abnormal eye color in cats
A cat with one blue eye, one golden eye. Photography by ANURAKE SINGTO-ON / Shutterstock.

7 Cool Facts About Cat Eye Colors

Did you know: Cat eye colors are not related to fur colors, and purebreds' eye colors are usually more intense. Learn more facts about cat eye colors here!
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My cat Kissy had the most amazing eyes I’d ever seen: If I caught her with her eyes open on a sunny day, they were a beautiful sea-green that I could never capture in a photo. Most of the pictures I have of her, show her eyes with a golden tone. But whatever color your cat’s eyes are, there’s an amazing story behind how they got that way. Check out these cool facts on cat eye colors:

1. Cat eye colors start with the iris

A seal point Birman kitten with blue eyes and a toy.
Cat eye colors start with the iris. Photography ©PatrikSlezak | Thinkstock.

When we talk about cat eye colors, we need to discuss the iris. The colored area around the pupil of the eye is called the iris. The iris has two layers, the stroma and the epithelium. Both of these layers contain pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. In the stroma, those melanocytes are loosely arranged, and in the epithelium, they are more tightly packed.

2. It’s all about melanin

An orange cat with copper eyes. Photography by FreeProd33 / Shutterstock.

The pigment produced by the melanocytes is called melanin. A while back I wrote an article on the genetics of cat fur color, in which I explained that melanin plays an important role in determining how dark your cat’s fur coat will be. The same thing is true with cat eye colors: The more melanocytes there are in your cat’s irises, the darker their color will be. But cats don’t get brown or black eyes like people do; the darkest color you’ll see in a cat’s eyes is a deep, rich copper.

3. A cat’s eye-color intensity is linked to melanocyte activity

A gray cat with yellow eyes with his mouth open.
A cat with highly active melanocytes will have bright golden-yellow eyes. Photography ©graphixchon | Thinkstock.

When the melanin-producing cells are very active, cat eye colors will become more intense. For example, a cat with a medium amount of highly active melanocytes will have bright golden-yellow eyes, but a cat with a medium amount of less active melanocytes may have pale lemon-yellow eyes.

4. Purebred cats tend to have more intense eye colors

A Bombay cat with amber-colored eyes.
Bombay cat breed standards call for copper-colored eyes. Photography by Vecta / Shutterstock.

Because purebred cats are bred to meet a specific breed standard, which often includes eye color, breeders select for cats that have more intense colors or particular colors. For example, the Bombay cat breed standard requires copper-colored eyes; and the Tonkinese has aqua-colored eyes.

5. Blue-eyed cats have no melanin in their irises

An albino cat.
This blue-eyed white cat has no melanin in her fur or her eyes. Blue-eyed white Persian cat. Photography by DONOT6_STUDIO / Shutterstock.

You know how window glass looks clear when you look straight through it, but it looks kind of blue or green around the edges? That’s because of the refraction of light through a clear surface. The same thing happens with blue-eyed cats: They have no pigment cells in their irises, and because the eye has a rounded shape, light refracts through that rounded surface and produces the blue eye color in cats.

6. There’s a connection between melanin and kitten eyes, too

Four kittens standing together with big blue eyes.
All kittens start off with blue eyes. Photography by ©w-ings | Getty Images

Kittens are born with blue eyes because their melanocytes haven’t started working yet. As they grow, their melanocytes start to function and the true color of their eyes begins to appear. The adult eye color starts to appear between 4 and 6 weeks of age, and a kitten’s true eye color is usually apparent by the time he or she is 4 months old.

7. There is generally little relation between fur colors and cat eye colors

Amber-eyed calico cat.
Do fur colors have anything to do with cat eye colors? Not really. Amber-eyed calico cat. Photography by iidea studio/ Shutterstock.

Different genes control fur colors and cat eye colors, so the melanocytes in the fur may be much more (or less) active than those in the eyes. Thus, a black cat like my Belladonna has pale hazel eyes, but a purebred orange Persian may have dark copper-colored eyes. The only exception to this rule is white cats. Because the epistatic white gene is a dominant and masks other colors, white cats are statistically more likely to have blue eyes than random-bred cats of other colors.

Tell us: Is there anything else you’d like to know about cat eye colors? Ask your questions in the comments!

Thumbnail: Photography by ANURAKE SINGTO-ON / Shutterstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2017.

About the author

About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal rescue volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline authors, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.

