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Martha's kitten has "dull brown eyes," and she wonders why. Cat eye colors come in an astonishing array, and we'll tell you all about it in this post.

Cat eye colors come in an astonishing variety. Photo via Pixabay

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

My sweet tuxedo black 5-month-old kitten has dull brown eyes. Definitely not amber. I have never seen a cat with this color eyes. Her sight seems fine. Any concerns?


Martha's kitten has brownish eyes.Thomas: Well, Martha, you sent us a picture of your kitten with this letter, and her eyes definitely do look brownish–that’s the photo to the right.

Bella: But we think that her eyes are hazel or very light copper colored, if the photo’s colors are correct.

Tara: You see, cat eye colors come in an amazing array. And we don’t think there’s anything wrong with your kitten based on her eye color.

Thomas: If her eyes had suddenly changed color, we’d be more concerned, but it looks like she’s just grown out of her blue “kitten eyes” into her adult eye color.

Bella: Let’s talk a little bit more about cat eye colors. There’s a great chart over on  Messybeast.com that shows the variety of cat eye colors.

Tara: There are a couple of things that determine eye color. First, the relative intensity of eye pigmentation is driven by cells called melanocytes. They produce a pigment called melanin, which causes colors to be darker.

Thomas: Black cats like Bella have lots of melanocytes in their fur, which is what causes it to be so dark.

Tara: And Mama just found out that my skin is black and white under my fur, when she took me in to give blood and they shaved a spot in my neck to do so.

Bella: But eye color isn’t necessarily linked with skin or fur color in cats. Although I’m black, I have very light yellow eyes.

Thomas: And a white Persian cat could have dark copper-colored eyes.

Bella: The iris, or colored part of the eye, has two layers of these melanocytes. The outer layer is called the stroma, and it has loosely arranged color pigment cells. The inner layer, the epithelium, has a lot more tightly packed cells.

Tara: Another factor in cat eye colors is what’s called blue refraction. If you look at a pane of glass, it looks clear when you’re looking right through it. But the edges are blue- or green-looking because of that blue refraction phenomenon.

Thomas: Looking into a cat’s eye is like looking through blue glass; the blue tint affects how we see the other colors in the iris.

Bella: The type of color and its intensity depends on the number of melanocytes and how active they are. If there aren’t any melanocytes, the eyes appear blue. Few melanocytes give a paler tint, and a high number of melanocytes gives a richer pigment.

Tara: Then there’s the whole “how active are those melanocytes?” question. If they’re less active, you get paler shades of green, yellow, or orange; and if they’re more active, you’ll get deeper shades of green, orange, or gold.

Thomas: We think your cat has hazel eyes. This is actually the natural eye color of cats that live in temperate climates. And it’s certainly not unheard of for cats to have hazel or tan-colored eyes.

Bella: So, we hope we’ve been able to reassure you about your kitten’s eyes, and maybe even provide a fun lesson on cat eye colors in the process.

Tara: What about you other readers? Do you have questions about the color of your cat’s eyes? Do you want to know more about how cat eye colors work? Please share your questions in the comments!