t hear you!

Yep, you may have heard that a lot of white cats are actually deaf – generally the ones with blue eyes.  It relates to that subject at uni that nearly destroyed my will to live – embryology. To cut a long story short, it’s all about melanin, that pigment that gives your skin and hair its colour.  These cats have no melanin in their coats, so they are white as a snowman’s balls. They also have hardly any melanin in their irises, so their eyes are blue. Just FYI, this is also why most babies have blue eyes, but their eyes change colour (if they’re going to) during the first year of life as melanin is produced.  Back to the dreaded, coma-inducing embryology – the cells that turn into melanin-producing melanocytes also happen to end up as a cell layer in the inner ear needed for hearing, therefore, these cats are as deaf as the proverbial doorknob.

deaf cat sign

This cat’s not actually white, he just used up 8 of his 9 lives playing with fireworks…

It’s not all that simple though, and there are a bunch of genes involved, so not all blue-eyed white cats are deaf.  Around 70% of them are, and my sophisticated grasp of mathematics says this is a lot, at least half… Around 15% of white cats with other coloured eyes are deaf too. Interestingly, “odd-eyed” white cats (those with two different coloured eyes) have a high chance of being deaf just in the ear on the same side as the blue eye.

 odd-eyed white cat

 This cat may be deaf in one ear, but don’t you tell me he doesn’t have magical super powers… Just look at him!

Yeah ok, the cat’s deaf. Why should I care?

I’m glad you asked.  These kitties should really be inside, as they can’t hear oncoming traffic or big hungry dogs sneaking up on them.  They can get into all kinds of trouble…

mmm lunch

Imma eat you up with ketchup and mustard

There is also a distinct possibility (though I know, this is a generalisation, please don’t send me hate mail) that deaf cats will be real jerks. Particularly towards other cats.  This is because they are basically handicapped when it comes to reading the intentions and signals of others.  ”Socially inept” is another, just as unflattering way of putting it.

white cat fighting

I said back off! What are ya, deaf?

It burns, it burns!

There’s another problem one can encounter when afflicted with a deficiency of pigment in the skin. It’s massive and hot and we revolve around it once a year. You got it, it’s the sun. These poor cats are like pasty Englishmen hitting Bondi Beach in the peak of the Australian summer. They absolutely cannot tolerate the sun, and burn up all crispy-like just from thinking about catching some rays.

sunburn

Kinda like this guy…

The more serious consequence of this is squamous cell carcinoma, aka skin cancer. White cats are horribly predisposed to developing this in areas of sunburn, particularly on the ears and nose. It’s a pretty aggressive type of cancer and I don’t know a single vet who hasn’t experienced the unenviable job of lopping off a beautiful cat’s ears and/or freezing off it’s nose in an attempt to rectify this sad but largely avoidable situation.

voldemort cat

 So unless you want really want your cat to look like Voldemort, best keep him inside

 In a nutshell

Ah hem. I’d like to conclude with a little ditty I wrote myself.

There once was a cat who was white

You could not let him out of your sight

He was pale as a ghost and as deaf as a post

If you snuck up you’d give him a fright

A good looking dude, but so awkward and rude

That sometimes he’d get in a fight

He had no ears or nose, looked quite strange I suppose

And that’s all that I’m going to write!

 Yeah… So that needs a little work! Anyway, that’s all folks, as always drop me an email (vet@creatureclinic.com) or pop a comment in the section below with any questions/comments and I’ll get right back to you!

 

Joanna Paul
Dr. Joanna Paul BVSc (hons) BSc Jo is a practicing small animal veterinarian based in Melbourne, Australia. Working in partnership with loving pet owners to ensure their fur-kids remain happy, healthy family members life-long is what brings her joy. Well, that and taking naps. Jo strongly believes that helping to maintain the wonderful bond between a pet and their human is reason enough for a happy dance.
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Showing 12 comments
  • Ruth
    Reply

    Hi Jo, I came across your review for “Love That Pet” and naturally had to tap into The Magical White Cat …. (sorry I’m not sure how to include a photo)

    Puddah adopted me 14 months ago after about 6 months on his own. He was all battered and worn out and needed to be nursed back to life after being attacked by ? which has left him with a scar from ear to under his chin. When he is cross he reminds me of Scarface Craw from the ‘Hairy Maclary’ series.
    Mostly he is pure white with golden eyes … ‘cept he has a fetish for exhaust pipes and sleeping or slinking under cars!
    He is the highlight of my day and the highlight in my life.
    Thank you for your informative Review of Love That Pet.

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      Hi Ruth,
      Your Puddah sounds really special! I’d love to see a photo!! Unfortunately I don’t think you can add photos in the comments, but feel free to share one over on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CreatureClinic
      Thanks for coming by and for sharing 🙂 x

  • Ashleigh Mills
    Reply

    White cats are the best! My Sasha came from a family of 4 who were abandoned on the street. Her sister Ruby and brother Kevin were adopted to another family. Ruby is deaf and I am told it is rare that Sasha is not deaf too. Ruby does not seem to have problems with being deaf and is very loving towards her brother I am told.We keep Sasha inside because of her features and I keep in touch with her cat family on facebook. After 3 tabbys I am sure that white cats are more aloof and snooty, and all my black clothes are no longer black, but I would not change her for the world! Love this post.

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      Hey Ashleigh,
      Maybe they are a little snooty because they know how awesome they are! Sasha is a stunning cat, and funny her bro is called Kevin, that’s the name I have earmarked for my next kitty! I don’t think black clothes work all that well around any cats or dogs… I should probably stop wearing black pants to work 🙂

  • Josie T Liem
    Reply

    To think that I have a chance to rescue a pure white cat with both blue eyes from the streets in a tropical country… I should really rejoice on my blessings.

    Seriously, I thought at first he was grey, but after I gave him a bath (he stunk), I just knew I am the chosen one.

    Frost is a happy, healthy and lazy cat in my sanctuary for about a year now. I am not sure if deafness can appear later in life due to the lack of melanin (all article I read said they will be deaf at birth) but I hope he stays in the 30% part for the rest of his life.

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      I looooove these cats. They are unique and special. You’re absolutely right, if they are going to be deaf they are born this way, so Frost will be ok.
      Thank you so much for stopping my my blog 🙂

  • Jody Cowan
    Reply

    I love these photos! That white cat with the eyes, I wish he wasn’t deaf in one ear though. But I’m sure he’s fine. And the one with no nose or ears I feel so bad for him! That poem you wrote is awesome. You should write more!
    Jody

    • Joanna Paul
      Reply

      Thanks Jody! Maybe I’m a poet and I don’t even know it 😉 No… That was really bad, lol.

  • Shelley
    Reply

    Very informative and hilarious !!

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