Cats’ eye color – Why cats’ eyes are so cool

Cats’ eye color is an endless source of fascination for me. We all know that some cats have eye colors like ours–such as blue–but many have eyes that are far greener than any human’s green eyes, and, of course, there are cats with stunning gold eyes. On the homepage here, I have close-ups of both Kali’s and Chase’s green eyes. All our cats have green eyes, which seems to be the most common color. But there’s actually much more to cats’ eye color than just whether they’re blue, green or gold. Much more.

Cats’ eye color may be linked to their coat color

Cats with “pointed” coloring (meaning dark coloring on the muzzle, tail and feet), tend to have blue eyes. Burmese cats tend to have gold eyes. Egyptian Maus have a unique shade of green for their eyes, while Russian Blues may have vivid green eyes. Tonkinese have aqua eyes. White cats often have blue eyes as well, but can also have green or gold eyes.

We had a Persian with emerald green eyes when I was a kid, named Aurielle. She was a shaded-silver chinchilla Persian – white with silver peppering along her back and tail, on her paws, and around her eyes. She looked a little like she was wearing eyeliner. Her brilliant green eyes are part of what helped make her “the queen” of the house because they made her gaze so intense.

Cats’ eye color tends to be more intense when they’re purebreds

On that note, purebreds are specifically bred to meet certain standards, and that includes eye color. According to Catster, breeders specifically breed to make their cats’ eye color especially vivid. Like Aurielle’s up there. She was a purebred, which could explain her unusually vivid eye color compared to most mixed-breeds I’ve seen.

Blue-eyed cats don’t have any melanin in their eyes

Kittens are born with blue eyes because the melanin in their irises hasn’t been switched on yet. As they grow, their eyes may stay blue if they don’t have any melanin. As light hits the structures of their eyes, it refracts and makes them look blue, and without melanin, that will always be the case. Generally though, they’ll start changing around four to six weeks. We thought Kali was going to have blue eyes when she was young, but her eyes just took a little longer than Chase’s to change to green.

White cats with blue eyes are often deaf compared to cats of other colors and other eye colors, however, this isn’t always true. Furthermore, white cats with odd eyes might only be deaf on the side with the blue eye, or not at all. And odd-eyed cats are just plain cool no matter what they look like. We had an odd-eyed cat. Kitty had one blue eye and one green eye. The edge of the pupil in her blue eye was far less defined than that of her green eye, which we always found interesting. Odd-eyed cats are generally white, or have what’s known as the white-spotting gene. That gene produces tuxedo cats and cats with big white patches. Kitty was blue-gray and white.

 

Cats’ eye color is just plain cool.

Why do Cats Live Longer than Dogs?

The average lifespan of a domestic cat is 15 years these days, while the average lifespan of a dog is 13 years. We’ve known for a long time that cats generally live longer than dogs, but what we didn’t know until recently is just why that is, and it’s a little confusing because the general trend is that the larger the animal, the longer it lives. Most dogs are bigger than cats, and don’t live as long. Why do cats live longer than dogs?

If you’re curious like me, you’ve wondered why cats live longer than dogs many times. You might have cats and dogs and wondered that, or, like me, you’ve had small pets, too, like rabbits, and figured it out on your own that size and lifespan seemed to be connected. Regardless, I’ve been curious about this for awhile, as one of our cats, Gizmo, approaches the age of 15.

There’s research that explains why cats live longer than dogs

Research suggests that cats live longer than dogs because of their solitary nature. Dogs are pack animals. They live in groups, they travel in groups, they raise their young in groups. Cats, by contrast, live in colonies in some places, but in the true wild, prefer solitude. That cuts down on the spread of disease, resulting in a longer lifespan.

Another factor is cats’ sharp claws and natural agility. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I bear the scars of cats that were unhappy with me for whatever reason. I know what their claws and teeth do, and I’m pretty sure that you do, too.

Compare their teeth and claws to what dogs have. Dogs’ teeth and jaws are frightening and will cause considerable injury. They don’t have the needle-sharp claws that cats do, however; their natural defenses are limited to what they can do with their powerful jaws. Cats’ one additional defense makes them formidable enemies, and is a contributing factor to why cats live longer than dogs.

