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Health Issues & White Cats

Casper is a healthy male who was rescued with his sister Lily by the SPCA. His health and personality blossomed after adoption.

Casper is a healthy male who was rescued with his sister Lily by the SPCA. His health and personality blossomed after adoption.

White cats are stunning, rare and you must pardon our insistence that white cats are probably the most beautifully colored of all cats. But, it’s not all about the color really. Among the top favorite colors in the world, white is ninth on the list (blue snags the top spot).

Nonetheless, the pristine beauty of the white coat often complemented by sparkling colored eyes can unarguably make you want to tear up in awe.

That said, white cats make up a tiny percentage of the general domestic cat population. This rarity may be one of the reasons why people often rely on inaccurate stereotypes, conjectures, and anecdotes as the basis of their knowledge about white cats.

This article aims to set the record straight on many white cat-related issues. And more importantly provide comprehensive information about our white fluffy companions.

Percentage of White Cats

Earlier on, I referred to white cats being a minority. You’ve probably already observed that. But do not know specifically how rare white cats are.

Now, there aren’t many standard books and scholarly reports about the prevalence of white cats. However, some sources have tried to pin a number on it. Some sources estimates it may be as low as 2% while other studies show that it may be as high as 5%. Regardless, the percentage is low and this rarity means that white cats can be particularly mysterious and unusual to see as they are so rare.

Eye Color Variation in White Cats

While the population of white cats may be low, the color variation of the eyes of white cats is widely known. Typically, the eye color may be blue, green, golden (hazel), or pink.

Sometimes though, each eye may have different colors. The common name for this is “odd eyes,” while the technical name is heterochromia.
In general, white cats like colored cats may succumb to any of over a dozen ailments. However, two health issues are prevalent for white cats. If you’re looking to get a white cat, then I cannot overemphasize the importance of being abreast of these health issues.

White Cats and Deafness

wcw-white-cat-with-big-earsThis is perhaps the most well-known health issue with white cats. It is so prevalent that many believe that all white cats [with blue eyes] are deaf.

This is not accurate.

The link between white cats and deafness appears to be a triangle, with blue eyes being the connecting angle.

You see, white cats lack melanin, which typically gives color to your hair and skin. Clearly, white cats lack melanin in their skin. In addition, white cats (especially white cats with blue eyes) also lack melanin in the irises of their eyes. Which is one reason why the eyes are blue.

However, the more important fact is that the stem cells that should turn into melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) are also the stem cells responsible for turning into a cell layer in the inner ear that is vital for hearing.

Since, these cats do not have these stem cells (evident by their lack of melanin), they also do not have this vital cell layer that should be in the inner ear. This absence is the cause of the deafness associated with white cats and blue eyes.

The keyword is associated because different genes cause blue eyes and white coat. Although, a particular gene/gene complex causes white coat, blue eyes, and deafness, not all cats get their white coat and blue eyes from this particular gene.

Therefore, the probability that a cat is white, blue-eyed, and deaf depends wholly on the genes the cat inherits and not just the appearance.

That said, when a cat is diagnosed to be deaf. It may be deaf in both ears or in just one ear. Often times, an odd-eyed white cat with one blue eye may be deaf in the blue-eyed side.

What the statistics say

  1. Of the 2-5% of cats that are white, 15-40% have at least one blue eye.
  2. Of this percentage, 60-80% are deaf.
  3. 30-40% of white cats with blue eyes are deaf.
  4. Only 10-20% of white cats with non-blue eyes are deaf.

White Cats and Skin Cancer

The melanin deficiency in white cats uncovers another surprise. That white cats can’t tolerate sun light as much as colored cats. It’s a fact that you have to take seriously. Because if you do not, repeated exposure to sunlight can cause squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that is painful and prevalent in areas of the skin where there aren’t much hairs—ears, eyelids, and nose. Treatment can often involve freezing the nose or lopping off the ear. It can also be fatal if it is not diagnosed early enough.

It’s an avoidable condition, so it’s best to keep white cats indoors.

Caring for White Cats
For starters, white cats do not belong to only one specific breed of cats. A white cat may belong to any of several cat breeds. This can be worthy of note when caring for a white cat, especially if the breed has peculiar cattitudes and cattributes.

Regardless of breeds, there seem to be an arguable consensus that white cats have a timid, aloof, shy, or lazy personality. It’s arguable because while some studies establish a link between a cat’s coat color and personality, others do not.

However, an explanation for this unflattering consensus is that white cats that fit this personality like a glove are often white cats that are partially or completely deaf. This can be frustrating in social interactions with your cat.

This can actually transcend from being frustrating to dangerous, as deaf cats are considerably vulnerable to attacks by predators. It can also be a secondary reason to keep your cats from going outdoors to avoid any unsavory accident.

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10 Cat Symptoms That Need A Vet

If your dear kitty has any of these symptoms you really should get that precious cargo down to the vet right away. Unless you work at home or are at home all day with your cat you’ll need to understand that felines are notorious for hiding out and doing their own thing, usually napping, all day.