Read more about cats and science on Catster.com:

85 thoughts on “7 Cool Facts About Cat Eye Colors”

  1. My kittens eyes are soo beautiful! Around the black there are green as in Light green. And around that there are gold! I hope they never change.

  2. i have a siamese cat but its not a mix, it is not unusual but it is SUPER legendary if ur cats eyes are always gray than its what im talking about. My cat that has very light blue eyes looks like gray sometimes this only happens with siamese cats sometimes its because they are too small my cat is 4 and every year his eyes turn darker! :)

  3. Cats can absolutely have brown eyes, it’s just not as common. My neighbor has a really pretty black cat, and his eyes are a dark chocolate brown. I’ll ask her to send me a picture and I’ll post it.

  4. I have a cat. It was a feral adopt. She is apx 3 months old now. She looks to be possibly a siamese mix but her eyes are gray. Very light gray. Is this unusal? I’ve never seen a cat with gray eyes before. Thanks

    1. Ha – I came across this article looking for info on cats with brown eyes and how common they are. My (black) cat has one amber colored eye and one that is is dark chocolate brown.

    2. Hi I’m wondering how long it would take if I bring blue eyed Tonkinese cats into my Burmese cat lines to go back to all gold eye color of the Burmese?
      Thank you:)

  5. I have a question. Does the mother or father determine the eye color. I have feral kittens I saved from a lynx point siamese mom she was all white with just a dark ring tail and dark fur at the base of her ears and blue eyes. The father was chocolate colored and had gold/green eyes. None of her kittens had blue eyes.

    1. There is no straight forward answer, I’m afraid. . t could be either or both. It all depends on the particular genes involved.

  6. Pingback: 7 Cool Facts About Cat Eye Colors – Info Body

  7. Two Russian Blues, siblings, a female and a male joined/took over my home when they were kittens. They are spectacular, good buddies, very affectionate and smart beyond belief. The male bonded with me and the female bonded with my human partner. When she returned to her homeland for 2 months, our female was very upset. Now that she has returned from France, they are rebonding.

  8. Deborah J Farr

    I have 2 siamese kitties, they seem to not see water very well, is it because of there blue eyes? They are also related, father son.

    1. I have 2 purebreds (different breeds) with green eyes but their tone is slightly different as Mother Nature gave them eye colors to harmonize well with their very different coat colors. My red Somali has chartreuse (slightly yellowed green) eyes that go very well with his intense red-orange coat. My black smoke (she looks like black and silver marble) Turkish Angora has beautiful two-tone jade green eyes. Look online; you can find plenty of pix of green-eyed cats of LOTS of different coat colors.

  9. I have a Bombay female. Her eyes change color with the time of day. In the early morning they are orange but by lunchtime they are golden. Early evening they are green and late night they are a very pale blue. Is this usual for a Bombay?

    1. Hi there,
      Read more about Bombays here:
      https://www.catster.com/catbreed/bombay
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/10-reasons-to-love-the-beautiful-black-bombay
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-breeds-bombay-cats-mini-panther-charming-pictures-photos

  10. I adopted an abandoned starving 2yr old male Russian Blue with spectacular silver blue fur, it changes color in different light (a neighbor girl named him The Purple Cat, having met him @ sunset). His eyes were the beautiful green of the breed until a few years ago, when brown spots started to appear especially in his left eye that is now half each. Why? Vets have no idea. No problem seem to exist. He is now 20! Good boy!

    1. As the liver starts to retain more and more toxins in people human eye colors can change. Try putting him on a liver cleanse it helps people.

  11. I have noticed for many years that my black cat seems to deeply sniff everything around her, furniture, rugs, us, flowers, everything! I have been around kitties of all shapes sizes and breeds all of my life and NEVER have I observed this depth of smelling everything. I have also never had a black cat in all of this time. Is there a connection with her fur color and her olfactory obsession? Thank you for your info if possible. She’s amazing to watch!

    1. Hi there,
      Please read more about cat noses and the cat sense of smell here:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-facts-cats-noses-sense-of-smell-pictures-photos

  12. I have a black cat, maybe a Bombay cat, I can’t tell though, his eyes are pale yellow on the outer area, dark yellow (in the middle area), and green right outside of his pupil (inner area), why is that? And can that tell me what type of cat he is?

