When we think of cats’ eyes, we usually picture eyes of green, blue or amber. But once in a while, we encounter cats with 2 different-colored eyes.
People are sometimes said to have “cats’ eyes” because of the variation in their eye colors, but cats with this condition are often called “odd-eyed.”
What is this cat eye condition, and what causes it? It’s technically known as heterochromia iridis, the Greek term for “differently colored irises.”
The amount of melanin — the pigment that turns our own skin darker when we get a suntan — determines eye color in both humans and cats. The white or white-spotted gene found in some cats is normally the cause of heterochromia in them.
All kittens are born with blue eyes. As the kitten grows, melanin moves into the iris of the eyes. When the kitty reaches 7 to 12 weeks old, her eyes will become the color they will remain. If melanin does not move in, she will keep her blue eyes. If the melanin pigment reaches only 1 eye, the result will be 1 blue eye and 1 yellow, green or brown eye.
Partial heterochromia occurs when one iris has more than 1 color, while complete heterochromia results when the iris of 1 eye is different in color from the other eye.
Cats With 2 Different-Colored Eyes
Some cat breeds are more likely to develop complete heterochromia. Among these are the Turkish angora, Japanese bobtail and Turkish van. More often than not, complete heterochromia occurs in white cats or in cats with the white spotted gene, which can occur in cats of any color.
Although heterochromia does not have symptoms, it can be an indication of genetic change, injury or previous disease. Every so often, deafness in 1 or both ears accompanies heterochromia in cats. However, 60 to 70 percent of these “odd-eyed” cats have no hearing problems. Genetic heterochromia can occur not only in white cats but also in those who have no white fur on their bodies.
Check out this quick video of a cat with different-colored eyes:
Should You Be Worried? Probably Not.
Cause for concern surfaces when an older cat develops heterochromia. This could be caused by a buildup of blood or iron within the chamber nearest to the front of the eye. So if your mature cat’s eyes suddenly change colors, consult with your veterinarian.
Having eyes of different colors will not interfere with your kitty’s natural instincts of looking, leaping, lazing and lunging. Her “eye-catching” eyes can see things as clearly as you can — maybe even better.
Although kittens are perfectly fine with changing eye colors, keep in mind that a gradual change in an older cat’s eye colors should be checked by your veterinarian.
Oh, and by the way, although many people think singer David Bowie has different eye colors, heterochromia iridis is not the cause. He actually has a permanently dilated pupil in one eye, an injury from a teenage brawl. So cats with 2 different-colored eyes don’t technically “look like David Bowie,” but they’re still rock stars in their own right!
Photos (top to bottom): Dave Baker/Petful; Mehran Heidarzadeh/Flickr; handout photo