Cats do a much better job at hiding sickness and pain compared to dogs or humans. Cats can be suffering without giving much of an indication that anything is wrong so it is important to keep vigilant to any symptoms that might indicate something is amiss. Don’t be shy about contacting your vet about any health issues you might suspect are wrong with your cat, sometimes a cat can go from bad to worse within a few hours and the difference between saving the cat and losing your friend is really a matter of hours or days.

1. Vomiting
Hairballs are common with cats, they lick and swallow hair from their grooming and it creates balls of fur in their tummy that comes up as a hairball. The sound of a cat coughing up a hairball is quite common but if your cat is vomiting any sort of liquid or food it could mean that there is something wrong.

2. Diarrhea or Strange Pooping
Diarrhea in any creature can be a warning sign; it could be something as benign as an upset stomach or reaction to food but liquid poops can be caused by a parasite, virus, or even indicate the early signs of cancer. If your cat has diarrhea that is more than just an isolated case of the shits,  it is important that you get your cat to the vet immediately for treatment.

Sometimes a cat will go to the bathroom in the hallway or outside of the litter box to try and tell you something is wrong. Inspect and turds that are left outside of the litter box as they might have worms in the feces which can be identified by the vet. Cats can’t speak our language so often any odd behavior is a method of communication for the cat.

3. Cat refuses to eat for days on end
Sometimes the introduction of a new food can cause your cat to turn up her snout at the bowl she used to gallop towards. When changing foods always do a gradual change from the familiar brand to the new blend. If your cathas an abnormal appetite for one day it could be a non event;  however if your cat refuses to eat for several days in a row , or seems “off” at meal time, this may be a symptom of illness. Contact your vet.

4. Bleeding
Unless your cat has been in a fight with another animal bleeding is not normal , especially if there are no visible marks; if bleeding occurs from any orifice or is visible in the poop take the cat immediately to the vet.

5. Unusual bad breath
Some cats seem prone to halitosis. Just like people and dogs, proper dental care is important for healthy gums and teeth. Cats can have a strong breath smell due to their cleaning habits and their diet. Feeding them a good quality food can help and adding breath freshening liquids to their water bowl can also help, just like a mouthwash can help your husband in the morning! If the breath of the cat is unusually bad this could be a sign of disease that is beyond just the dental hygiene. This should not be ignored and should be looked at by a vet as soon as possible. Cats can go to the dentist as well and you will improve the quality of life of your cat by taking care of their fangs and chompers!

6. Thirst
Cats like to drink and it’s important to provide clean fresh water for them but if your cat is drinking much more than normal and there is no change in the air  temperature or activity levels then any excess thirst could be a sign of diabetes or other diseases; this should be checked out if the cats craving for water or liquids continues.

7. Cat Walking Funny
You’re probably used to the elegant gait of your cat as she struts down the hallway or across the lawn. If your cat suddenly starts walking funny, limping, or has obvious signs of physical distress it could be a broken bone. Cats cat fall from high places and land safely on their feet but impact with an object while falling or a closing door or falling heavy object can break a cats bone. If your cat appears to be in  in pain and has trouble moving or walking it could mean a bone has been damaged; broken bones need to be treated by a professional so call the vet right away.

8. Unusual walking patterns
If your cat seems confused or has an unusual pattern when they walk  they may be sick, if the symptoms continue seek the help of a vet.

White kitten visiting vet for check up. Regular visits to the vet are the best way to keep your friend healthy! Photo licensed via Adobe Stock Images.

9. Gargling Breathing Sounds
If your cat exhibits odd breathing patterns or sounds short of breath it could be a sign of a lung condition or a cancer. Your vet can offer steroid treatments or specific medications for your cat but time is of the essence. If your cat sounds like their may be water in the lungs then you should contact your vet immediately.

10. Your Cat Is Trying To Tell You Something Is Wrong
Cats communicate on a different level; they use body language and eye contact to create a dialogue and express emotions. Understanding this animal communication is not easy but you should listen to your instincts if you feel your cat is trying to express any discomfort or problem. If you suddenly feel that, for some reason, your cat is telling you something is wrong with them, don’t disregard this intuition. Keep an eye on your cat if you have some ‘flash’ that something is wrong with them as it might be them trying to communicate to you beyond language and reason.

One morning, we had a cat who showed sudden signs of being ill, and needed to be taken to the vet because of a strange breathing condition. We dropped him off at the vet for tests and went for a walk to wait. While we walked I told my wife that I had felt something was wrong with our cat by the way he was looking at me the night before; he has seemed to be looking strange but didn’t show any symptoms of distress. A few hours later the vet called to say we needed to come immediately because our cat was dying. When we got to the vet our cat was dead.

We were heartbroken, of course, but I think back on the night before when our cat had looked at me and I felt something was wrong but didn’t react to my intuition. I am saddened to think that if I would have listened to my gut that night I would have taken him to the vet right away and maybe they could have saved him.