Updated: March 8, 2021 by Kristen Chapple
White cats are irresistible, aren’t they? But, is your furry, snowball an albino cat? Lately, I came across many confusing and misinforming posts and pictures regarding albino cats. So, let’s get things straight. A white coat is not just a fashion and beauty matter as one might think. There are some health risks that come along with an albino cat, and some of these cats need extra care to stay healthy. That’s why it’s important to know if your fluffy master is an albino cat or not.
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What Is an Albino Cat?
Albinism is a genetic disorder observed in humans and many animals including cats. It is an inherited condition characterized by the complete or partial lack of pigment called melanin. This pigment is responsible for skin, hair, and eye color. So, albino cats lack melanin and they appear to be white with pale eyes and skin. True albinism is pretty rare as it affects less than 2% of the cat population. Also, both parents must be albino to produce albino offspring.
While the absence of coloration is more or less pretty obvious, melanin deficiency affects more than just a color. Melanin plays a part in the development of the eyes, immune system, vitamin D production, and protects the skin from harmful UV rays. As a result, albino cats may have problems with depth perception and they will be sensitive to light. Therefore, albino cats need more attention and care to keep them healthy.
Difference Between White Cats and Albino Cats
White cats and albino cats are NOT one and the same. For starters, all albino cats are white, but not all white cats are albino. It’s still confusing, I know. But, I’ll try to make it simple. White cats and albino cats have a similar appearance, but all similarity stops there. White cats are white because they have genes that result in white color fur. They produce melanin and they can have any eye color, colorful noses, and pigmented skin. On the other hand, albino cats always have pale almost transparent eyes. They may appear reddish or pinkish, because of the blood vessels in the eyes. It’s the same with the skin, noses, and ears of the albino cat. So, your cat can be all-white, but if she has vibrant colorful eyes or nose, she’s not an albino cat.
White non-albino cats are prone to some problems of their own though. They are often born deaf. Somehow, it is connected to eye color. 70 to 80% of white cats are deaf. It’s not rare for white cats to have heterochromia, a fancy word when one eye is a different color from the other. Oddly enough, in 40% percent of these cats deafness will usually affect the ear on the blue-eyed side only. White cats with yellow, green or brown eyes have better odds: 15 to 20% is born deaf. However, albino cats have nothing to do with these statistics as they can’t have blue, green, and yellow eyes. Their eyes are always very pale and pinkish. Unfortunately, they may face many other health issues.
Albino Cats Health and Care
Albino cats can have some inherited impairments, usually related to vision, but they can come to this world in perfect health as well. Whatever the case, they do require extra care and caution.
First of all, albino cats are light sensitive. Without melanin, their eyes and skin are unprotected and susceptible to damage. Their skin is sensitive and they get sunburns pretty easy. Skin cancer is also more common in albino cats. Direct sunlight is harmful to their vision. So, even if you have a perfectly healthy albino feline companion, you need to be very careful to preserve her health. It is best to keep your cat indoors and avoid direct sunlight.
Possible immune system deficiencies make them more prone to illnesses, especially at an early age. Some albino cats may appear to be clumsy. Actually, they are not clumsy, but vision problems give them trouble to focus and judge the distance.
Obviously, taking care of the albino cat is pretty demanding. To make sure they would get all that they need to stay healthy, you should start with high-quality food. Avoiding direct sunlight is another important precaution for an albino cat. Regular health and eyesight inspections are also needed. With a little bit of luck and a lot of love and care, your albino cat can live a long and happy life just like any other cat.
Albino cats are rare and adorable. But, they are not as independent as non-albino cats. So, you need to step up and play your part to provide protection and care for an albino cat. However, these beautiful felines can thrive and live happy lives as long as you take care of their sensitivity. Commonly, albino cats are healthy but their health can deteriorate easily due to lack of melanin’s protective role. So, it’s up to you to provide additional protection. If you do so, you and Snowball can enjoy your companionship for many, many years.