White cats are not a specific breed, but rather, many different breeds can have white coats that vary in length. They are also rare, as only about 5% of cats have all-white coats. White cats have a gene called W that suppresses the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin, fur, and eyes. This gene also affects their eye color and hearing ability. Here are some interesting facts about white cats that you may not know.
1. White Cats Can Have Very Unique Eye Colors
White cats can have a variety of striking eye colors, like blue, green, yellow, orange, or a combination of colors. This is because the W gene reduces the amount of melanin in their irises, which determines the eye color. Some white cats have heterochromia, a condition where they have two different colored eyes. This happens when melanin migrates to one eye but not the other during development1.
2. Many (But Not All) White Cats Are Deaf
The W gene also causes a reduction of melanin-producing cells called melanoblasts. These cells are important for maintaining and regulating the chemical balance in the inner ear, which affects hearing. Without melanoblasts, the tiny hairs of the inner ear die and cause deafness. About 80% of white cats with two blue eyes experience deafness at about four days old1. White cats with one blue eye and one eye of another color may be deaf in one ear2. White cats with eyes of other colors may have normal hearing or partial deafness1.
3. White Cats Are Not Albino
White cats have melanin, they just have less of it than cats with fur of other colors. Where white cats have genes that create white fur, often masking other colors in their genetic makeup, albino cats have zero color in their genes and zero melanin3. Albino cats have pink eyes because they lack pigment in their irises and reflect the blood vessels behind them1. Albino cats are also very rare and may have health problems related to their lack of melanin.
4. A White Cat Can Get a Severe Sunburn
White cats have less protection from the sun’s rays than cats with darker fur. Their skin can get sunburned easily, especially on areas with little or no fur, such as the ears and nose2. Sunburn can cause pain, inflammation, and even skin cancer in white cats. To prevent sunburn, white cats should be kept indoors or in shaded areas during peak sun hours. They can also wear sunscreen made for pets or clothing that covers their sensitive areas2.
5. Pure White Is the Rarest Cat Color
Pure white is the rarest cat color because it requires a specific combination of genes to produce it2. A cat needs to inherit two copies of the recessive W gene from both parents to be pure white1. If a cat has only one copy of the W gene, it may have some spots or patches of color on its fur1. Some white kittens may have a spot of color on top of their head called a skullcap, which disappears when they shed their kitten coat and get their adult coat1.
6. Many Cultures Believe White Cats Bring Good Luck
White cats are often associated with good luck and fortune in many cultures around the world2. In Britain and Japan, white cats are considered lucky and bring happiness to their owners2. In China, white cats are symbols of purity and prosperity4. In ancient Egypt, white cats were revered as sacred animals and worshipped as gods4. However, not all cultures view white cats positively. In some parts of Europe and America, white cats are considered unlucky and bring bad luck if they cross your path2.
7. White Cats Have Been Featured in Many Movies and TV Shows
White cats have a special charm and charisma that make them popular in movies and TV shows. Some famous white cats include:
- Snowball II from The Simpsons
- Duchess from The Aristocats
- Mr. Mistoffelees from Cats
- Casper from Casper’s Scare School
- Hedwig from Harry Potter
- Crystal from The Secret Life of Pets
- Choupette, the real-life cat of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld
These are some of the interesting facts about white cats that you may not have known before. White cats are beautiful, unique, and fascinating creatures that deserve our love and admiration. Do you have a white cat or know someone who does? Share this blog post with them and let them know how special their white cat is! 😻