Cream and white colored cats are considered to be rather rare compared to other coat colors and patterns. The exact prevalence of these colorations is difficult to determine, but they do appear much less frequently than more common colors like black, tabby, and orange. There are a few key reasons why cream and white cats are less common than other feline colorations.
Genetics of Cream and White Cats
The genes responsible for cream and white coat colors in cats are recessive. This means that two copies of the relevant gene must be present for the trait to be expressed. If a cat inherits only one copy, the recessive coloration will remain hidden behind a more dominant coat color gene.
For a cat to have a cream or white coat, they must inherit two copies of the dominant white gene (W) and two copies of the dilute gene (dd). The dominant white gene inhibits the production of skin pigment, resulting in a mostly white coat. The dilute gene dilutes any remaining pigment to a pale cream shade.
Dominant White Gene
The dominant white gene (W) prevents melanocytes, the pigment producing cells in skin and fur, from migrating and proliferating normally during development. This results in a lack of pigment over much of the body. However, dominant white is incompletely dominant, so cats with just one copy of the gene often have some minor spotting. Only with two copies does the white coat become extensive.
The dilute gene (dd) dilutes black pigment to gray and orange pigment to cream when two recessive copies are present. Just one copy has little effect on coat color. When combined with two copies of the white gene, the dilute gene reduces any remaining pigment on a mostly white cat to a pale cream shade.
Prevalence of Recessive White and Dilute
Since two recessive genes are needed for a cream or white coat, these colors occur less frequently than dominantly inherited patterns like tabby.
The dominant white gene is not extremely rare and appears in various breeds. However, randomly inheriting two copies in non-selectively bred cats is uncommon. Estimates suggest about 1 in 3000 cats carry two copies.
The dilute gene is similarly not rare, but inheriting two copies occurs in only about 1 in 100 cats. To inherit both recessive genes, the chance is around 1 in 300,000. Selective breeding in some breeds has increased the numbers of cream and white cats. But in the general population, they remain quite rare.
Breeds that Exhibit Cream and White
While unusual in random-bred cats, some specific breeds exhibit a higher incidence of cream and white coats due to selective breeding.
Turkish Angoras frequently have a cream or white coat. The breed has a high frequency of the dominant white gene, which was likely selected for centuries ago. Their long silky fur shows off pale dilute colors like cream particularly well.
The Cornish Rex breed has a relatively high number of cream and white individuals, again due to selection for the recessive dilute and white genes. Their short, wispy coat allows even subtle shading and patches to remain visible.
Persians are perhaps best known for their long fluffy white coats. By selectively breeding white cats, Persians ended up with a high proportion of the recessive white gene. Persians with orange pigment produce lovely cream colored coats when combined with the dilute gene.
While not as common, some Sphynx cats exhibit a creamy white coat. Their lack of fur allows their pinkish skin to show through for a unique look. The hairless nature of the breed allows even subtle shading to remain visible.
Why Cream and White Cats Are Prized
Now that cat fanciers have developed breeds that frequently produce cream or white cats, they have become highly desirable to enthusiasts. Here are some reasons why these rare coats are so prized:
- Unique and exotic appearance
- Eye-catching pale coat
- Often have bright blue or odd-eyes
- Associated with luxury breeds like Persians and Angoras
- Calm, friendly temperament stereotype
Many believe white cats in particular have a docile personality compared to more vibrantly colored felines. While not always true, this stereotype has added to their popularity. Their stunning coats and eye colors also appeal greatly to cat lovers.
Health Issues in White Cats
While beautiful, some health issues can occur more frequently in cats with the dominant white gene.
Deafness is the most common issue seen in white cats. Around 20% of white cats with two copies of the W gene are born deaf, likely due to the improper migration of cells in the inner ear.
Sunburn and Skin Cancer
Without protective pigment in the skin, white cats are vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer on their ears and noses. Keeping them indoors helps reduce these risks.
Around 25% of white cats with normal hearing have odd-colored eyes – one blue and one golden, green, or orange. This appears tied to the dominant white gene disrupting melanin production.
Some studies have found white cats may be at slightly increased risk of aggression issues compared to other coat colors. However, this is not found in all lines. Proper socialization reduces any risk.
Caring for Cream and White Cats
Here are some tips for providing excellent care for cats with cream and white coats:
Pale coats show dirt, wax, and oil build up readily. Daily brushing maintains their beautiful appearance. Periodic bathing may also be needed.
Check and gently clean your cat’s ears weekly. White cats are prone to visible wax in their pale ear canals.
Examine your cat’s nose and ears often for any signs of redness or sores that could indicate sunburn or cancer. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to vulnerable areas before time outdoors.
Keeping your white or cream cat indoors protects their sensitive skin from sun damage. It also reduces their risk of injuries or deafness complications. Install catios or leash train for safe outdoor time.
Have your cream or white cat tested for deafness as a kitten. Also discuss any other potential health issues with your vet. Stay up to date on exams to monitor vulnerable areas.
Cream and white coats are rare in the general cat population due to requiring two copies each of the recessive dominant white and dilute genes. But selective breeding in some breeds like Turkish Angoras and Persians has made them more obtainable for enthusiasts. These eye-catching pale coats remain highly desirable. But they require some extra care such as vigilant sun protection, grooming, and deafness testing. With proper measures, cream and white cats can live long healthy lives and make stunning additions to any cat lover’s home.