Photo courtesy of Charlotte Peterson

Why do pet cats live longer than pet dogs?

None of that really explains why house cats live longer than domestic dogs, though. The factor there may be that the breeding we’ve done with dogs, compared to what we haven’t done with cats, has shortened the lifespan of dogs. Dogs have been domesticated far longer than cats, and their breeds are far more disparate than cats.

When it comes to cat breeds, we’ve only been actively breeding for certain traits in cats for a little more than a century. They’ve only been domesticated for about 8,000 years, compared to the 30,000 or so for dogs. What we’ve done with dogs could easily contribute to why cats live longer than dogs, because certain dog breeds are prone to certain health problems.

So there are several reasons why cats live longer than dogs, despite the fact that most dogs are bigger than most domestic cats. As far as nature goes, it’s a bit of an anomaly, but makes some sense when you look at the reasons for it.

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Why Declawing Cats is Cruel and Unnecessary

Whisker Stress: What is it, and How do you Handle it?

You may have noticed that your cat prefers to pull his food out of his bowl, carefully and painstakingly, instead of just simply sticking his nose in and eating. Perhaps he’s one of those that stops eating the instant he can see the bottom of his bowl, and won’t go back to it until the food in it is at his preferred level again. Why is that? It turns out that there’s such a thing as whisker stress. This could be why your cat has apparent problems with his bowl.

One of our cats, Gizmo, does a lot of that. If she can see the bottom of her bowl, she stops eating. Because we feed her raw food, this sometimes means shaking her bowl around to eliminate the view of the bottom. She also won’t eat her food if it’s got too many chicken chunks in it, and she scoops water out of the water bowl all the time. She eats treats just fine off the floor, and her teeth and jaw are in good health, so we’re not sure what the problem is. It’s possible that the bowl, and the chicken chunks, cause her whisker stress.

What is whisker stress?

Whiskers are amazing little instruments. Cats have whiskers on their muzzles, above their eyes, and even on their paws. Whiskers’ roots are very deep, and that makes them very sensitive. According to Adoptapet.com, whiskers aren’t feelers, per se, but they sense changes in air currents, which helps cats avoid objects in low light and no light situations.

When cats’ whiskers brush against something, they know that an object is too close, or a space is too small. In other words, whiskers brushing something tells your cat to avoid it. When their whiskers are always brushing the sides of something, it can make the experience unpleasant. With all that information going to your cat’s brain, is it any wonder that he can suffer from whisker stress?

How do you relieve whisker stress?

Now that you know what whisker stress is, what can you do about it? Answers.com says that the biggest thing you can do to help with whisker stress is to use wide, shallow bowls, or even plates, for food and water. This makes it so your cat’s whiskers won’t brush the sides of the bowl when he’s eating or drinking. Ceramic, metal and glass bowls are preferable, since plastic bowls can hold onto odors and bacteria.

If this doesn’t remedy the issue, then it may be habitual for your cat to scoop his food and water out. He may also suffer from problems besides whisker stress, so if this behavior is new, or you can’t solve it and it seems to be getting worse, you should take him to your vet.

Cats With Laser Eyes: Why do Cats’ Eyes Glow?

Cats’ eyes glow. It makes them look like they’ve got laser weapons for eyes. If you remember old cartoons, where the bad guys could shoot laser beams from their eyes (and some of the superheroes could, too), this can sort of look like that. Especially if they’re also glaring at you. What is it about cats’ eyes that make them glow like this?

Cats’ eyes glow because of a special layer of cells

It turns out that cats’ eyes glow because they have a layer of reflective cells called the tapetum lucidum, according to Vetstreet. This layer is located between the back of the retina and the optic nerve, and functions almost like a mirror. The tapetum lucidum, along with the size of their eyes and pupils, allow cats to see moving things better in dim light. In other words, this is why they can see so well in the dark.

