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|Purred: Sat May 14, '11 11:51pm PST |
|Snowshoes are indeed very rare, and the possibility that Max is a Snowshoe are close to nil. One reason Snowshoes are rare is that they are a newish breed, and jealously guarded over by their breeders, so their chances of mating with the general moggy population are slim. They are also not recognized by the CFA, the world's largest cat registry, which cuts down on the number of breeders. The biggest reason Snowshoes are rare is because it is very difficult to control the gloving gene and get the correct pattern. The breed started with litter of Siamese cats who had a genetic mutation that gave them white feet. The white footed Siamese were mated with bicolor American Shorthairs, then rebred with Siamese.
Basically, you can divide blue-eyed moggies into two categories. First are those with Siamese genetic heritage. Siamese were wildly popular in the years when breeders weren't so fussy about requiring that the cats they sold were altered, which means that a lot of American cats have some Siamese in them. These cats may or may not show the colorpoint pattern (coloration on the head, feet, and tail). Most purebred breeds which are exclusively blue-eyed are either related to the Siamese or were developed using the Siamese breed (Birman, Snowshoe, Himalayan, Ragdoll, etc.). All of these breeds show the colorpoint pattern. These breeds are rarer than the Siamese, and the rarer the breed, the less likely they are to mate with moggies; Himalayans and Ragdolls are more common than Birmans or Snowshoes, but their genetic influence on the moggy population is not as established as that of the Siamese. Although a blue-eyed moggy could have genetic heritage from a colorpoint breed other than the Siamese, this ultimately means some Siamese genetic heritage anyway.
The other, and perhaps more common, category of blue-eyed moggies is those who are white or predominantly white. The genetics behind this are complicated. A white cat with blue eyes may be white dominant, or may be a cat in which the white spotting gene has expressed itself to the point that a cat is entirely white because the white spotting gene is masking the true color of the cat. Also, some blue-eyed white cats may have blue eyes because of Siamese or other colorpoint genetic imput.
Cats who are mostly white may also be blue-eyed or odd-eyed. This is usually related to the genetic link between white coat coloration and blue eyes. The Japanese Bobtail breed, bred from Japanese moggies, is usually seen with a mostly white coat, with coloration mostly restricted to the head and tail. (This breed was created by selective breeding of Japanese moggies, but most Japanese moggies are not bobtailed, mostly white, or blue-eyed.)
Yes, Maine Coons may have blue eyes. Maine Coons are a naturally occurring breed, and one variation of the American moggy. "Real" Maine Coons also interbred and still interbreed with non-MC moggies. In the cat show world, the Maine Coon breed standard allows for blue eyes only in all-white or bicolored cats. Currently, in Japan at least, white Maine Coons are quite popular, and they may be blue-eyed, odd-eyed, or gold-eyed. My Currier is slated to be bred to my mentor's stud in a few months, and he is a blue-eyed white. My mentor says that half of the litter will be pure white, and the rest will be other colors.
The Turkish Angora is best known in its blue-eyed, white form, but white Turkish Angoras can have gold or odd eyes, and they also come in a variety of colors other than white. In the past, cats with long, silky fur were often called “Angoras,” but such cats were (and are) probably domestic longhairs whose long fur is the result of Maine Coon or Persian heritage, or very, very distant genetic heritage from cats the Crusaders and other travellers brought back to Europe from the Middle East and Eurasia, and which were then brought by Europeans to America. I see a lot of Turkish Angoras at shows, since Japan has a number of very good Angora breeders, and TAs are shown in the Longhair ring along with Maine Coons. A show type Turkish Angora is a medium sized cat with a slender build, medium length, silky fur, and very closely set, erect ears. True Turkish Angoras (both the naturally occurring type found in Turkey, and the purebred version found abroad) are also a very rare breed, largely due to the close guard the Turkish government has held over this national treasure.
Blue-eyed white cats are also found in some other breeds (such as the Norwegian Forest Cat), but I don’t know them all (partly because I don’t usually sit in on the Shorthair rings). You can check the CFA’s Breed Standards to find which breeds are allowed to have blue eyes.
As for the link between white fur coloration, blue eyes, and deafness, that's complicated. Sarah Hartwell explains it better than I can at http://www.messybeast.com/whitecat.htm. Yes, white cats with blue eyes have a higher chance of being deaf than do cats in the general cat population, bcause there is a genetic link between white fur, blue eyes, and deafness. But the white fur and the blue eyes can be caused by various genetic factors, so it's not guaranteed. A kitten who is born with a small smudge of black on its head that disappears when it grows up is said to have a high probability of not being deaf, although this is disputed. Odd-eyed cats may be deaf on the side with the blue eye, and have normal hearing with the ear on the side of the non-blue eye. Bicolor cats with a lot of white may also be deaf. As many as 60-80% of white blue-eyed cats may be deaf, but while that is a high percentage, by no means are all blue-eyed white cats deaf.
Since the link between blue eyes and the colorpoint gene (think Siamese) and white coloration is so strong, blue-eyed cats who are neither colorpoint, white, or mostly white are statistically rarer, but they do exist in the general random bred cat population. A breed called the Ojos Azules has been developed from such cats, but it is still extremely rare, largely due to the fact that mating two blue-eyed cats within this breed results in kittens born with fatal birth defects. In the case of the Ojos Azules breed, it is necessary to breed a blue-eyed cat with a non-blue-eyed cat, resulting in litters that are only 50% blue-eyed. As this is a very difficult cat to breed, the numbers are exceedingly small. If you see, for example, a blue-eyed red tabby walking around, I can guarantee that it's a just an unusual moggy, and does not have an Ojos Azules ancestor.
As for Max, my guess would be some kind of Siamese heritage, or perhaps Ragdoll, because the latter have become very popular of late. Responsible breeders are expected to desex their cats before selling them, but not every breeder does. Instead, they make the new owner sign a spay/neuter contract. However, not every owner fulfills their duty to have the cat altered in time, resulting in interesting mixes.
Of course, you all know that all kittens are born with blue eyes, whatever their eye color is to become in the future...
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