    1. Hi there Kayla,

      Thanks for commenting! We suggest contacting a vet with this question and your vet with also be able to tell you what type of cat he is by examining him.

  13. I have a white mama cat with one green and one blue eye. She has a small marking of grey on top of her head. Every time she has kittens she had the same thing! Some have blue eyes instead of one blue and one green but they are always white with the same little grey mark on the top of their heads. Any idea on what this is?

  14. 7. is wrong. Cat fur has a direct correlation on eye color. If any of their coloring is white and it touches near the eye that eye can turn blue. If a cat’s oclor is colorpoint it will change the cats eyes to blue if a point or golden if a burmese or greeen/aqua/ever changing if a mink. A solid cat with no white cannot have blue eyes and will not likely have green.

    1. I have a question. Does the mother or father determine the eye color. I have feral kittens I saved from a lynx point siamese mom she was all white with just a dark ring tail and dark fur at the base of her ears and blue eyes. The father was chocolate colored and had gold/green eyes. None of her kittens had blue eyes.ive had both a solid black cat and a solid white cat, not related, and they both had very green eyes.

  15. My question is I have a striped orange cat it’s name is pumpkin (I don’t know if it’s a boy or girl) but it’s eyes are orange like a pumpkin just wondering what that color is and where does it come from her mother is grey with blue eyes and the father is a Siamese cat with blue eyes. But it’s eyes are more orange than copper, what’s the deal? I’ve never seen this in all of my years!

    1. Hi there Amber,

      Thanks for reaching out! We suggest contacting your vet with this question to find out specifically where this eye color came from for your cat.

  16. my cat’s eyes are changing; they look more like the cartoon version of Little Orphan Annie’s eyes. They still have their color, yet when she looks right at me, they have this endless empty look in the middle. She shows no hint of any visual issues. They just look odd to me. i will ask vet at her next visit; just wondered what y’all think.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thanks for reaching out! Yes, you should definitely contact your vet with this issue. These articles might provide some insight as well:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-pupils-heres-what-your-cats-eyes-are-telling-you
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-facts-cats-eyes
      https://www.catster.com/kittens/when-do-kittens-eyes-change-color
      https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/cat-eye-discharge-whats-normal-and-whats-not

  17. I have a golden yellow tabby kitten 6 months old but sometimes he’ll hunches back and my cat attack my arm with a bite and when I push him away his eyes turn black what does that mean two black eyes

    1. Hi Gloria,
      These articles might provide some insight into your questions:
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/cat-pupils-heres-what-your-cats-eyes-are-telling-you
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/how-to-treat-cat-bites-puncture-wounds
      https://www.catster.com/cat-behavior/how-to-detect-and-prevent-a-cat-attack

  18. Our cat is 11 yrs. old now, found her on our front porch in freezing cold/Winter. She was only 5 weeks old then & could not meow and never has. For many years she would only hum in a very very low sound that sounded like a Tibet monk! Thought she was all black, then under a light she is actually a deep dark brown! Her coat feels like luxurious velvet. Her eyes change color – when happy they are a gorgeous jade blue & when upset they become pale jade green! They are very beautiful. She likes the doors slightly open so she will not be closed inside as she cannot meow to let us know. She is very sweet, stays close to us at night and loves her tower so she can look outside the window and see squirrels, birds, bees, chameleons etc. is it common for cats to have eyes that change color like hers do?!

  19. RGBLightShow~Man

    You say they can’t have brown eyes? I have an orange tabby, a miniature one at that and his eyes are almond brown. They don’t look to be any other color but almond brown and even my friends that have met him state the same thing. Many ask do cats have brown eyes, and I tell them, he’s the very first one I’ve ever seen that look very much to be almond brown, not gold, not copper, not orange, but literally an almond brown coloring. Maybe I have a very unique kitty here, I just don’t know. But when he stares at you for an extended time with those “brown” eyes of his, it feels like he’s almost human staring at you. And he’s as vocal as a Siamese cat too. My other orange tabbies, 1 standard male and female, brother and sister, male has Amber/green eyes, his sister has orange eyes. Only the miniature has this unique looking almond brown eye color. Just know I’ve never seen a cat anywhere or in any pictures with the eye color this particular orange male feline has.

