KITTENS

When Do Kittens Eyes Change Color: The Magic Behind Your Cat’s Eyes

newborn kitten
Martha Harvey
Written by Martha Harvey

The eyes happen to be one of the most striking features of a cat. It is easy to fall in love with the amazing eye color of your kitty. Just before you decide that you can’t do without the pair of sparkling blue eyes your newborn kitten has, you might want to come to terms with the fact that the color may change with time. So, when do kittens eyes change color?

Not all kittens retain the blue eye color they are born with. After a certain age, kittens will start adopting their true eye color based on their genetic makeup. Others will retain the blue eyes. We have researched everything you need to know about eye color in cats and the process of how their eyes change colors.

In this article, we will start with listing all the eye colors that a cat may possess. Then we’ll explain how your cat was not actually born with these colors. They were born with blue eyes, and at one point, the color changed. However, be aware that a change in eye color may also be caused by an illness.

Cat Eye Colors

kitten's eyes

Cats eyes come with the most amazing features. Besides the unique slit pupils, their eyes come in more colors and shades than any other living being in the entire animal kingdom!

There is so much that your cat’s eye can tell, or not tell. There’s definitely something in that amazing glow and another in the piercing stare. It gets even better when it comes in color. So, what’s hidden behind your kitty’s eye color? Here are a few fun facts:

  • A cat’s eye color is all about the iris. The iris is the colored area of the cat’s eye that surrounds the elliptical black pupil. The color is the work of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Lighter eye colors result from fewer melanocytes while darker eye colors signify more. As much as this holds true, you are not likely to find a cat with blackish or deep brown colored eyes. They only get as dark as deep orange—also referred to as copper.
  • Purebred cats have more intense eye colors. Purebred cats are bred to conform to specific breed standards. These may include the shape of the ears, paws, tail, head, eyes, and body among other traits. Coat and eye colors are also important. Breeders tend to use cats with particular or more intense colors for breeding. For example, Bombay cats are required to have copper colored eyes while aqua-colored eyes are desirable in the Tonkinese
  • Cats end up blue-eyed due to a lack of melanin in their irises. While it is the norm for kittens to be born with blue eyes and keep them for several weeks, some retain the blue color to adulthood. Since the eye color is determined by the presence of pigment, absence of it gives the eyes a blue color. Why blue? Just like the way a colorless window pane appears bluish or greenish around the edges, light refracts through the spherical surface of the eyes, resulting in a bluish tint. The strength of the blue refraction determines the depth and intensity of the blue color.
  • Melanocyte activity in the iris may determine the intensity of the eye color. For example, a medium amount of highly active melanocytes can be responsible for golden yellow eyes while lemon yellow eyes could be the work of the same amount of less active melanocytes.

Below you’ll find a list of the various eye colors that cats can possess; note that each can come in several hues.

#1: Blue Eyes

kitten with blue eyes

Blue eyes are associated with all kittens under 6-8 weeks of age. If blue is your favorite color and cats with this magnificent eye color are a must have, then you should go for felines who are known to maintain the color to old age, such as Snowshoe, Ragdoll, Balinese, Javanese, Himalayan, Tonkinese, Persian, and Siamese. Plus, the Ojos Azules is a unique cat breed that can present blue-eyed cats with dark coats.

That said, there is a chance that you can get blue-eyed cats from other breeds. Therefore you should liaise with breeders and shelters to increase your chances of owning one of these gems.

40% of white cats with blue eyes are deaf. The pigment-producing cells responsible for the eye and coat colors also play a role in inner ear functions, and so with few or no melanocytes, some end up deaf.

In some cases, the blue color could be indicative of blindness. This could be due to damage sustained during aggressive play between siblings, trauma from falling, or an underlying illness. It is not, however, not a strong indicator of blindness in cats. There are other colors and visual traits which should be a cause for concern.

#2: Odd-Colored Eyes

This signifies a difference in melanocyte activity. One eye will, therefore, have no melanin, ending up being blue, and the other one will be green, yellow, orange, or copper.

This is caused by a gene called the white spotting gene. It affects the level of melanin in cats. The same gene also leads to albinism, which causes a complete lack of color in the coat or the eyes.

#3: Copper Eyes

Copper Eyes

This is as dark as cat eyes can get regardless of the amount of melanin. As earlier indicated, you are unlikely to find a cat with brown or black eye colors. The color that you may perceive as brown is probably dark copper or deep orange.

#4: Green Eyes

Green eyes are a result of little melanin. Since the melanin in the eyes and the ones in the coat are controlled by different genes, cats with coat colors such as grey, brown, white, or black can have green eyes.

#5: Orange or Yellow Eyes

kitten with yellow eyes

Since eye color intensity can be linked to the number of melanocytes and the level of their activity, the various shades cat colors can have between a pale yellow and a deep orange can be as a result of these two factors.

A Kitten’s Eye Color at Birth

Having listed all the eye colors that a cat can have above, it is important to note that all kittens have blue eyes at birth.

When a kitten is born, the eyes are not fully developed, meaning your fur baby is born without working sight. Hence the eyes will be closed.

