White cats have long been loved for their pristine beauty. Their snow-white brilliance, often coupled with blue, green, golden, or "odd" eyes makes them stand out among multi-colored cats, such as tabbies, calicoes, and tortoiseshells. On About.com, we have traditionally celebrated white cats in February, because their pristine, snow-white coloring reminds us of the snow in February. This same likeness accounts for the many white cats named Snowball or Snowy. By the same token, white cats are often named Casper, and my own long-ago kitten was named Puff, because of her resemblance to a fluffy dandelion "puff."
White Cats, Blue Eyes, and DeafnessA genetics coupling causes many (but not all) white cats with blue eyes to be deaf. White cats with "odd eyes," i.e. one blue eye and one green, hazel, or golden eye, are sometimes deaf in the ear closest to the blue eye. These anomalies occur only with the dominant white gene, and even some cats with that dominant gene are exceptions, if they are born with even small patches of color other than white. According to this exceptional article by Sarah Hartwell,
- "5% of the general cat population is white cats (i.e. pure white). 15-40% of these pure white cats have one or two blue-eyes."
- "Of those white cats with one or two blue eyes, 60-80% are deaf; 20-40% have normal hearing; 30-40% had one blue eye and were deaf while 60-70% had one blue eye and normal hearing."
White Cats and Skin CancerThe sun is enemy to white cats, as repeated exposure can cause squamous cell carcinoma, particularly in areas when the hair is thin or non-existent, such as the ears, nose, and eyelids. This form of skin cancer can be painful, unsightly, and ultimately fatal unless diagnosed and treated early. The only sure prevention of squamous cell carcinoma in white cats is to keep them safely indoors, out of the sun. I lost my own white cat, Arthur, to that disease, and will forever regret all those years she was allowed free access to the outdoors during the day.
Those who treasure their white cats as much as I treasured Arthur will want to do everything possible to ensure long and happy companionable years with Snowball, Casper, or Puffball.