by Jette Eva Madsen.

The white Forest Cats have been around for 10 years now and no other color has caused so many discussions about the nature of the color, if the cats suffer, if the cats are albinos, etc. During the last two years the interest for white Forest Cats have arisen proportionally to the scarcity of kittens born in this particular color.

The changing of the FIFe rules for the breeding of white cats. After FIFe made it a lot more difficult to breed white cats with their request for hearing certificate a few years ago a lot of breeders banned breeding of white cats. In certain countries the effect came down more heavily and in some countries nearly all white cats of certain breeds were taking out of breeding. The reasons for this were several. For one thing it became difficult to sell the white cats as breeders and show quality since they became more expensive due to the extra veterinary bills caused by the hearing certificate. When you see no white cats at the show bench it also becomes more difficult to sell them as pet kittens because the potential buyers do not know of that specific color. When it is difficult to sell the kittens a lot of breeders are forced to stop because it is not possible for them to heavily subsidies the breeding of white cats.

Today's situation

This has lead to a scarcity of white kittens in a lot of breeds and among them in the Norwegian Forest Cat. And what happens then. Breeders tend to wish for the rare cats. When white cats get rare and the price goes up because of the scarcity a lot of breeders wish to start out in order to breed the white cats. Therefore at the moment we have a lot of newcomers in the art of breeding white cats and with them the number of questions and wrong beliefs about the white cats are also on the rise again. Every day I get e-mails from all over the world asking me details on the breeding of white cats.

The statistics

I would like to be able to answer all these questions and I am able to shed light on some of them. It is however necessary to understand that most answers on white cats have to be based on statistic material and although I have been breeding the white cats for 10 years now, the number of kittens I have had is far from sufficient to get any statistical information. From time to time there have been some attempts to collect this kind of statistical material about the white cats but in vein. A lot of breeders are not honest about the record of hearing of their white cats, a lot of breeders are not sure weather their cats hear or not, and some breeders are not at all aware that there is a problem. Apart from that cat breeders tend to be very private people when it comes down to passing on information about the breeding and genetics of their own cats so it is very difficult to collect the necessary statistic material.

Frequently asked questions

  • White cats are albinos?
    Wrong, albinos have red eyes - you find white albino rabbits but to the best of my knowledge albino cats have only been breed in the US and mostly among the Siamese/oriental cats

  • White cats are hybrids?
    Wrong, hybrids are offspring's between two species - an example is a mule that is an offspring between a horse and a donkey. Hybrids are usually infertile. The only hybrid cat I have heard of is the Bengal cat that is a mating between our well known "house cat" and the leopard cat. There have also from time to time been problems with fertility in this breed.

  • Blue eyed white cats are deaf?
    No, there are plenty of hearing blue eyed cats

  • Yellow-eyed white cats are always hearing?
    No, there are plenty of deaf yellow-eyed cats

  • Odd eyed cats only hear on the ear linked to the yellow eye?
    No, there are plenty of both totally deaf - and plenty of normal hearing odd-eyed cats

  • The blue eyed cats get more deaf kittens?
    Wrong - there is absolutely no statistical material to back up this belief.

  • The cats with so-called thumb mark on the head are the hearing ones?
    No, they can be hearing or deaf. Hearing is by no means linked to the colored mark on the head

  • The colored spot on the head disappear when the cat is adult?
    Correct, depending on the size of the spot it disappears when the cat is between the age of 3 and 18 months old

  • Cats without the dark mark on the head are deaf?
    Wrong, there are plenty of hearing cats born without the colored mark on the head

  • Deaf cats suffer?
    No, usually deaf cats live happy lives, just remember they are not fit for a life between cars

  • In this family there is no history of deafness?
    Wrong, I have never heard of a family of white cats where there are no deaf ones

  • White cats have a louder 'miau'?
    That can be true but not necessarily

  • Deaf cats do not go well together with other cats and animals?
    Wrong, on the contrary deaf cats seem to be much more self confident and easy going than hearing cats from the same family. They get along just perfect with other cats and animals

  • You cannot call a deaf cat or get the cats attention?
    Wrong, deaf cats react to the vibrations in the house and the changing of the air

  • White cats have softer coat quality?
    Wrong, the coat quality if mostly dependent of the genetic make up of that particular family of cats

  • White cats are difficult to show because they get dirty?
    It is correct that you see every shadow on a white cat but in fact they are quite easy to keep clean - some white cats do not even need a bath before the show

There are many more questions and details concerning the life with a deaf cat that I could pass on to you. These were the most frequently asked questions. The rest will have to wait for a later 'JetteWeb'.

The danger

Because the white cats are now so rare breeders try to find ways in which they can use all the hearing white cats as breeding cats. This has leaded some breeders to use cats that have other faults that the cat clubs do not require test for. As an example some white cats with tail faults, heart faults, etc. will now be used for breeding because they are pretty and hearing. Breeders are optimistic and hope for the best. They hope that the offspring will be white, that they will not inherit the "other defect" of the parent and that they will be hearing. This is however a dangerous way to go with the breeding since there is a great chance that we in this way will introduce some traits much more harmful for the cats than deafness. It is however not surprising since the same reaction is also seen in the breeding of other animals than cats. As an example one can mention that the obligatory test for hip-dysplasia in certain breeds of dogs at some stage has led breeders to use dogs with other problems for breeding. Problems that made the dogs rejected as breeding dogs before the hip-dysplasia test was made obligatory.

Then why don't we claim test for more things like heart fault, tail fault, etc.? It is not possible to test for everything. Every time we make a new test obligatory some breeders will find a whole in the "law" exactly the same way some people try not to pay their taxes. Breeding of pet animals is mostly a matter of using ones common sense so the best we can hope for is well-educated breeders with excellently developed common sense.

The future

I was caught by the majestic and pretty Snow Cat the first time I saw one. In my life there will always be at least one white cat and I will always enjoy the 3 months old white kittens that are prettiest kittens I have ever seen. I hope that there will be many more breeders that feel like I do so that we will in the future have a large healthy stock of white cats of all breeds.