Cat Eye Color

Cat eye color is important to breeders of purebred cats. The colour is referred to in the breed standards4 and is sometimes linked to coat colour. An example of linkage might be silver tabby cats that are often required to have green eyes3. For instance, the breed standard for the Russian Blue is described as:

“Vivid green. Set rather wide apart, almond in shape, not small and deep set”…1

Green cat eyes Russian Blue cat Russian Blue Cat

 
The shape of the eyes too are specified by breed standards. Here is the Cat Fanciers Associations (CFA), Siamese cat’s standard2:

“EARS: strikingly large, pointed, wide at base; continuing the lines of the wedge….Eye color: deep vivid blue”

The above applies to the Modern Siamese cat. We know that Siamese cats have blue eyes.

Traditional Siamese cat Juergen Kurlvink

Left: This is not a Modern Siamese but a Traditional Siamese.The eye color is a deep vivid blue in line with the CFA eye color standard for the Modern Siamese cat.

Although, I suspect that the color balance of this photo favours blue! Photo: Juergen Kurlvink

In fact the only eye colour that is naturally linked to coat colour is blue. Blue eyes are caused by “forms of albinism” 3 that results in lack of pigmentation in the iris of the eye and coat. The iris is the part of the eye that we see that produces the colour of eye. It controls the amount of light that the eye lets in.

Ojos Azules cat eyes

A rare cat that is not white and which has blue eyes is the Ojos Azules. Photo: unknown (please advise)

Eye colour in cats in more apparent than it is for humans because their eyes are larger in relation to their heads. A cat’s eyes are unusually large. If human eyes were of comparable size they’d be almost 8 inches in diameter it is said.

Apparently green eyes or eyes with shades of green have become common in random bred cats (moggies).

Kittens are often born with blue eyes which change colour when they become adults. This is because eyes without pigment in the iris look blue due to scattered light. When pigmentation develops the eye takes on a color.

There is a wide range of eye colours from copper at one end of the spectrum to blue at the other. There are also odd eyed cats. This condition is caused by the gene that produces coats that are either totally white (dominant white gene) or spotted white (white spotting gene or piebald gene).

Here is a range of cat eye color:

Copper cat eyes Copper
Copper orange cat eyes Copper-orange
Orange cat eyes Orange
Orange cat eyes Orange
Orange yellow cat eyes Orange-yellow
Yellow-hazel cat eyes Yellow-hazel
Hazel cat eyes Hazel
Green cat eyes Green
Aqua-blue cat eyes Aqua-blue
Blue cat eyes Blue
Blue cat eyes Blue
Odd-eyed Van cat Odd-eyed Cat Photo: by sly06 (Flickr)

 
***All the photos are thumbnails – please click on them to see large format versions. They are also all (unless stated otherwise) copyright Helmi Flick. Please respect copyright. Thanks

As mentioned cat eye color is formed in the smooth muscle cells of the iris. The iris creates the pupil, the aperture in the center of the eye that lets the light in to the retina in a controlled manner.

It is the amount and intensity of pigmentation that is in the front and rear of the iris that determines cat eye color.

Some other instances where eye color is specified by the breed standard would be:

Nebelung: Color: Green with yellow/green mixture allowed. In kittens, changing from yellow to green. Should show green halo around pupil by 8 months. As vividly green as possible at maturity, which could be at 2 years or more. The more richness and depth of color, the better (TICA breed standard verbatim).

Turkish Van: Color is amber, blue or odd eyed.…Allow for faded eye color and greenish cast to amber eyes in cats over 18 months of age (TICA breed standard verbatim extracts).

There are many more. Start here for articles on all the cat breeds.

There is one last point to make. The true albino cat as opposed to the all white cat (carrying the dominant white gene) has no pigment in the eye and therefore it looks pink:

Albino Cat Eye Color

Albino Cat Eye Color. Photo by kngsrivr. The cat’s name is Smirnoff.

Cat eye color – Associated pages:

Cat eye color – Notes:

1. russianblue.org.uk – Russian Blue Breeders Association

2.cfainc.org/breeds/standards/siamese.pdf

3. The Encyclopedia Of The Cat by Dr Bruce Fogle

4. Breed standards are the guidelines issued by each cat association as to the requirements regarding  the appearance of individual registered breeds.

