Why Are White, Blue-Eyed Cats Deaf?

Find the answer to the quesiton why most white cats with blue eyes are deaf.

By Julie Mignery | Posted: August 4, 2015, 4 p.m. EDT

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Why are white blue-eyed cats deaf? – Wayne Lahey


Blue-eyed cats can be stunners. Check out a gallery of breeds that are known for their sky-hued peepers-- Siamese, Himalayan, Snowshoe, Birman and Ragdoll, to name a few—and you’ll see what I mean. In general, blue-eyed cats are no more prone to deafness than cats with other eye colors, but things change when they also sport white or mostly white coats. Not all blue-eyed white cats are deaf, but many are.

The reason for this comes down to genetics.
•    The gene responsible for the diminished pigment in the eyes and coat appears also to be linked to deafness.
•    It’s so closely linked, in fact, that when just one of a white cat’s eyes are blue his deafness will likely be limited to the ear that shares the blue-eyed side of his head. If his left eye is the only blue one, for example, he’ll probably be deaf in his left ear while he’ll hear just fine from the right.

The good news is that a hearing-impaired cat that lives indoors can lead a pretty good life as long as you’re willing to adjust the way you communicate with him.
•    Use heavier footfalls when you approach him while he’s sleeping or turned away from you to signal you’re in the area.
•    Use a squirt bottle to tell him the kitchen table and counters are inappropriate places for him to hang out since a vocal reprimand obviously won’t work.
•    He’ll never come when you call, but some cats won’t do that anyway, so use the standard kitty-come-to-me signal of getting down to his level and extending a hand. He’ll appreciate that gesture even more if that hand holds a treat.
And remember, hearing loss does have some advantages. My senior cat doesn’t hear very much anymore, a fact that makes her very happy on July 4 and when crying babies visit.
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Reader Comments

Susan    Valparaiso, IN

7/9/2016 9:44:02 AM

I would have liked you to explain why white cats may be deaf. What does the gene do? Is it because of the lack of melanin in the hair follicles of the inner ear which then does not allow the hair fibers to stand up straight because melanin makes the hair (in the inner ear cochlea) stiff?

Ashley    Greenville, SC

9/29/2015 10:45:13 PM

My cat is mix she's calico wit blue eyes is she deaf

Ashley    Greenville, SC

9/29/2015 10:43:37 PM

My cat is mix she's calico wit blue eyes is she deaf

Sandra    Germantown, MD

9/29/2015 7:16:50 PM

I learned that my all white/blue-eyed Turkish Angora was deaf when she was a baby. I'm not positive, but I think that's why the people who owned her gave her away. I also think she's smarter and easier to train than any cat I've ever had. She taught herself how to open doors by pawing them open, she comes when we pat or point somewhere, she knew not to go outside, etc. Her being deaf has made no difference in quality of life. She's meaner than a junk yard dog but we still love her to death!

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