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White Cats Vs. Albino Cats

wcw-white-cat-with-big-earsAlbinism and White Cats

Nonetheless, more important than the cool fact that white cats often have odd eyes is the fact that White Cats are not always Albino Cats. Much like humans on the surface, but a lot different on the genetic side of things.

I’d give you a short explanation and then a long one.

In a nutshell, non-albino white cats are white because they have a gene for white coat that suppresses the genes of other colors. On the other hand, albino cats are white because they do NOT have any color gene.

Non-albino white cat = Dominant White Color Gene

Albino white cat = No Color Genes

Non-albino White Cats

In general, non-albino white cats have a gene for white coat. However, the gene they have may be either of two genes:

  • A Dominant White Gene denoted by the symbol ‘W,’ or
  • A White Spotting Gene denoted by the symbol ‘S

Most non-albino white cats have the ‘W’ gene and very few have the ‘S’ gene.

  1. The basic difference between the two is that while the dominant white gene is [as the name implies] dominant and so masks the genes of other colors completely, the white spotting gene is semi-dominant and does not always express itself fully.

Therefore, while cats that have the ‘W’ gene always have a full white coat, cats with the ‘S’ gene do not always have a full white coat.

Fall colors and a white cat.

Fall colors and a white cat.

As you’d guess, it’s because the S gene is semi-dominant. But the real meaning of semi-dominant is that the gene has variable expressions in different cats.

In some cats, the gene may not be expressed at all. In some cats, you’d find white patches on their colored coat. For example white chest, white toes etc.

In some cats however, the gene will be fully expressed, and the cat will have a full white coat like a cat with the dominant white gene. Although you’d likely find discernible small spots of color.

  1. The second difference is that while the W gene is linked to deafness, the S gene is not.

Therefore, non-albino white cats with the S gene are rarely deaf, unlike their counterparts with the W gene that are often (but not always) deaf on at least one ear.

Aside having solid white coats, another similarity is that both genes are autosomal genes. Which is fancy speak for the genes are not carried on either of the two sex chromosomes (X and Y sex chromosomes). And so, both genes may occur in both male and female cats.

Albino White Cats

The genetics for albino white cats is a tad more complex. There are FIVE known variations (called alleles) of the albinism gene in cats.

  • Full color; ‘C
  • Pink-eyed albino; ‘c
  • Blue-eyed albino; ‘ca
  • Burmese pattern; ‘cb
  • Siamese pattern; ‘cs
“If human lives be, for their very brevity, sweet, then beast lives are sweeter still...” - Isobelle Carmody

“If human lives be,for their very brevity, sweet, then beast lives are sweeter still…”
– Isobelle Carmody

Of these five alleles, the full color allele (C) is DOMINANT to all the other four alleles, while the pink-eyed albino (c) is recessive to all the other four alleles.

Unsurprisingly, the allele possessed by a cat determines the form of albinism the cat exhibits. For example, the Siamese form of albinism (with the cs allele) is generally temperature dependent. Accordingly, warm areas of the body are paler than cooler areas.

Furthermore, two parent cats have to possess the genetic marker for albinism to give birth to a true albino kitten. Fortunately, like the white spotting gene, none of the five alleles for albinism is linked to deafness.

Conclusively, true albino white cats also have a fairly noticeable difference in eye color to non-albino white cats. True albino white cats often have very pale blue, pinkish, or pinkish-blue eyes. This is because like with their skin coat, the eyes of albino cats completely lack pigmentation.

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