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.
The early Abyssinian had normal sized eyes, more or less. I believe the “problem” (for me) stems from:
- A drift to extreme breeding over many years, from the middle of the 20th century to present, for affect and appearance and..
- 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:
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:
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.