    1. I have a white and grey domestic male kitten and his eyes were dark grey for the first couple months, which eventually transitioned to an almond/chocolate brown. I didn’t really think anything of it until I took him to the vet and he said “wow look at those eyes!”. I was pretty confused thinking “ya they look normal to me so what” hahaha

    2. I have a 6 month old kitten with brown eyes as well. He is silver/cream with lots of dark grey spots in his fur and on his belly. He seems to have a lot of siamese traits like vocalising, long legs, likes to climb very high, and his coat is very fine and silky. His eyes are very distinct and definitely brown, not copper or orange. I’ve never seen a cat with coloring like his before..

  20. “Odd eyes” are called heterochromia iridium. It has nothing to do with the health of the cat. It has everything to do with what this article is about…

  21. Pingback: Let’s Talk Cats With Different-Colored Eyes, or Heterochromia in Cats – Sporty Pets

  22. I recently got a kitten. We don’t know what breed he is, but his coloring is mackerel tabby. We think he’s about 4 weeks old. When he grows up, will his eyes stay blue? Or is there no way to tell?

    1. Hi Emma,

      Here’s some info on when kittens’ eyes change color: https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/what-age-do-cats-eye-color-change

  23. My 2 year old orange tabby Charlie has beautiful turquoise eyes with a little bit of orange around his pupil. When he was younger, about 4 to 12 months old they were way more orange than they were now. No idea why!

  24. This article says a cat’s eye color is not related to their color.
    I saw one black cat on facebook with blue eyes and thought that was unusual. Is it?

    1. Hi Vic,
      This article provides some good insight: https://www.catster.com/cat-health-care/all-about-cats-with-blue-eyes

    2. Depends on their genetics. My Norwegian Forest Cat is a blue eyed white and can hear just fine (when he isn’t ignoring you). Other breeds with different genetics like Turkish Angoras commonly have deaf blue-eyed whites, but now responsible breeders are mixing colored cats into their breeding programs to reduce the incidence of deafness.

  25. I was in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War. When I was sent to Al Kharj, there was a Momma cat that allowed everyone to play with her kittens and when she looked at you during the night, her eyes were a pretty intense gold color. She wouldn’t let you see her eyes during the day for a few days. When she finally looked at me during the day, WOW! She showed her glowing blue eyes and just made my jaw drop all the way to the ground and bounce a few times. She was amused!

    Yes, this cat’s eyes changed colors from day to night. She knew it, too, and used it to her advantage. I didn’t stay there long enough to find out if her kittens had the same super power.

  26. I have adopted a feral cat, 2 yrs old, no chip, pure white with one green eye and one blue eye. He is beautiful, not at all affectionate, won’t let me hold him at all. I love him to pieces. How can I clean him. His tail and hind legs are a mess. I can’t keep him in the house during the daytime since he is used to being outside, on his own for over two years. It would be cruel. I live in a sheltered area, only a couple of houses, few cars go by, only those whose homes are in the development. He stays in after his evening meal, and sits and looks out the window. I have a screened in porch and he goes out there and sleeps. I bring him inside when I go to bed. He tends to wind up in bed with me at some point. Gets me up at 5:30 a.m. I would prefer at least 6:30 am, I am retired.

    1. Brenda, why would it be cruel to leave him in during the day? I’ve rescued cats for over 40 years, ages 7 mos to 5. My oldest rescued at 7 mos. is 19. I presently have 8 cats, 6 males and 2 females, and have had at the most 16 in my rescue days.

      Your kitty will become more and more comfortable with you as it lives with you. Make sure you prove a litter box, plenty of water and dry and wet food. When your kitty is comfortable, I’d take it to a vet. Your rescue, needs to be spayed or neutered if it isn’t already, checked out for common kitty diseases (hopefully none!), and vaccinated.

      Not all cats rescued are feral, but abandoned. I have two that have taken a while to be lap cats, one still will only be petted if he’s in your lap.

      Many kitties prefer to be indoor kitties after being alone on the street for some time. So, it isn’t cruel to have indoor cats. Only 4 of my 8 go out side, and they are inside much more than outside. I never leave any out at all. I lived in a city before, and moved 3,500 miles with 11 rescues, 8 left now.

      You have a keeper there! Do what you can to give him a furrever home. You have a special kitty rescue there!

      Re:cleaning, there are wash type pads you can buy at a pet store, for situations like this when you cannot bath your cat (I’ve rarely have ever had to). You can wipe your guy down, when he will let you pet him. Have patience, it can take time with some. Trust is crucial for kitties.

