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Is heterochromia normal in cats?

Heterochromia, where an animal has different colored eyes, is a rare but interesting condition in cats. In this article, we’ll explore what heterochromia is, what causes it, and whether it’s considered normal or abnormal in cats.

What is heterochromia?

Heterochromia refers to an animal having two different colored eyes. It is caused by a difference in melanin pigment between the two eyes.

In cats, the most common form of heterochromia is complete heterochromia. This is where one eye is blue and the other is orange or copper colored. However, there are other variations:

  • Central heterochromia: There is an inner ring of a different color around the pupil.
  • Iris heterochromia: Part of the iris is a different color.
  • Partial heterochromia: Splashes of different color in part of the iris.

Heterochromia may affect one or both eyes. In cats, it almost always affects both eyes.

What causes heterochromia in cats?

There are a few possible causes of heterochromia in cats:

  • Genetics: Some cat breeds are predisposed to heterochromia due to selective breeding. This includes breeds like Turkish Vans, Odd-eyed cats, and Turkish Angoras. The gene responsible is not fully understood but appears to be inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion.
  • Congenital defects: Issues during fetal development can affect melanin production and result in heterochromia. For example, if the melanin producing cells don’t migrate properly to one eye.
  • Injuries: Physical trauma to one eye can cause inflammation and a subsequent change in iris pigmentation. For example, an ulcer or eye infection early in life.
  • Diseases: Certain health conditions may be associated with heterochromia, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and cancer.

Is heterochromia normal in cats?

Whether heterochromia is considered normal or abnormal depends on the cause:

  • In breeds predisposed to inherited heterochromia, it is considered genetically normal. It is not something to be concerned about health-wise in these breeds.
  • If caused by a health condition like glaucoma, heterochromia would be considered abnormal. Veterinary assessment is recommended.
  • If caused by congenital developmental issues, it would be considered abnormal. However, the cat may have normal vision and health otherwise.
  • Trauma-induced heterochromia is abnormal but does not necessarily affect the cat’s vision or health.

How common is it?

Heterochromia is uncommon overall in cats. However, in certain breeds, it is relatively common:

Breed Prevalence
Turkish Van 20%
Turkish Angora 5-10%
Odd-eyed cats 100% (requirement of the breed)

In other cat breeds and mixed breed cats, heterochromia affects less than 1% of the population.

Is there any health risk?

In most cases, heterochromia does not pose a health risk to cats. Some exceptions include:

  • If caused by glaucoma or cancer, veterinary assessment is recommended as these are serious conditions.
  • Cats with blue eyes are prone to deafness. roughly 65-85% of blue-eyed white cats have hearing problems.
  • Cats with reduced pigment may be more sensitive to sunlight and at risk of sunburn.

However, heterochromatic cats can generally see normally and their eye health is usually unaffected.

Living with a heterochromatic cat

Caring for a cat with two different colored eyes is no different than caring for other cats. However, the following tips can help support their health:

  • Use cat-safe sunscreen on white fur and noses when outdoors.
  • Limit time outdoors during peak sun hours.
  • Check their hearing by clapping hands and watching for a response.
  • Keep up with regular vet checkups to monitor eye health.
  • Watch for signs of vision trouble like clumsiness or reluctance to jump.

Their different colored eyes may dazzle you, but they don’t affect your cat’s vision or health in most cases. Focus on providing excellent care and your heterochromatic cat can live a long, healthy, happy life!

Famous heterochromatic cats

While uncommon, heterochromia has captured public fascination. Some famous cats with different colored eyes include:

  • Odd-eyes, Instagram famous Turkish Van mix adopted by musician Father John Misty.
  • Batman, a former shelter cat adopted after an adoption ad highlighted his split orange and green eyes.
  • Venus the Chimera Cat, who went viral with her half black, half orange face and one blue eye, one green eye.
  • Chimera, an orange tabby owned by Jonathan King in Massachusetts made famous by her complete blue and green heterochromia.


While a rare condition, heterochromia is considered normal and healthy in certain cat breeds prone to the trait. It can also occur due to congenital issues, injuries, or diseases. Cats with two different colored eyes don’t require specialized care in most cases. They can make unique and captivating feline companions when provided with a loving home.