Cats are well-loved for their playful and inquisitive nature as well as their striking features. Their eye color varies according to breed and common eye colors are blue, green, yellow and brown. Have you recently brought home a kitten with blue eyes and you are wondering if her eye color will change as she grows older?
Are all kittens born with blue eyes?
Yes, all kittens are born with blue eyes but this does not mean that this color will stay that way as they mature. This is because eye color is genetically linked to coat color. Also, the blue eye color among kittens is more an optical illusion. Since their eyes are still developing, the pigment responsible for the constant eye color has not been affected by the light, thus, it just looks or appears to be blue.
The eye color of kittens starts to change when the cells start to produce melanin, the pigment that dictates color. Melanin is produced by melanocytes which are pigment-producing cells that are present in the iris. The exact eye color and intensity depend on the melanocytes’ number and activity in the iris.
The cells only start to produce the pigment after birth and the final eye color is determined by the amount of pigment. The DNA in the cells determines when and how much pigment to produce and a kitten’s vision will develop around the third to sixth week of her life and the eye color will similarly change during that time.
Needless to say, kittens that are born with blue eyes will eventually have a different eye color when they grow older. Solid white or mostly white cats may have green, gold, blue or copper eyes. Pointed cats may have blue eyes while the most common eye colors may range from greenish-yellow to gold.
Also, the blue eye color has no melanocytes, green eye color has a low number of melanocytes while the orange eye color has a high concentration of melanocytes. The higher the percentage of melanin, the deeper and more intense the eye color will be while purebred cats may have more intense colors to meet specific standards. Thus, Tonkinese cats always have aqua-colored eyes while Bombay cats have copper-colored eyes.
At what age does a kitten’s eye color change?
Kittens are born with their eyes shut but after seven to 10 days they will start to open their eyes and the color may be a cloudy shade of blue. As mentioned earlier, the eye color of kittens may start to change from three to eight weeks and they will start to have flecks of color. When kittens reach ten weeks old their eyes are as good as adult cats and at three months a kitten’s eye color is considered as its final color.
Different eye colors of cats
These are the various eye colors of cats:
If your cat has blue eyes it means that there is no melanin in the iris. It only appears blue since light refracts from the eye’s round surface since the iris is colorless. White cats may have blue eyes or may have two different eye colors, also called odd eyes, depending on the breed. Some breeds with blue eyes are Siamese, Burmese, Himalayan, Ragdoll, Javanese and Balinese cats that have color points or have pale bodies and darker extremities.
Blue eyes may be the result of masking of pigment or a dominant gene among cats, absence of pigment which is common among albino cats and Siamese cats, due to genetic mutation carried on a recessive gene or due to a spontaneous mutation.
Do you have a cat with brown eyes? Chances are, her eyes are not actually brown but copper or a darker shade of copper or orange. Cats with brown eyes have a high percentage of melanin in their irises.
The green eye color is a result of very little melanin compared to other eye colors. The resulting pigmentation is a lighter color compared to other typical eye colors. Black cats with green eyes are common. Different genes dictate the percentage of melanin in a cat’s fur and eyes. Thus, white cats and Bombay cats may also have green eyes.
It is common to see cats with yellow eye color and this color depends on the hue intensity. This color may range from a very pale yellow lemon to a more intense hue. Color overlaps may happen such as an overlap between yellow and brown or yellow and green.
What does it mean if a cat has odd eyes?
Cats with odd eyes have a different eye color for each eye and the condition is called heterochromia iridium. It occurs when the dominant white gene or white spotting gene blocks the distribution and concentration of pigments in the iris during the developmental stage. It may be acquired due to illness, injury or medication. This condition may also occur among cats that lack both the dominant white and white spotting genes.
Odd eyes may be found among epistatic white cats that have one eye in blue and the other may be orange, copper, hazel, yellow or green. Dichromatic eyes are a unique type of odd eyes where an iris has two colors and this is usually observed among white cats. Cat breeds that are prone to being odd-eyed may include the Turkish Van, Japanese Bobtail, Turkish Angora, Sphynx, Persian and Oriental Shorthair.
Cats have striking eye colors that tend to be hypnotic and this may be one of the reasons why they are often linked to the mystical world. All kittens are born with blue eyes but this color may change as they grow older and the color is genetically linked to coat color. Some of the breeds that have blue eye color during their entire lifespan include the Siamese, Javanese and Balinese.
Image: istockphoto.com / Larasoul