Having the eyes tightly sealed at birth is actually a genius developmental trait; it helps to give the eyes time to fully mature and become functional. Closed eyes also help to prevent any shed fur from the mother or other kinds of debris from harming the delicate eyes.

Maternal instincts are strong in animals which allows the mother to protect her litter at infancy. She will be there to guide them to her teats for suckling and cover them for warmth. This gives the kitten sustenance and a good environment to sleep. These are the exact conditions necessary for fast growth and steady development of the body, including sight.

Preparation of the eyes for sight takes a different pace for each kitten. That said, it typically takes about 3 to 14 days for the eyes to be fully opened and reveal their initial color. The process is, however, gradual—which makes the eyes appear squinty as your kitty gets used to light. This continues until at about five weeks of age when a kitten’s vision reaches maturity.

From total darkness to a new bright world, the first color that manifests is a bright blue. The color is a common trait in all newborn cats. The beautiful color is, however, a passing trait for the majority of kittens.

When Do Kitten’s Eyes Change Color?

kitten with green eyes

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the turquoise colored-eyes would define your kitten for the rest of his life? Well… cats with white or seal-pointed coats typically maintain their blue eye color from birth to maturity.

On the other hand, non-white cats lose their blue eye color as they age. At about 6 to 8 weeks after birth, the blue is replaced by other colors. The process is gradual and moves from amber to orange and other shades in between.

Color changes may continue until the kitten is up to 3 months of age—at the end of which the resulting color becomes a permanent feature for your kitty. Permanent eye colors range from shades of brown to green. If the changes continue beyond three months, then it could be an indication of a health problem, and you should consult the services of a vet immediately.

Can you Guess a Kitten’s Age Based on Their Eye Color?

newborn kitten with closed eyes

Careful examination of a kitten’s eyes can help you make an educated guess on his age. The examination includes the extent of eyelids separation and the color of the eyes. This information is important especially for rescued or strays cats whose age could determine the appropriate actions needed to be taken in terms of care.

  • A kitten with fully closed eyes is most likely a newborn. This would put his age at anywhere between 3 to 14 days. On the other hand, a kitten with partially opened eyes is likely on his second or third week since birth.
  • If his eyes are fully open and showing the blue color already, then it’s safe to assume that he is at least one week old. An older kitten who is already walking around steadily and whose eyes have begun transitioning from blue to another color is at least on his sixth week of life.

Using eye color to estimate the age of a kitten is, however, a limited approach; kittens who are destined to grow into blue-eyed felines will remain with the same eye color—with minimal or no variation to the shade

Infections that Can Cause the Eye Color to Change

sick kitten

Kittens and mature cats alike can undergo eye-color changes due to infections. These could be sight-related or other diseases. Here are some of them:

#1: Anterior Uveitis

This is a condition that affects the eye’s uveal tract, which is a dark tissue at the front of the eye containing the iris. The disease leads to inflammation of the blood vessels, making the eyes appear reddish and cloudy.

Anterior uveitis can also be accompanied by increased sensitivity to light, squinting, scratching at the eye, and protrusion of the nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid. The disease can affect the eyes only but can also be a symptom of other conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Fungal, bacterial, or viral infections such as FIV or FeLV
  • Eye trauma
  • Tumors

#2: Glaucoma

The condition results from insufficient drainage of fluids from the eyes, which leads to high pressure in the eyes. The condition is chronic, and if left untreated it can cause blindness from the increased pressure on the optic nerve.

The disease can leave your cat with a cloudy or milky eye color. Other symptoms include:

  • Unresponsive pupils
  • Increased blinking
  • Receded eyeball
  • Redness of the eyes’ blood vessels
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

#3: Liver Shunt

The condition is also known as portosystemic liver shunt, a congenital disease that causes abnormal development of fetal blood vessels. With a shunt liver comes the release of toxic substances into the bloodstream.

One of the earliest indicators of the disease is copper-colored eyes. Though the eye color is common in some cats and should not be taken as a sole indicator of liver shunts.

Other symptoms to be on the look for include:

  • Stunted growth
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Drooling
  • Increased urination
  • Aggression
  • Head pressing

Wrap Up

beautiful kitten's eyes

Cats present more eye colors than any other living beings. This makes their eyes very unique. Besides the fact that they are born with blue eyes, most of them can change to any hues of yellow, green, orange, and copper at 6-8 weeks of age while others retain the blue eyes to adulthood. It is also common to have odd colored eyes where a cat has two eyes of different colors.

Color changes in cat eyes are usually natural, but can be triggered by medical conditions which will usually be accompanied by other signs. Such a case warrants a visit to your vet.

What is the color of your cat’s eyes? What information do you find helpful in this article concerning your cat? Do share this and any other feedback with us below. Next, for more information on this topic, check out our article on how do cats see.

About the author
Martha Harvey
Martha Harvey

Martha Harvey is a skilled veterinarian and a member of American Veterinary Medical Association from Greeley, Colorado. She has 20 years experience of working in Animal Hospital. Martha loves all of her patients, but her favorite one is the Russian Blue cat Stitch, who lives with her.

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