Do white cats have a shorter life span?

Deaf cat Anabelle had an accident
Deaf cat Anabelle had an accident
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

No, white cats do not have a shorter lifespan although their ears are prone to sunburn and frostbite. I suppose that there may a slightly enhanced risk of a white cat which goes outside a lot getting skin cancer. However, this is not significant enough to say that in general white cats have a shorter lifespan than the average. There is the issue of a significant percentage of white cats being deaf. Deafness would make survival harder ‘in the wild’ clearly but we are referring to domestic cats in homes. Under these circumstances I’d expect a deaf white cat to be a full-time indoor cat with a typical lifespan. Also, white cats can get sunburnt ears which might cause skin cancer. If neglected this may shorten their lifespan but as mentioned good cat caregiving would prevent this by keeping the cat inside in hot weather.

The gene that makes the cat white has no health consequences which directly affects the cat’s lifespan. But totally white cats can be deaf and odd-eyed. Clink on this link to read about white cat deafness and this link to see a cat with odd eye color. I have a page on odd-eyed cats here. Once again you might say that if an all-white cat who is deaf is allowed to go outside a lot he is probably more vulnerable to being injured or killed by cars or predators than a hearing cat but also once again I’d argue that this is insignificant as most owners of deaf cats will keep them confined.

Below I discuss how white fur is the lack of pigmentation in the fur. It is not white because there is white pigmentation embedded in the hair strands.


deaf white cat MIkey
Mikey a deaf all-white cat. Photo copyright Jennifer Moore.

For a cat and perhaps for other creatures white is the absence of pigmentation in the hair strands. The hair is not white because there is white pigmentation in the hair. In short, white is the absence of colour in this instance whereas in an absolute sense white is the merging of all the colours of the visible spectrum. I think that’s quite a nice contrast.

You would have thought that if there is no pigmentation in each hair strand, each strand of hair would be transparent but clearly not. Therefore, the unpigmented hair strand must be opaque to a certain extent and very light in colour.


Click to see cat hair pigmentation types with illustrations.


The reason why there is no pigment in the hair of white cats is because cells which are created very early on during the develop of the foetus inside the womb called melanoblasts – which turn into melanocytes (which are pigment producing cells) – do not migrate from their point of origin to the hair shaft. The point of origin of melanoblasts is the trunk neural crest cells.

The reason why this migration does not take place is because of the white cat carries the white spotting gene or the dominant white gene. In these cats the migration is partly or completely halted.

Because the cell in the skin in which the hair strand is embedded is unable to produce pigment (eumelanin and phaeomelanin) there is no pigment inside the hair strand and therefore looks white.

The white spotting gene is also called the piebald gene and it creates the bicolour cat (white and another color). These genes can cause deafness and odd-eye color.

3 thoughts on “Do white cats have a shorter life span?”

  1. I had a white cat named Snoopy who lived to be twenty years old and he may have been older since he wasn’t a kitten when I got him. But then I’ve always have kept all my cats strictly indoors. I include a photo of him

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  2. White cats stick out in the natural landscape making them more vulnerable to predation.
    The tabby is natural adaptation or camouflage to help them hunt.
    While people are fascinated by albino animals found random in nature many don’t live long because they have been robbed of their natural defense.

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