The albinos cats are not simply happen to be white kittens. Albino cats are very rare, and only two percent of all cats are albino. Albino cats also require different care than a white cat. Here’s everything you need to know about albino cats.
Albino cats have a genetic alteration that makes them different from all other cats, including white cats. Albinism is caused by a gene called TYR. The TYR gene determines the presence of tyrosinase, an enzyme that the body needs to make melanin. An albino cat is born with a damaged or missing TYR gene. Melanin is the pigment that determines the color of a cat’s eyes, skin, and coat. This lack of melanin is what makes cats albinos.
What exactly is an albino cat?
Let’s start with the basics and make it as understandable as possible. Albinism is a genetic condition in which there is a complete lack of color or pigmentation. For a kitten to be born as a true albino cat, both the mother and the father must carry the genetic marker for albinism. When a white cat has a white coat, the cat is generally, in most other respects, a perfectly normal cat. An albino cat’s coat may appear white, but closer inspection, particularly of the eyes and fur, reveals a number of differences.
The first, easiest and most important distinction between a white cat and an albino cat can be found in the eyes. White cats tend to have a range of eye colors, including the always intriguing heterochromia, or “strange eye,” in which the two eyes are different colors. On the other hand, the eyes of albino cats have a very limited spectrum due to the total lack of pigmentation. The eyes of a true albino cat are limited to a very pale blue, or they can appear pinkish or pinkish blue.
Here, the pink color is not itself a color, but an excess of light that reflects the blood vessels within the eye. The same can be said for the albino cat’s fur. Looking even closer, an albino cat’s fur is also lacking in pigmentation. The more visible skin, nose, and inner ears can appear pink to pale pink. Again, this is not an inherent skin color, but rather a trick of light that reflects the flow of blood.
Characteristics of the albino cat
An albino cat is not just a white cat; is a cat that suffers from a genetic condition called albinism. On the other hand, a white cat turns white if the gene for white coloration is passed on, since it is dominant over other colors. A cat is only affected by albinism if both parents carry the genetic marker for albinism. This condition means that a cat has a complete lack of pigmentation. This not only means that the cat has fur that appears white, it also has a number of characteristics that differentiate it from a cat that is simply a white cat.
The first of these characteristics is its eyes. A cat in a white coat can have eyes of any color and can even have eyes of two different colors. This is not the case with an albino cat as his eyes will always be pale blue or an unusual pinkish blue. This limited spectrum of colors is due to its lack of pigmentation. If the eyes appear pink, it is not actually the color of the eyes. The illusion of color is created because excess light is reflected off the blood vessels within the eye.
Another difference is that an albino cat also has a lack of pigmentation in its skin. This is most obvious in areas like the nose and ears. These appear to be a very pale pink. Like the eyes, this is not their actual color, but rather a trick of the light, as the cat’s blood flow is reflected through the skin.
Degrees of albinism
Those are the basics for true albinos, which are rare. However, partial albinism is much more common than you think. One surprising thing I learned was that certain members of the so-called “eastern” family of cats, including Siamese, Burmese, and Tonkinese, get their distinctive “spiky” coloration from a species of partial genetic inheritance from albinos.
A color layer is one in which the color tends to concentrate in certain areas. Color concentration is heat dependent, and pigmentation develops in cooler areas, while warmer areas remain much lighter in comparison. Cats with colored tips, at least those developed from Siamese twins, including the Thai cat, are born white and develop their color patterns as they age.
Albino cats are sensitive to light
The lack of pigmentation in true albino cats is due to their inability to produce melanin. Melanin does more than contribute to skin tone. In cats, as well as other creatures, including humans, melanin has a number of functions. For cats, melanin colors their skin, coat, and eyes. Only in the eyes, it also helps in deep perception. On a more holistic level, it helps the body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
Most importantly, the role of melanin in coloring eyes, skin and coat, and the complete lack of it in albino cats, means that they are highly sensitive to light. Albino cats may not have other associated health problems, but direct sunlight is detrimental to their vision and can be destructive to their skin with prolonged exposure. Albino cat owners should be very cautious about their cat’s access to direct sunlight.
Myths about white cats and albino cats
The only real similarity between cats with white fur and albino cats is the apparent color of the fur. In albinos, of course, white is just an appearance attributed to their lack of color. White cats have white coats because the gene for white fur trumps all other potential colors. Over the years, some myths about white fur cats have been unfairly assigned to albino cats by an association, coat color, which is itself false. One of those myths that appears frequently links blue eyes, white cats and deafness.
In the final edition of The Origin of Species published during his lifetime (1872), Charles Darwin notes that “some cases of correlation are quite capricious; therefore, cats that are completely white and have blue eyes are generally deaf. As he says, it was popular nonsense even in the 19th century.
Modern science shows that while there may be a higher incidence of hearing loss in white cats, the genes that govern white coat, eye color, and hearing are different, and that it occurs in both male and female cats. Since albino cats are not white to begin with, the notion that there is a causal link between albinism and deafness is equally fallacious.
How to tell an albino cat from a white cat
Albino cats will have pinkish skin along with eyes that can range from a very light blue to a shade of reddish pink. Pink is not the actual color of the skin, but the blood flow that reflects the light. The same goes for albino cat eyes. The lack of melanin allows the reflection of light to play a trick, reflecting the blood vessels in an albino cat’s eyes.
White cats can have eyes of any color and can even have heterochromia , or two different colored eyes . Albino cats do not have the melanin to produce a range of eye colors, such as gold, green, or brown.
True albino cats follow the above requirements. However, there are degrees of albinism. Partial albinism is much more common than you think. In fact, cats such as Siamese, Burmese, and Tonkinese get their marked coloration from a partial albino genetic lineage.
Albino cat health
- Albino kittens need a bit more TLC when it comes to keeping them healthy.
- Albino cats are sensitive to light. Due to their lack of melanin, albino cats are especially sensitive to sunlight. If you have an albino cat, be sure to watch his time in direct sunlight. Albino cats are more prone to sun damage and skin cancer because of this.
- Albino cats canalso suffer eye damage from sunlight . Again, the lack of melanin leaves the eyes defenseless against UV rays and can cause blindness in an albino cat.
- Albino cats can suffer from problems with the immune system. Melanin is also important for keeping the immune systems of cats and humans strong. Albino cats can be more susceptible to disease or immunodeficiencies because of this.
- Albino cats, if bred for albinism, canalso be prone to general health problems . The albino kittens that are raised come from a short-lived breed of albino cats, making them more prone to developing health problems that may not be as big of a threat to a white cat.
- Albino cats canalso be a bit clumsy . This is thanks once again to its lack of melanin. Melanin aids deep perception, which is why albino cats may trip over things occasionally.
Are albino cats deaf?
Albino cats are sometimes given the stigma that they are more prone to deafness or hearing impairments. Some studies show that white cats are harder to hear than other cats. Some mistake albino cats for white cats and assume it must be the same. There is no evidence that albino cats are more prone to deafness than white cats.
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