Many cat owners wonder if it’s possible for black and white cats to have green eyes. The short answer is yes, it is possible but quite rare. A cat’s eye color is determined by genetics, with green being one of the rarest eye colors overall for cats. However, there are some specific genetic circumstances that can lead to a black and white cat having striking green eyes. Let’s take a closer look at how cat eye color genetics work and the various factors that influence whether a black and white cat can have green peepers.
How Cat Eye Color Genetics Work
A cat’s eye color is determined by the amount and type of melanin pigment present in their irises. Melanin comes in two forms:
Eumelanin – A brown/black pigment
Pheomelanin – A reddish/yellow pigment
The specific combination and concentration of these melanins produces different eye colors:
Low melanin overall|
Low eumelanin, medium pheomelanin|
Medium eumelanin, medium pheomelanin|
Low eumelanin, high pheomelanin|
Medium-high eumelanin, high pheomelanin|
High eumelanin, high pheomelanin|
Different melanin levels in each eye|
As you can see, green eyes result from a deficiency in the dark eumelanin pigment along with medium levels of reddish pheomelanin. This combination dilutes out the brown coloring and allows the yellow-green hue to shine through.
The White Spotting Gene
In order for a black and white cat to display green eyes, it must have inherited two copies of the white spotting gene, technically known as the piebald gene. This gene restricts melanin production to certain areas of the body, resulting in white fur patches. On the body, it produces the black and white coat. But in the eyes, it can inhibit melanin enough to reveal green irises.
The white spotting gene essentially “turns off” pigment production in symmetrical areas. That’s why bi-colored cats often have white paws, chests, bellies, and faces – these areas lack melanin. The degree of white spotting depends on the specific variation of the gene. The dominant form produces minimal white areas, while two copies of the recessive piebald gene result in a mostly white coat with black patches (like tuxedo cats).
The Importance of Genetic Variants
However, the white spotting gene alone doesn’t guarantee green eyes. The specifics of the genetic variant also matter. For instance, the extreme white piebald variant called S(i)amese restricts melanin production more dramatically. This allows green eyes to appear in cats with high amounts of white fur.
Other genetic modifiers also influence eye color. The amber gene suppresses melanin production, while the color-inhibiting gene called inhibitor further reduces pigment. Certain variants of these dilute genes are more likely to produce green eyes when combined with the piebald white spotting gene.
Breeds That Can Have Green Eyes
Because specific genetic circumstances are required, green eyes are quite uncommon overall in cats. However, certain breeds are more likely to display green peepers:
A naturally occurring breed with a high prevalence of green eyes. They often have white fur and heterochromia (odd-eyed).|
Another naturally occurring breed prone to having green eyes, especially the Mi-Ke (tri-color) variety.|
The extreme white piebald gene common in Siamese produces blue eyes but sometimes green.|
A Siamese hybrid breed that can inherit green eyes from their Siamese ancestry.|
This tuxedo breed purposely bred for white paws and facial markings tends to display blue or green eyes.|
The colorpoint pattern in Himalayans, Ragdolls, etc. involves the piebald gene and increases the odds of blue-green eyes.|
So cats that possess high amounts of white spotting, point coloration, and/or are predisposed to dilute eye colors have the best chance of exhibiting green peepers.
Why Green Eyes Are Rare in Cats
Even in breeds where green eyes are possible, they remain relatively uncommon. Here are some reasons why:
– Multiple genetic factors must align perfectly to minimize dark pigment enough for green to show through.
– Random inheriting of eye colors – kittens in the same litter can have different eye colors.
– Breeding preference for brilliant blue eyes over muddy-looking green.
– Lack of selective breeding specifically for green eyes.
– Dominance of the amber gene that suppresses green color.
– Strict show standards disallowing green eyes in some breeds.
So the rarity of green is due to low odds of inheriting the right genotype, breed standards limiting green, and preference for brighter blue shades.
Are Green Eyes Linked to Health/Behavior Issues?
Some people mistakenly believe that green eyes in cats are associated with health or behavior issues. However, there is no scientific evidence linking feline eye color to disease or temperament. The misconception may stem from the use of the word “odd” to describe cats with two different eye colors. But being odd-eyed is simply a benign congenital condition.
The only disorder associated with eye color in cats is deafness, which can occur in white cats with blue eyes due to lack of pigment cells. But deafness has not been linked to green eyes specifically. The genes influencing eye color are independent from those affecting health or personality. So while a green-eyed cat may display problematic traits, this is purely coincidence and not causally related to eye pigmentation.
While relatively uncommon, black and white cats can indeed have stunning green eyes with the right genetic recipe. A piebald coat along with dilute color genes allows the yellowish-green hue to emerge. This unusual eye color is prized as a special rarity in breeds predisposed to green. However, specific breeding is required to produce green-eyed cats, as the genetic circumstances need to be just right. So a black and white kitty with brilliant green eyes should be appreciated as quite the special genetic feat!