From cat eye color to pictures of cat breeds

 


Comments

Cat Eye Color — 16 Comments

  1. I just wanted to inform you that on this page http://pictures-of-cats.org/Cat-Eye-Color.html , The “Odd Eyed cat” the term is called Herterochromia. It’s a very common hereditary trait in cats. If you want more information on Heterochromia and its causes etc. http://www.heterochromiacentral.com/heterochromia%20in%20cats.html That is a good website with information. Hope you have a good day, and thanks for the website, it’s really helped me out a lot in deciding what temperament of a cat I need.

    • Good question. I think it rare. Blue is much more common. But it may be that your cat has very pale blue/grey eyes. Blue eyes are actually low or no pigment in the eye caused by the piebald gene that also removes pigment in the hair strands leaving them white.

  2. My kitten has Hazel eyes, but they’re more like the human version of Hazel. They’re not at all like the Hazel in the pictures…there is actually a distinct ring of brown and an inner circle of green in each eye, much like you would see in a person. They’re really quite stunning!

  3. I am studying Calico cats for project work and this is the toughest question for me to answer but you had it! Thank you!

  4. Hey my cat had kittens about 6 weeks ago, one of them (mona) I will keep to take with me when I’ll move out. The mother has yellow/orange eyes and her coat is cream. She’s not a purebred. Mona is mostly white with a few dark grey and cream spots. What do you suppose her eye color will be? And when do the eyes of the kittens change to their permanent color? Sorry for the long post but I’m very interested in cat’s genetics, I just love them so much!!

    • Cat eyes will be stable after about 6-8 weeks of age, simply becoming more or less vivid after that point in time. As for predictable colors for the litter, that is even more difficult as a litter can have more than one father (hence how you end up with short haired color point cats and long haired black cats and medium haired tabbies all in one litter, for example). As mom isn’t purebred, there’s no clue what recessives she could be carrying, so it would be hard even if we knew some info about daddy(ies)

  5. I did not see the eye color that almost all my cats have had.One had the second blue color shown on the photo above the cat with the odd eyed cat.Some of my cat had eye color close to the hazel eyed cat photo but a few of though cats eye had more of a greenish color to them.But most had a different color that was in none of the photosThese cats eye color went of grass green to a green you see on Orched flower leaves but other wise look like the shade on the hazel eyed cat photo above the green eyed cat photo.Last one cat eyes started out with three strips of blue around the pupil.From there the three strips went to green,yellow,and blue then the three colors sort of swirled together to make a very pretty mixture of colors.Sorry this was so long.

    • Hi Lisa, thank you for contributing – most welcome. It would be great if you could send me a photo of your cats’ eyes! If you can manage that please email me the result at mjbmeister[at]gmail.com and replace the [at] with the usual @. I have to explain it this way because people sometimes hijack email addresses for spam.

  6. My little girl seems to have the oddest shade of eyes – I can’t quite put a name on them. The closest I can guess is hazel

    • Thanks for sharing Monica. Here is a lighter version of your photo. I agree the color is a sort of dark hazel. Nothing quite matches in the list I presented. The coat color/type appears to slightly diluted tortoiseshell. Interesting looking cat.

  7. My cat is 17 yrs old and for the last month, she is on thyroid medication. Prior to this however, one of her eyes turns a dark copper color, which tends to disappear after a couple of days. She is all black, has a beautiful coat, and her eyes are yellow/green. As of her last check up/blood work 3 wks ago, she has healthy kidneys and liver. Should I be concerned about this change in eye color? I neglected to mention it to the vet when she was last examined.

    • I can’t answer your question from the top of my head except to say this seems to be okay and perhaps linked to age. The eyes of elderly cats do change color and go darker. That is the limit of my personal experience.

      …but a good book on cat health states:

      Color change: a change in color of the eye may indicate the cancer known as melanoma….

      I don’t believe that is relevant in this instance as the change would appear to be permanent whereas for your cat it is temporary. My gut feeling is that it is nothing to be concerned about but to observe it.

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. My best wishes to your elderly cat.

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