An odd-eyed cat is a cat with one blue eye and one green, yellow or brown eye. It is a feline form of complete heterochromia, a condition which occurs in some other animals. The condition most commonly affects white colored cats but can be found in a cat of any color, as long as it possesses the white spotting gene.
The odd-eyed coloring is caused when either the epistatic (dominant) white gene (which masks any other color genes and turns a cat completely white) or the white spotting gene (which is the gene responsible for bicolor and tuxedo cats) prevents melanin (pigment) granules from reaching one eye during development, resulting in a cat with one blue eye and one green, yellow or brown eye. It only rarely occurs in cats that lack both the dominant white and the white spotting gene.
As all cats are blue-eyed as kittens, the differences in an odd-eyed kitten's eye color might not be noticeable save upon close inspection. Odd-eyed kittens have a different shade of blue in one eye. The color of the odd eye changes over a period of months, for example, from blue to green to yellow or from green to blue to yellow, until it reaches its final, adult color.
Cultural reactions and folklore
In 1917, the government of Turkey, in conjunction with the Ankara Zoo, began a meticulous breeding program to preserve and protect pure white Turkish Angora cats with blue and amber eyes, a program that continues today, as they are considered a national treasure. The zoo specifically prized the odd-eyed Angoras that had one blue eye and one amber eye, as the Turkish folklore suggests that "the eyes must be as green as the lake and as blue as the sky." The mascot of the 2010 FIBA World Championship, hosted by Turkey, was an anthropomorphized odd-eyed Van Cat named "Bascat".
Muhammad's pet Angora, Muezza, was reputed to be an odd-eyed cat.
Deafness in odd-eyed cats
There is a common misconception that all odd-eyed cats are born deaf in one ear. This is not true, as about 60%–70% of odd-eyed cats can hear. About 10%–20% of normal-eyed cats are born deaf or become deaf as part of the feline aging process. White cats with one or two blue eyes do, however, have a higher incidence of genetic deafness, with the white gene occasionally causing the degeneration of the cochlea, beginning a few days after birth. See also deafness in white cats.
Eyeshine and red-eye effect
In flash photographs, odd-eyed cats typically show a red-eye effect in the blue eye but not in the other eye. This is due to the combined effect of the (normal) presence of a tapetum lucidum in both eyes and the absence of melanin in the blue eye. The tapetum lucidum produces eyeshine in both eyes but in the non-blue eye a layer of melanin over the tapetum lucidum selectively removes some colors of light.
- Foster, Race and Smith, Marty, (DVMs), Heterochromia, A-Z Health Library, Purina-One. Retrieved February 2007.
- Foster, Race and Smith, Marty (DVMs), Heterochromia: Eye Color, Peteducation.com. Retrieved February 2007.
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- Hartwell, Sarah. Beautiful Bi-colours: Tuxedo and Magpie cats, Messybeast.com. Retrieved February 2007.
- Hints for Determining Cat Color, The Cat Fanciers Association, . Retrieved February 2007.
- Turkish Angora, Cats United International. Retrieved February 2007.
- Helgren, Anne. Turkish Angora, Iams. Retrieved February 2007.
- Hartwell, Sarah. Experimental & Unusual Cat Breeds - A, PetPeoplesPlace.com. Retrieved February 2007.
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- 2010 FIBA World Championship Event Guide: Mascot. FIBA. Retrieved on 2010-09-12.
- Bruce Fogle, The New Encyclopedia of the Cat ISBN 0789480212, "Longhair - Japanese Bobtail"
- Starbuck, Orcan and Thomas, David. Cat Color FAQS: Cat Color Genetics, CatFanciers.com. Retrieved February 2007
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