What Eye Colors Can Cats Have?

Like humans, cat eye color is hereditary. Most cat eye colors range from shades of yellow to green to blue.

All cats start with blue eye color. All kittens have blue eyes until their adult eye color starts to develop around 6-7 weeks.

What Determines What Eye Color A Cat Has?

Some people mistakenly believe that the color of a cat’s eye is dictated by the breed or the color of the fur.

They believe that if a cat has dark fur, it will have dark eyes, and if a cat has a particular eye color, like green, all cats of that breed will have green eyes.

However, this is not the case. Melanin determines the color of a cat’s eye as it does in humans. The more melanin in the iris, the darker their eyes will be and vice versa.

Why Do All Kittens Have Blue Eyes And When Do They Develop Their Adult Eye Color?

When kittens are first born, they are blind and deaf.

When the kitten reaches a week old, they open their eyes. Young kittens have blue eyes.

When a kitten is born, the melanin cells present in the iris aren’t active enough to produce color, so their eyes appear cloudy blue in the first month. 

As the kittens get older, around 6 weeks, their eyes start to develop their adult color. By about four months old, most kittens will have fully developed their permanent eye color.

What Kinds Of Eye Colors Can Cats Have?

Now that you know how the color is determined and developed, here is a list of common and rare eye colors found in cats. 

1)      Blue Eyes

Cats can have blue eyes ranging from cloudy blue to deep blue color. As discussed above, blue eyes indicate a lack of melanin in a cat’s eyes. 

Even though the debate of the relation between fur and eye color is yet to be solved, it is reported that about 15-40% cats with light-colored fur or white fur have blue eyes.

Fun fact: The heavenly blue eyes aren’t actually blue but just a reflection of pigment-free iris.

 Breeds Of Cats That Can Have Distinctive Blue Eye Colors:

British Shorthair, Persian, American Shorthair, Balinese,  Ragdoll, Devon Rex, and Maine Coon

2)      Green Eyes

Just like blue-eyed cats, cats with green eyes have less amount of melanin.

You will see cats with variations of green color with a slight touch of yellow, blue, or gold in the iris.

A resting black cat with green eyes.
A black cat with green eyes. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

 Breeds Of Cats That Have Distinctive Green Eye Colors: 

Russian Blue cats, Egyptian Mau, Havana cats, and Norwegian Forest cats  

3)      Orange Eyes

Orange eyes stand out as unique and rare among most cats who mostly have green, blue, and yellow eyes.

Orange eye color is often confused with copper eye color which certain breeds, like the British Shorthair, are known for. Very few cats have eyes that are truly orange.

 Breeds Of Cats That Have Distinctive Eye Color:                           

Japanese Bobtail, Devon Rex,  Maine Coon, Turkish Van, and the American Wirehair

4)      Hazel Eyes

Wild and feral cats belonging to temperate zones possess this divine blend of gold, green and yellow color. The rarity of this color is 2 out of 10.  

 Breeds Of Cats That Have Distinctive Hazel Eye Colors:

Bengal, Cornish Rex, Abyssinian, Scottish Fold, and the Singapura

5)      Yellow Eyes

Cats can have a yellow color with different intensities depending on the melanin. Some have lemon yellow eyes, while those with higher melanin levels can have dark amber or yellow-gold eye color.  

A long-haired white cat with yellow eyes. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.
A long-haired white cat with yellow eyes. Photo: Caitlin Dempsey.

Breeds Of Cats That Have Distinctive Yellow Eye Colors:

Norwegian Forest Cat, Bengal, American Shorthair, LaPerm, British Shorthair, Bombay, Sphynx, and the Manx.

6)      Copper Eyes

The darkest color a cat can have is copper or shades of copper. British Shorthair cats are known for having brilliant copper and gold hued eyes.

A British Shorthair cat with copper eye color.
A British Shorthair cat with copper eye color. Photo: © Maksym Povozniuk / stock.adobe.com.

This eye color is pretty rare, and very few people get the chance to see a cat with this eye color.  There can be light patches of red, deep orange, yellow or green within their iris.

 Breeds Of Cats That Can Have Distinctive Copper Eye Colors:

 British Shorthair, Persian, Maine Coon, and the Japanese Bobtail 

7)      Cats with Two Different Colored Eyes

Many cats have different colored eyes due to some accidents, injuries, or genetics. However, that doesn’t mean that the cat is blind; their sight could be perfectly fine.

The condition of a cat having two different colored eyes is called heterochromia and is also known as  odd-eyed coloring.

A white cat with heterochromia.
A white cat with heterochromia. Photo: denis508/stock.adobe.com.

Having two eye colors is pretty rare in cats. Cats with two different eye colors mostly have a blue eye, and the other eye has a green or yellow color.  

 Breeds Of Cats That Can Have Distinctive Two-Colored Eyes:

White cats with the epistatic gene, Japanese Bobtail, Persian, and the Turkish Van

8)    Dichroic Eyes

When cats have a different amount of melanin in each iris, they have a blend of two colors in their eyes. This condition is known as dichromatic.  

The two colors can blend with each other in different ways. For example, some cats have both colors equally divided into their eye, while in some cats, they will have an eye with one color and a patch of the other color in the corner, bottom, or top.  

Conclusion

Among thousands of animal species, cats have stunning vertical iris with stunning colors. These colors are formed by melanin transferred in them by their ancestors.

References

Bergsma, D. R., & Brown, K. S. (1971). White fur, blue eyes, and deafness in the domestic cat. Journal of Heredity62(3), 171-183. https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/62.3.171

Hartwell, S. (2009). Eye colours. THE MESSYBEAST. http://messybeast.com/eye-colours.htm

Lorimer, H. (2007). Eye color in oriental Shorthairs (and other cats). Lorimer. https://helorimer.people.ysu.edu/eyecol.html

Staab, W. (2015, June 24). Hearing Health and Technology Matters. Wayne’s World. https://hearinghealthmatters.org/waynesworld/2015/white-cats/

Wilhelmy, J., Serpell, J., Brown, D., & Siracusa, C. (2016). Behavioral associations with breed, coat type, and eye color in single-breed cats. Journal of Veterinary Behavior13, 80-87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2016.03.009

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