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?
“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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or pop a comment in the section below with any questions/comments and I’ll get right back to you!