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Cats’ Eyes Matter

Cats’ Eyes Matter

Posted by Andrea on 25th Aug 2020

In Armarkat’s attempts to maintain political correctness, this week’s blog will focus on that mysterious, yet intriguing part of the feline anatomy, the eyes. Do you know what Kitty sees when she gets up after a cozy nap in her Armarkat cat bed? Do you know how she sees?

It may be a surprise to some, but what and how she sees is dependent on whether it is day or nighttime. Cats have super-hero vision at night. Their eyes are designed to clearly perceive objects that appear to us as practically invisible at night. They can identify much more than we can in almost complete and total darkness. However, if it is during the day, available light doesn’t contribute too much to their vision. Cats can see about as well as any aging human adult; not too great and not up close! Cats are far sighted. If you put a treat too near her face, she will find it by smell, never by sight.

Now, let’s look further into their astonishing eyes and see how their eye colors develop. The majority of cats have eyes that are shades of green, gold, and yellow or shades of orange, copper, or brown. What produces feline eye color is a combination of pigment in the iris and the degree of transparency of the outer eye. When cats’ eyes appear blue, it is from a lack of color in the iris in combination with the refraction of light. Blue is a non-color, and this is why all cats are born with blue eyes.

When first born, a kitten’s eyes are not fully developed so they are tightly shut. Their senses of touch and smell enable them to get the needed nutrition from their mother that will complete the development of their eyes. By the time the eyes open and their blurry vision is beginning, kittens are between 5 and 7 weeks old. During these first weeks that Kitty is learning to see, her eyes are always blue. Again, in terms of cats eyes, they are colorless because this hue is simply the color of the light refracted from their corneas. Around weeks 6 and 7, their eyes are mature enough to produce melanin. This is the pigment responsible for giving the eyes their adult color. How much melanin there is determines the shade and density of eye pigmentation, i.e. light green through dark brown on the spectrum of cat eye colors.

Exceptions to this rule are blue eyed cats as well as odd eyed cats, which are those with eyes of two different colors. Adult cats with blue eyes have little to no melanin. Color point cats remain blue eyed as adults. Their ancestors are the Siamese. Among the descendent breeds are the Birmans, the Himalayans, the Ragdolls, and the Tonkinese. Their distinctive coat markings, with the darker tails, limbs, ears, and masks are a result of partial albinism in their genetic code.

For cats with white coats or bi-colored coats, they are not necessarily albinos. To distinguish true albinos, these white cats will have eye colors ranging from the pinks to the palest of blues. Like the blue eyes, the pink is not a color tint but a reflection, in this case, of the blood vessels on the inside the eyeball.

Cats are certainly amongst the most fascinating creatures. Remember, they are built to be nocturnal predators, so their eyes are made to detect even the slightest movements in the lowest levels of light. When we adopt them, they tend to have already grown into their unique eye colors. But, if you are able to be there to observe as a cat’s eyes develop, consider yourself lucky to be witness to a unique feline adaptation process as it unfolds.

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