British Blue cats are British Shorthairs with a specific colouration. The product of early matings between British Shorthairs and Russian Blues, archetypal British Blue has deep, thick fur of a solid blue-grey shade and remarkable copper-coloured eyes. Some new owners, on first seeing their British Blue kitten’s eyes, are surprised or even dismayed to discover that their kitten lacks those trademark amber-orange peepers and has blue eyes instead.
You’ve landed on this page because you have questions about British Blues. Why don’t British Blue kittens have copper or amber eyes? How come kittens have blue eyes anyway? What happens to a kitten’s eyes to make them change colour? Are blue eyes anything to worry about? Shifts in eye colour are just some of the amazing changes that a kitten goes through between birth and weaning – read on to find out more about British Blue kittens, their development, and feline eye colour throughout the cat’s life.
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To understand why let’s talk a little more about kittens and their development.
Do British Blue kittens’ eyes change colour? They do. The kitten’s eyes will start out a pale, hazy blue. Gradually, over the course of several weeks, the famous copper shade will start to appear – first around the pupil, then gradually spreading to the rest of the eye. All kittens’ eyes change colour in a similar way, with the exception of cats who will be blue-eyed into adulthood.
To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a cat who starts life with their eyes already showing adult colouration unless their eyes will be blue anyway. If you bought your kitten from a registered breeder, she should already be at least 12 weeks old; by this age, most cats should have their adult eye-colour. If the kitten’s eyes haven’t quite finished changing or if you have a younger kitten for some reason, they may still be partly or wholly blue.
When a kitten is born, its eyes will be closed. In fact, the kitten’s eyes haven’t even finished developing. The kitten doesn’t yet have any developed senses beyond touch, smell and taste; not only are their eyes tightly shut and still forming but their ears are still developing too. They can’t hear very well and can’t see at all. The little blind kittens will be completely dependent on their mother initially. Neonates can’t even regulate their own body heat. When they’re first born, these tiny creatures will fit in the palm of your hand.
- For the first week, they will do little more than eat, sleep and grow.
- By the second week, the kittens are a lot bigger and their eyes may have started to open.
- Sometime between 9 and 14 days old, the kitten’s eyes should be fully open.
They still haven’t really finished developing, though. The world around them is a blur of light and colour; their pupils don’t dilate and contract properly yet so they should be protected from bright lights. One of the things the kittens’ eyes lack is their full complement of the pigment melanin.
Melanin is the same pigment that gives humans and other animals their hair, iris and skin colours. In cats, it produces shades of green, amber, brown and other colours, including the copper shade of a British Blue’s eyes. If your cat has little or no melanin in her eyes, she will have light eyes that look blue because of the way that light is scattered by the tissue of the iris.
Once the kittenish blue has faded, your cat still may not develop that orange-copper colour right away – many British Blues have flat brown eyes for some months before they finally get their coppery tint. This is completely normal. Some kittens develop strong copper, orange or amber eyes as soon as they grow out of their blue stage but it’s common to see their eyes turn brown first. You may have to wait until the cat is around ten or twelve months old to see how their eyes will turn out.
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Why do British Blues have copper eyes?
British Blues are a lovely and highly regarded variant of the British Shorthair. They are perhaps the most popular colour for this breed. The ideal British Blue has solid blue-grey fur with no other colours or markings. She has a solid, cobby body, a rounded head and rounded features. Her eyes are large and round, with amber, orange or copper irises. British Blue cats were created in the early days of the breed when British Shorthair cats were deliberately mated with Russian Blue cats in the hopes of creating a variety of the British Shorthair breed with the Russian Blue’s blue-grey coat. These matings were successful in introducing the blue fur trait to the breed.
Breeders then had to work to create a true British Shorthair with both the blue colouration and the handsome traits of the original line. These include the coppery eyes of the British Shorthair. Russian Blue cats have eyes that are green, blue-green or sometimes blue in colour, creating a markedly different effect than the copper-on-blue contrast we see in the British Blue’s colouration. The coppery eyes are inherited from the earliest British Shorthairs and are very much sought-after by breeders, cat fanciers and ordinary pet owners alike.
So there’s nothing wrong with my British Blue kitten’s eyes?
This is the first question some inexperienced kitten owners ask when the kitten’s eyes open and they see that greyish-blue colour instead of the orange they were expecting. Is there something wrong with the kitten? No. This is entirely normal and really shouldn’t concern you. British Shorthairs, in general, aren’t especially prone to eye issues; their large, round eyes are well-formed and typically very healthy.
Like any cat, however, your British Blue can develop eye problems in kittenhood. Kittens are delicate and their immune systems aren’t fully developed yet; this makes them vulnerable to infections. They are also curious, playful and rumbustious, forever getting into scrapes and potentially suffering harm. Even as simple as a misplaced foot by a litter-mate can cause an injury. Signs that your kitten might have issues with her eyes include mucus or other discharge, squinting, bumps or swelling around the eyes or obvious injuries. If you see any of these symptoms in your British Blue kitten, it’s important to have the vet see her as soon as possible.
Eye problems can deteriorate quickly and may become very serious if they’re not attended to promptly. In the most extreme cases, a kitten could lose the sight in one or both eyes. Severe infections can even kill your pet.
My British Blue kitten is older than 12 weeks but still has blue eyes. Will they ever change?
By the time the kitten is three months old, their original eye colour has usually changed completely. While some cats do take longer to fully develop their adult eye colour, you should certainly have seen plenty of changes by 12 weeks of age. If the kitten’s eyes are still solidly blue at this point, without even a ring of colour around the pupil (the dark part of the eye) there’s a good chance they’re not going to change and you simply have a blue-eyed, blue-haired cat. This isn’t unheard of – while British Shorthairs with the British Blue colouration usually have eyes that are described as copper-coloured or amber-orange, they do pop up with blue or green eyes from time to time.
