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Cat Breeds

Is the Fabulous Purple-Eyed Cat a Preposterous Myth?

How often do you look in your cat’s eyes? You cat may not be comfortable gazing into your eyes for endless hours.

Nevertheless, the beauty of a cat’s eyes fascinates us and even inspires the artist in many of us.

Not only is the shape of a feline eye exotic and alluring, but the colors are intriguing and have a vivid intensity uncommon in nature.

Can cats have purple eyes? A cat does not have purple eyes in the way you imagine: a brilliant variation on blue that is the stuff of fairytales. The closest thing to a feline with purple eyes are the lilac eyes of rare albino cats.

What determines eye color in cats?

Eye color is linked to hereditary factors and sometimes coat color as is the case with many pets. These affect the degree of melanocyte production, responsible for producing melanin or pigmentation. Eye color encompasses the area around your cat’s pupil, the iris.

The activity level of the melanocytes will affect the shade of your cat’s eyes. A large percentage of functioning melanocytes leads to deeper and more intense shades. Melanocyte activity is hereditary.

Intense and pale shades of blue depend more on genetics and how light reflects off the lens and surface of the eye than melanocyte activity. Certain cats have breed-specific shades of blue in their eyes, such as the Siamese.

Orange or Gold

Orange, gold, or copper is the closest a healthy cat’s eye comes to brown. Orange reflects the highest degree of melanocyte activity. Your cat can show variations like lemon yellow or light amber.

Green or Hazel or Aqua

Green eyes, as you might guess, have lower numbers of melanocytes than gold eyes. High melanocyte activity will give your cat emerald or turquoise eyes. Lower functioning cells may generate a pale green or lime-colored shade.

Hazel eyes are a light shade of yellowish to brownish green and the most common eye color among wild cats who live in temperate areas.

According to The MessyBeast, Tonkinese standard calls for aqua eyes, which should call attention to the intermediate state between Siamese blue and Burmese orange or copper.

Blue

Blue eyes reflect the lowest number of melanocytes. All kittens, except some albinos, are born with blue eyes until their melanocytes become active.

Kittens begin to show their emerging adult eye color around six weeks of age. A cat’s final eye color becomes set by the time he or she turns three or four months old.

Ojos Azules, which literally means “Blue Eyes”, are dark-coated cats with cornflower blue eyes. It is a rare trait carried on a lethal gene. Kittens from the union of two blue-eyed cats of this breed are stillborn or suffer severe brain defects.

The Russian Topaz (Oji) cats are also solid-colored cats with blue eyes. Their eyes can be so blue as to be almost black and obscure the visibility of their pupils.

Some shades between the darkest blue and black may be the closest you can get to a naturally-occurring purple eye in cats. It is possible that a mutation will eventually result in a true purple-eyed cat.

This cat shows spontaneous blue mutation with eyes a similar color to a Russian Topaz cat’s. You can picture that some darker shades might look close to violet.

Ice blue eyes appear in some cats as a rare mutation as do white-haloed blue eyes.

Pink

Pink is extremely rare and is not considered a normal eye color for cats. Albino cats can exhibit an absence of any pigmentation in the eyes.

Most of them will still have pale blue eyes from blue refraction from the lens despite a pinkish iris.

If the transparent inner structures of the eyes besides the blood vessels are completely colorless, the iris will be pink.

Even rarer than pink eyes from albinism is pink-eyed dilution. Are you familiar with blue Dobermans?

Their blue coat color is the result of a genetic dilution. A similar phenomenon is extremely isolated in cats and turns a black coat grey or beige and the eyes pink or ruby red.

Heterochromia

Different-colored or odd eyes come in three different forms. It can be the result of genetics, a congenital defect, or from illness or injury.

Odd eyes – each eye is a different color. According to Wikipedia, It is most commonly observed in white cats that are not albinos. One eye will be blue and the other will be yellow, orange, hazel, or green. Purebred cats are more likely to have an orange or amber eye.

Eyes reflect differently at night – The tapetum lucidum is responsible for the reflection animals’ eyes show at night. For cats where it lacks pigment, it will reflect red instead of the normal green. Some cats show variation between the two eyes.

Dichroic – This is partial heterochromia where one or both eyes will exhibit multiple colors in a pie slice or halo pattern. 

Can cats have purple eyes?

While purple is not a normal eye color of cats, in some cases your pet’s eyes may look purple.

The purple eye phenomenon warrants a more in-depth discussion of blue eyes and albinism.

Blue Eyes in Cats

Blue eyes result from four major occurrences in cats.

  • Genetic mutation carried on a recessive gene – eg Ojo Azules
  • Masking of pigment – dominant gene of white cats
  • Absence of pigment – blue-eyed albinos, Siamese
  • Spontaneous mutation – blue eyes found in random cat populations

Albinism in cats

Truly albino cats occur rarely. They are completely devoid of pigmentation, with translucent skin and eyes reflecting the red or pink of underlying structures. 

According to the US National Library of Medicine, Albinism has been tied to a gene abnormality on the tyrosinase enzyme that controls melanin production.

Interestingly, the Siamese and related color-point cats have a heat-sensitive form of albinism, whereby their extremities or points are not affected by depigmentation. This unusual trait is also a mutation of tyrosinase.

Everyone is familiar with the distinctive, sometimes sapphire blue, of a Siamese cat’s eyes. In fact, all color-points related to the Siamese have blue eyes. It is part of their albinism. Some have pale eyes and others have deep royal blue shades.

In rare case, you may find a Siamese that is a full albino. In even rarer cases, that Siamese’s eyes with the red pupil and blue lens will reflect a dull purple or lavender hue to the iris. The eye color is an optical illusion.

Believe it or not, purple eyes are more common than pink eyes in cats. Unlike rats or rabbits, a cat’s eye structure naturally reflects more blue light. So in albino cats, the most common manifestation will be a pale blue or lilac iris.

Alexandria’s Genesis

Any talk of purple eyes would be remiss without mention of Alexandria’s Genesis.

According to Healthline, Alexandria’s Genesis was once promoted as a rare genetic condition whereby a perfect human could develop pale skin and purple eyes.

It became an urban legend around 2005, and spread to the feline circles, propagating a rash of rumors and videos of cats with purple eyes.

Summary

There are no purple-eyed cats in the classic sense. Brilliant periwinkle is not a shade you will see naturally occurring in your cat’s iris. A breeder cannot select for wine-colored eyes. A mutation is possible but has not been yet seen in cats.

Animals completely lacking in pigmentation have no choice but to reflect the color of their inner eye vessels or other structures. Most of the time this is red or pink.

Cats have been blessed with blue or violet-tinted inner eye structures. With the combination of the blue lens and red vessels from the pupil, albino cats can have purple eyes showing lavender to lilac hues in the right lighting.

This is particularly true in Siamese and their close relatives.

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