Breed and eye color are two of the things that affect the color of the glow

An interesting thing about the way cats’ eyes glow is that different breeds will have a different color glow. Look at the difference between Gizmo and Kali; the two cats in all the pictures above. Gizmo, who is a black shorthair, and a mix of Burmese, Bombay, and probably a couple of other breeds, has eyes that glow a greenish gold (they’re sometimes more gold than green). On the other hand, Kali, who is a mix of Norwegian Forest, Maine Coon, and probably a couple of other breeds, has eyes that glow green.

I’m not sure what breed(s) Kitty (above) was. However, she was an odd-eyed cat; she had one green eye and one blue eye. Vetstreet also mentions that eye color influences what color cats’ eyes glow. A cat with blue eyes has a red glow, and a cat with green eyes has a green glow. As you can see with Kitty, her blue eye glowed red, and her green eye glowed green. She could look frightening when we caught her in the right light.

The reason breed affects the color of the glow is because breed affects how much zinc or riboflavin is in the pigment of the cells. Zinc and riboflavin both act as reflective agents, but zinc is a metal, while riboflavin is an amino acid. Different breeds carry different amounts of each of these things in their eyes, and the density of each will affect the color of the glow.

Age will also affect how cats’ eyes glow

Age has something to do with it, too. Below are pictures of Chase when he was a young kitten, and his eyes were just changing color. They had an eerie, violet glow to them. Today, his eyes glow green, like his sister’s.

Vetstreet’s article says that, as cats age, the lenses of their eyes becomes denser. That affects how much light reflects back out of their eyes.

In other words, cats’ eyes glow because it makes them better hunters, especially for hunting in the dim light of dawn and dusk. It also helps them see better at night, which is another time that cats are active.

Sense of Smell, or Sight? What do Cats REALLY Prefer?

A new study from the U.K. suggests that cats might actually prefer to use their sense of sight over their sense of smell. This goes against a lot of what we think we know about our furry feline friends, because they have such a highly developed sense of smell, and they like to sniff everything.

The study, which appeared on Science Daily and has been published in “Applied Animal Behaviour Science,” included six cats in a maze. The researcher, Evy Mayes, put two squares of paper at each “decision point” in the maze, with visual and olfactory cues on them. Cats could use their sight, or their sense of smell, to figure out where to go. Those pieces of paper would either lead to food rewards, or not.

Science Daily says that, once the cats learned the game, four of them chose the visual cues, one chose the olfactory cues, and one had no preference. Professor Daniel Mills, who supervised the study, says that this could have a huge impact on how we care for our cats. For instance, a cat that prefers to use its sense of smell might be profoundly impacted by a change in the house, whereas a cat that prefers its sense of sight might feel a minimal impact.

We have at least one cat who seems to prefer his sense of smell

More study is definitely needed, but we may have to watch our own cats a little more closely now to see if we can figure out which senses they like to use. We’ve recently started something new with Chase at mealtime: We divide his food into three portions, and then we put two portions in other places in the house while he eats the third portion in the kitchen.

What we’ve noticed with him is this: If he can see it, he doesn’t seem to know what it is until he can also smell it. He’ll often walk right past his bowls until he can smell the food, and then he’ll go to them and eat. He has some trouble when we put them up high, because he can’t smell them at all. We’ve had to teach him that his bowls may sometimes be where he can’t see or smell them. He seems to prefer his sense of smell over his sense of sight, but he relies on both to find his food.

Chase is the only cat with whom we’ve tried this, so we don’t know right now whether any of our other cats seem to rely more heavily on their sense of smell than any other senses. If the findings of this study are borne out in larger studies, then it’s possible that Chase is one of the more rare cats that prefers to use his sense of smell to find his food.

That would not be all that surprising, actually, because Chase is different from our other cats in lots of other ways, too.

Professor Mills did say, according to Science Daily, that more study is needed because this one was really small. However, this is also the first time we’ve actually “asked” cats what senses they prefer, when they can make that decision. Eventually, our whole understanding of how cats relate to the world might change. Or further study might just end up confirming what we already think we know.