Large Eyes of Pedigree Purebred Cats

Pedigree, purebred cats have inordinately large eyes. Not all the breeds have the same overly large eyes, but even breeds, such as the Abyssinian, that are meant to be “balanced”, have unnaturally large eyes. Let’s not forget that cats already have large eyes, much larger than ours, relative to head size, as they have evolved for nighttime hunting.

“…all the elements of the cat in proportion….” (Abyssinian CFA breed standard)

“large, bright or expressive….” (Abyssinian CFA breed standard for eyes 1939)

There is no need, in fact, to trawl through boring breed standards to realize that the heads of some cat breeds have shrunk, or the eyes have ballooned, or both.

Let’s compare the original domestic cat, the domesticated wildcat (African and Asian) to the modern Abyssinian, a well balanced cat:

Pedigree cats have large eyes

Pedigree cats have large eyes. Abyssinian cat photo in the middle copyright Helmi Flick. Picture of wildcat by Johann du Preez.

The early Abyssinian had normal sized eyes, more or less. I believe the “problem” (for me) stems from:

  1. A drift to extreme breeding over many years, from the middle of the 20th century to present, for affect and appearance and..
  2. Misconstruing the breed standards. All domestic cats have large eyes, much larger than ours in relation to head size. So, when a breed standard says “large” eyes it should mean standard sized, large domestic cat eyes not orbs sticking out of the head like this Sphynx as if the cat were an alien being:
Big eyed Sphynx Cat

Big eyed Sphynx Cat. An alien being from another planet

Some other cat breeds with overly large eyes are the Modern Siamese and associated breeds i.e. Oriental Shorthair. The Persian has overly round eyes in keeping with the modern Persian’s overly round body.

Even the American Shorthair, which is meant to be totally standard in conformation, has eyes that are not truly typical of the domestic cat:

African wildcat eyes versus American shorthair eyes

African wildcat eyes versus American Shorthair eyes. Photo of American SH copyright Helmi Flick. Picture of wildcat by Johann du Preez. I have taken the liberty of modifying this photo but I have provided 2 links as payment.

no part of the anatomy so exaggerated….well balanced…[eyes] large and wide..(CFA breed standard of American Shorthair)

So What Happened?

The human happened, that’s what happened. As I said, people overdo things. Take anything, literally anything that people are involved in and it will be exaggerated eventually.

Why cat breeders could not accept the already large and beautiful eyes of the domestic cat and leave them alone, is beyond me. Look at that African wildcat. How beautiful is that cat?

And you know what; that cat is possibly not a purebred wildcat. He or she could well be a domestic cat/African wildcat hybrid because they cross-breed. Another example of the impact of humankind on cats.


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Large Eyes of Pedigree Purebred Cats — 12 Comments

  1. Some people think they can improve on Nature but they are wrong!
    Cats are perfectly made and made that way for a reason and breeders should stop messing around trying to change them!
    I keep on saying the same old thing I know, but I do wish people would see the beauty in ordinary cats rather than creating or adapting more breeds for people to buy and therefore denying many needy cats a home, it’s horrible that those cats are killed because no one wants them, that those people would rather pay to possess a specially bred cat!

    • Ruth I always agree with all what you say – and I say the same thing in this instance. The same argument is always valid. Let’s help the beautiful cats in shelters and without the necessary means to survive before doing anything else, let alone makeing a mess of something already beautiful.

      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and certainly don’t call it ‘bettering the breed’ because it’s the exact opposite.

    • I agree we can’t improve on nature but some people like to think they can try.

      I have always criticised extreme breeding. It is a failure and compounds an already hard to justify practice of breeding cats when we are deliberately killing them at shelters at the same time.

      • So-called better breeding has resulted in some disturbing outcomes that have quietly been disposed. Many of the offspring of manipulative breeding have problems with health or mentality and end up in shelters because their guardians can’t afford (or won’t be inconvenienced by) the medical care required for the animals well-being or undesirable behaviors due to retardation. Human selfishness has caused an over-abundance of special needs animals, which in turn over-burdens animal rescues and shelters. Nature made them perfect and humans have distorted this perfection to immoral extremes that cause catastrophic suffering on both sides ~ the animals and the humans who love them.

        • Well said Karen. I couldn’t say it better. I have always considered extreme cat breeding a terrible human self-indulgence pandering to the human’s insecurities and emotional problems.

  2. My sentiments exactly !
    As Marc put it extremely well, those “trying” to better the breed accomplish the opposite, let the beauty of each animal show thru.
    Best to you & yours,
    keenpetite (50+ yrs cat lover, rescuer & helper)
    SE Arizona USA

    • Yes, breeders should keep things much more simple and intervene much less. There should be far fewer cat breeds and they should all have normal sized eyes, ears, heads and bodies 🙂

  3. It’s part of the need for emotional onanism in humans. Cats that trigger their own parenting instincts get more nurturing, and are then often used to breed more just like it. Large eyes give a cat infant-like features. Breeders are captives of their own minds. The more a cat gives them some kind of emotional pleasure it then becomes a desirable trait for more of the same.

    This is not unlike the old sci-fi story titled “The Terminal Man”. His brain was surgically wired to give him pleasure anytime he did something antisocial to interrupt his sociopathic yearnings. Trouble was, his mind learned to trigger that pleasure impulse all on its own. Until he was nothing but a drooling mess, sitting there in perfect pleasure with his own mind, until he was dead. (The same can be seen in those whose lives are only lived in front of a computer monitor today, becoming “computer terminal” humans. Seeking out only that which gives them pleasure and avoiding all contact with things in the real world.)

    Cat breeders are trapping themselves the same way through external stimulus by breeding emotionally desirable cat features, consciously and subconsciously.

    • Good comment. Thank you. Your comment leads to one conclusion: people should not be breeding cats as it is an abuse of the cat but perhaps not all breeders indulge in supernormal stimulus. The human is using the cat to find emotional support and comfort. Cat breeding is a sign of human failure and weakness.

  4. That sphynx is my cat! How did she end up here? This photo was on my sister’s Facebook. I had never seen this website before, and found her by accident in a Google Image search.

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