Most of us have heard of albinism, whether it be in humans or a species of animal. We know that the key trait of albinism is the white pigmentation and often red eyes. But what do you know about cats who are born albino? White cats are not to be mistaken for albino cats, as they are two entirely different kinds of cats. There is a lot about albino cats that make them special and unique once you’ve taken the time to learn more about them
What is an Albino Cat?
Beyond being just a cat that is white, to be albino means that this cat does not carry the gene for creating any pigmentation whatsoever. Yes, their fur will be white, which is not uncommon for cats in general, but there are a lot of subtle clues that can make it clear that a cat is an albino versus just having white fur.
You can find albinism in virtually any breed of cat. There could be an albino Siamese cat, an albino Bengal cat, or even just a partial albino cat of any breed. They are all incredibly beautiful and rare to witness, as their condition is so unique.
Animals and humans both produce “melanin” and this substance is what is responsible for creating our pigmentation. From skin color to eye and hair color, the presence of melanin is what is responsible for these unique colored features. This lack of melanin is what is responsible for the white fur and red appearance in the eyes of albino cats.
Their red eyes are due to a lack of pigment that would normally create eye colors such as blue, green, or even gold. Instead, what is being seen is the reflection of light off of the blood vessels in the back of their eyes
The gene TYR (tyrosinase) is what is responsible for telling the body to create melanin, and unfortunately, this gene is either absent or damaged in cats who are born with albinism. This genetic abnormality can only occur in a kitten if both of the parents pass on this defective gene.
Common Health Problems that Albino Cats Face
Because of their lack of pigment-creating melanin, albino cats can face a number of health issues in their lifetime. It’s important for owners of albino cats to be aware of these potential problems and know what they need to do to prevent them.
Because of the lack of pigment in their eyes, albino cat’s eyes are extremely sensitive to light. This means that overexposure to light can cause them to have vision damage. Indirect light is safe, but albino cats should not be out in direct sunlight for more than just a few minutes. This is especially true if their eyes are red or pink in color.
An albino cat’s skin is just as sensitive to light as their eyes are for the same reason of lacking protective pigmentation. It’s highly important to keep an albino cat out of direct sunlight, meaning they should be kept indoors especially between the hours of noon and 5 in most regions.
Albino cats can get sunburned very easily, and your vet will likely recommend that you apply sunblock to their skin even if they are strictly indoor cats. If an albino cat is exposed to too much sunlight they could potentially develop skin cancer due to their incredibly high level of light sensitivity. Usually, sunblock that is meant for babies or children works well, but it’s best to use what the vet recommends for your cat specifically.
It is true that albino cats often have trouble hearing or could be completely deaf. This deficit occurs because of another genetic trait that causes their inner ear to be malformed at birth.
It’s usually rather apparent when you have a cat that cannot hear you because they will not come or react when you call them. This is why owners of albino cats who cannot hear, have had to come up with creative methods of communicating with their deaf cats. Your cat’s vet can surely provide you with resources to help you learn the best ways to care for your albino cat.
As you may now understand, white cats and purely albino cats are two entirely different kinds of cats. Albino cats can be any breed of cat, as they are just born missing the gene that is meant to help their body create pigmentation. This lack of pigmentation makes these cats extremely sensitive to the harmful UV rays that come from the sun. Owning an albino cat and caring for them in the special ways that they need to be cared for is no easy task, but a task well worth it, for the love and affection that these special cats will show you.