Odd-eyed cats: cats with two different colored eyes

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What is an “odd-eyed cat“, how does such a phenomenon occur, and how can you find one as a pet? Let’s dig into what makes these beautiful felines so unique!

A headshot of a white cat with two differently colored eyes (one yellow, one blue) looking directly at the camera
This beautiful cat has two differently colored eyes! A yellow eye and a blue eye are a common form of this rare condition called heterochromia.

Feline Heterochromia Iridum

The meaning of the phrase “odd-eyed cat” is a cat with two differently colored eyes. Feline heterochromia iridum is the official latin name for the phenomenon in which a cat has more than one eye color. Hetero = multiple, chromia=color, and iridum=of the eye. This is what occurs in an odd-eyed cat!

Cats with this condition can be called “odd-eyed”, “odd eye”, or any similar combination of the terms. We will use these terms interchangeably.

A closeup on the eyes and nose of an odd-eyed tabby cat with a white nose and one yellow eye and one green eye.
Cats with heterochromia have eyes that are not the same color.

Types of odd-eyed cats

The condition is called complete heterochromia when each eye is a different, single color, such as when a cat has one blue eye and one yellow eye. Partial or sectoral heterochromia is when one eye has more than one color in it. For example, a green eye may have splotches of brown scattered throughout. Sometimes the eye has one color in the center and another on the outside edge of the eye (also called central heterochromia). Sometimes the eye color is splotched throughout the iris with no pattern.

A white cat with two different color eyes (blue and yellow) licks his tail.
A cat with heterochromia might have two eyes that are each one distinct color. Or they might have one or both eyes be a blend of two colors.

Eye pigmentation

Eye pigmentation is determined by the distribution of melanin, which also determines the color of the cat’s nose, paws, and fur. Odd-eyed cats frequently have white or predominantly white fur, and one blue eye, since a gene that controls fur color is also connected to a tendency to have differently color eyes (there are multiple genes that contribute to fur color).

A white cat with a small tabby marking on her forehead looks up at a toy with one bright blue eye and one bright yellow eye
Odd-eyed cats frequently have white fur or fur with white splotches due to a genetic connection between eye color and fur color.

Genetics behind odd-eyed cats

Feline heterochromia can be inherited, meaning certain genes were pass from parent to kitten to code for differently colored eyes. It can also result from a congenital condition such as chimerism, in which two zygotes fused together to form one kitten instead of two. Due to the extra genetic material, each eye may have a different color.

Alternatively, a genetic process known as mosaicism can result in a single-zygote having cells with multiple genetic makeups, which could also result in an animal having two differently colored eyes. The genetics behind feline eye color are complicated but fascinating! For a deep-dive on feline genetics that affect breeding, health, and other topics, check out this resource on cat genetics.

Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders and Veterinarians

This book is a great reference for anyone studying feline genetics.

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09/15/2022 01:05 am GMT
A white, gray, and orange cat with a light yellow eye and a striking green eye looks to the left of the camera.
Eye color genetics are complicated! A cat can get two different color eyes from chimerism, mosaicism, or by inheriting certain genes.

Odd-eyed Kittens?

All kittens are born with blue eyes. Their eyes change to their final color over the first few months of life. If a kitten is to grow up with one blue eye and one eye of another color, the blues will be slightly different. The kitten’s non-blue eye will change slowly to the other color and the blue eye will remain blue. If an older cat has an eye that changes to a different color, this is not due to heterochromia. Rather, this is likely indicative of a medical condition and a veterinarian should be consulted.

A white odd eye kitten
Kittens’ eyes naturally change color from baby blue to their adult color over the first months of life. An odd-eyed kitten will have one eye change color and one eye remain blue!

How to find an odd-eyed cat?

Cats with two differently colored eyes are prized by many cat lovers due to their uniqueness! Consult your local shelter to see if they have any odd-eyed cats. Let them know you are interested in adopting if one arrives! Considering fostering kittens, and see if any white kittens you foster turn out to have differently colored eyes. Certain breeds of cat have a high incidence of having two differently colored eyes, such as the Turkish Angora. Thus, you may want to look for breeders near you who might have one available for adoption. Since they are so loved, though, it will likely be expensive. Fostering and adoption is a great way to get exposure to many different kitties, and perhaps find your one true love in the form of an odd-eyed cat!

An odd eye sphynx cat
This beautiful odd-eye sphynx cat has one blue eye and one yellow eye.

A an odd eye Turkish Angora cat
Turkish Angora cats are known for having unique variations in eye color.

Scroll down for a small gallery of stunning odd-eyed cats. Share in the comments if you love them, if you think they’re strange, or if you have any questions about cats with differently colored eyes!

odd eyed cats
A beautiful white odd-eye cat
This strikingly beautiful odd-eyed cat has one yellow eye and one blue eye.
A white odd-eyed cat with feline heterochromia iridum
This handsome feline has two differently colored eyes.
A white cat with feline heterochromia iridum
White is a common fur color for odd-eyed cats to have.
A black odd-eyed black cat with vivid eyes that are gold and blue
This gorgeous cat has eyes that shine vividly against his beautiful black fur.
A white odd-eyed cat
The sun is glinting off this beautiful kitty’s bright, distinctly colored eyes.
An odd eye white cat with two differently colored eyes
This close-up shot gives a beautiful view of this white cat’s different color eyes.
A white odd-eyed cat
This odd-eyed cat looks regal, even with a cow hat.
A gorgeous black odd eye cat
Most odd-eyed cats are white, but the condition is possible in cats of any color.
This odd-eyed black cat is beautiful.
The dual bright eye colors are striking on this beautiful black odd-eyed cat.

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