Your kitten is fine, just a blue-eyed baby rather than an amber-eyed one. If the cat’s eyes still haven’t changed in another week, they’re definitely staying blue. For myself, I think it’s a rather appealing combination – while I find the typical copper eyes very striking, there’s something charming about the combination of blue eyes and grey-blue fur. Some people immediately suspect that they may not have a pure-bred British Shorthair on their hands – that their kitten may be mix of British Shorthair and another type of cat, such as a Russian Blue or a Ragdoll. This is not necessarily the case. Although it’s a rare eye colour in this breed, there are pure-bred British Shorthairs who have blue eyes; they tend to have white rather than blue fur but again it is still possible.
I love my British Blue’s copper eyes but I liked those blue kitten eyes too. Can I find a cat whose eyes won’t change?
You can purchase a British Shorthair kitten or cat with blue eyes – silver or white coloured Shorthairs often have duck-egg or azure irises. If you’re in love with blue-furred cats, the slim Russian Blue is a related shorthair breed with blue fur and blue or green eyes. In fact, there are several wonderful cat breeds who keep their blue eyes permanently. The Siamese is perhaps the most famous but there are other cats with charming blue eyes. The intelligent, mischievous Balinese and hyper-social Tonkinese are two popular ones. (If you opt for a Tonkinese cat, do bear in mind that they need plenty of companionships – you might end up getting two just to keep them occupied).
My personal favourite is the Ragdoll – they have baby-blue eyes, long, thick fur and very loving natures, as well as being a lively companion who’ll get on famously with your British Blue. If you do decide to get a blue-eyed cat, do be aware that some breeds are prone to issues such as myopia, nystagmus and a tendency to blindness. This needn’t impact the cat’s well-being – I’ve known plenty of completely sightless cats who were perfectly happy and enjoyed life to the full – but blind or partially sighted cats do need extra care that fully sighted cats don’t. Light eyes tend to go with light fur colours, especially white, and these come with various issues such as a propensity to burn in the sun and develop melanoma. White-furred cats are often deaf in one or both ears as well, which can impact their well-being.
My adult British Blue’s eyes are starting to change colour. Is this normal?
No, it is definitely not normal. While your grown-up kitten may show some changes in eye colour (as we’ve mentioned, a British Blue’s eyes may go from blue to brown and then to orange as she grows up), once they’re over a year old their eye colour shouldn’t change much. There are a number of reasons why eye colour changes can happen in adult cats and none of them is good. Like any other cat, the British Shorthair can develop eye defects and disorders, which can manifest as colour changes. In some cases it may be obvious that something isn’t right – one or both of your cat’s eyes may appear reddened; an eye may look swollen or sunken as well as being discoloured.
These symptoms can suggest an infection, injury or something more serious, such as glaucoma. If your cat’s eyes appear lighter, especially if they seem milky or foggy, the issue may be a cataract. If your adult cat’s eyes start to change colour, you should immediately get them checked out by a vet. Some conditions are easily curable, while others are at least treatable. Eye colour changes can also be a sign that there’s something else disrupting your cat’s health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Copper eyes are normal for British Blues; if your cat didn’t start out with them, though, they can be a symptom of a rare disorder called a liver shunt. This is a deformity that allows toxins and other substances that should be taken up by the liver to enter the animal’s bloodstream instead. It can’t be stressed enough that any change in eye colour is cause for concern and should be investigated.
My British Blue’s eyes are different colours! Is this normal?
If you notice that one of your cat’s eyes looks different from the other eye, you should seek a vet’s advice. This can be indicative of a problem, especially if the cat’s eyes started out the same colour. Once you’ve had your cat’s eyes checked by the vet to rule out any issues, however, you can relax: your pet simply has heterochromia. This is not terribly unusual in cats. It shows up in white cats more often but can occur in any other colour. Blue and green, green and yellow, yellow and brown – there is any number of different combinations.
While some congenital disorders can cause heterochromia, it often occurs on its own and causes no special problems for the cat. I personally find heterochromic cats quite charming; there’s something a little magical about those odd eyes. Odd-eyed cats of various breeds are often highly prized and their mismatched eyes may be selectively bred for, as in the case of the Turkish Angoras at the Ankara Zoo. Common cat-lore holds that odd-eyed cats will automatically be deaf on one ear (specifically the ear on the side that has a blue eye) but this belief is erroneous. Although they can suffer from hearing problems, the majority do not.
Heterochromia is rare in British Shorthairs but I have seen one or two, always white or mostly white in colour. Both eyes will typically look identical for the first few weeks, with the heterochromia revealing itself only when the cat’s eyes change from their kittenish blue.
My blue British Shorthair is all grown up and she really does have blue eyes instead of the orange ones I wanted! Should I complain to the breeder?
I don’t often encounter people who complain about their cat’s eyes after buying from a reputable breeder but it does happen. To be honest, I’d have to side with the breeder in these cases. You could raise the issue but it’s unlikely you have grounds for a complaint. Breeders may strive for specific eye colours but feline genetics can always bowl you a googly. If you bought your kitten from a registered breeder, it’s highly unlikely that your cat isn’t a purebred British Shorthair.
In any case, you should have been able to see the kitten’s eye colour before you took possession of her – a reputable breeder won’t sell a kitten until they’re at least three months old so they can be weaned and properly socialised, and so that any health problems can be picked up. By that age, they should certainly have some indication of the colour their eyes will become. You might want to discuss the cats’ eye colour with your breeder anyway – they will probably be interested in repeating the mating that gave rise to your unusually coloured cat. If you bought your kitten from an unregistered breeder, there is very little you can do. You could look into the cat’s background to find out if she’s really pure British Shorthair or a mix.