    2. Cats just like people like to go outside and breathe in some fresh air. He sleeps with you. At some point you will be able to touch him. ;) I’m sure you’re giving him a great life.

  27. We have a feral cat who is all white. She has one blue eye and one green eye. Her tail is more like a “half a tail” ending in a bit of fluff.

    PS: she is now an indoor only cat, but is still feral…just safer

  28. Pingback: Types of Siamese Cats & Kittens – Koopa the Band

    1. none of the facts in here were good. almost everything was about melanin which is all related. THIS WAS BASICALLY ALL ONE BIG FACT

  29. My cat has these beautiful amber eyes, nearly golden.
    But he has such bad eye sight.. he can’t even see a treat laid out in front of him unless you point it out.

    1. Cat’s eyes are geared to motion. Make sure that he sees that you are holding the treat, then drop it in front of him so he sees it drop. He’ll be able to find it then.

  30. I’m still not clear about the distinction of eye coloring of cats…I understand the biological/scientific aspect of the coloring but does their {cats} eye coloring tell anything about their personality,behavior and/or traits? Did I miss this part or do we know?

  31. My silver Bengal boy had beautiful copper coloured eyes. He was diagnosed with a photo systemic shunt , a congenital diagnosis, which diverted blood flow away from his liver. My vet provided me with information on the condition in which I found a suspected link between copper eyes and the condition. Unfortunately by the time we were able to get the diagnosis because of the rarity of the condition he was far too ill for surgery , which may or may not have been successful, so we had to make the dreadful decision to put him down. I would suggest anyone with a sickly cat with copper coloured eyes ask their vet to do a blood test to find out the level of bile in their cats blood. Chui’s was 10 times the norm.

    1. Hi Michelle —

      These articles might be helpful:
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/cat-health-color-change
      https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/what-age-do-cats-eye-color-change

    2. No idea but i can imagine if it happens in humans it can happen in cats, too. I was born with blue eyes and blonde hair and had them for the first two years of my life then my eyes changed to hazel and my hair to brown by my third birthday.

  32. My Himalayan cat has sort of two-tone eyes. Both eyes are the same color, but each eye is bluer nearest the iris turning yellowish as it progresses outward. Is this considered a sort of hazel?

  33. I have a very light yellow tabby mix? , her eyes are almost as light yellow as her fur. Do light eyed cats see as well? Sometimes I wonder?

  34. I have 3 adult male cats with blue eyes. One is a grey and white tuxedo with bright blue eyes, an orange tabby with lite blue eyes and a grey tabby also with blue eye’s.

  35. I have 3 adult male cats with blue eyes, one is a tabby, an orange tabby , and a grey and white tuxedo with bright blue eyes. I contacted T I C A but got very little interest. There is a strong possibility that I have some tabby kittens that will have blue eyes.

  36. I have a litter of kittens who are 7 weeks old. This is the most unusual colors and eye mixures I have ever seen. One of them is gray with bright blue eyes. The others have yellow, or green eyes. One is the lightest silver with yellow green eyes. One is wolf like coloring black undercoat with silver and white hairs throughout. One is black white and silver with yellow green eyes

  37. Just FYI common window glass is green because of it’s chemical makeup, you can get glass in any color (or colorless) depending on the manufacturing process. However, opalescent glass appears blue via the same effect as with blue eyes! :)

  38. I once saw a cat with odd eye colurs, and one was dark brown. The vet said it was nothing, and the cat looked healthy.

    My cats, one (the black one) was born with blue eyes. Now her eyes are green, The other (black and white) had brown eyes. Her eyes turned copper and slowly they became yellow.

    1. I have a pure white cat I adopted that has one gold eye and one that is gold a dark brown, almost black in places. She seems to see out of it well. I have never seen anything like it. Two different eyes and neither blue.

    2. I have a black cat (her eyes are round like a Bombay) whose eyes also changed color when she was an adult. Her eyes became a lovely copper when she was a kitten, but but slowly turned to green as she aged. So strange!

  39. When we first got Fin from Animal Control last summer, his irises were a deep, solid mustard colour, We never saw before on other cats we’ve rescued. Then, about a month ago, the solid yellow irises were replaced with normal ones, multi-coloured and more transparent. Does anyone else here experienced this phenomenon? Does it have to do with the fact that he was a stray and we got him as an adult cat? Thanks

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