Ojos Azules Cat Breed
General Description and History
Ojos Azules means “blue eyes” in spanish, the Ojos Azules capture your attention with their deep blue eyes set against the myriad of colors where you wouldn’t expect to see blue eyes. The contrast is breath-taking. Typically these rare cats are medium in size and will often have white patches on the body. Most notably white patching on the feet and a white tail-tip are associated with the gene causing these unexpected intense deep blue eyes.
The history of these cats appears to start in 1984 in New Mexico where they were identified in a feral colony. The first identified cat was a tortoiseshell female named Cornflower. When bred to unrelated males, her kittens exhibited the same blue eyes thereby proving that the trait is a dominant one. But they are still a very rare breed – for example there were only 10 known Ojos Azules in 1992. TICA recognized the Ojos Azules as a breed in 1991 but there are few breeders working with it today. The New Breed program allows for the registration and development of cats and is over-seen by TICA’s Genetics Committee. Yearly reports are produced and the health is monitored along with the overall development of the breed.
The gene shows up periodically and may be more widespread than originally thought. Or it may be the work of another mutation. A blue bi-color cat with sapphire blue eyes was discovered in Windellama in New South Wales, Australia, by A M Schneider. Since there have been no imports of the Ojos Azules to Australia, this cat would appear to be the result of a spontaneous mutation in the domestic population there. When in the homozygous state, some health issues have resulted. There is much work to be done with this breed to determine if the striking blue eyes can be conserved without health issues.
Ojos Azules are remarkable for their deep blue eyes. Unlike the blue eyes seen linked to the genes in bicolor cats and cats with point coloration, both of which suppress pigmentation, this gene is not linked to any certain fur color or pattern, giving the opportunity to have cats with dark coats and blue eyes. The depth of color in the eyes is greater even than that seen in a Siamese, and does not cause squinting, deafness or cross-eye. Ojos Azules are a very rare breed. In 1992, only ten were known.
The breed, in both short and long hair variety, was accepted for registration by TICA in 1991. The TICA Ojos Azules cat Breed Group Standard is dated 5 January 2004. Only cats expressing the deep blue eye gene have been called Ojos Azules. It was recently discovered that cranial defects may be linked to the gene, and breeding was temporarily suspended.
Following genetic investigation by Solveig Pflueger, breeding resumed in a small way with attempts to breed Ojos Azules without the lethal genetic defects. It was discovered that when the gene is homozygous it causes cranial deformities, white fur, a small curled tail, and stillbirth. However, when the gene is heterozygous, those lethal genetic mutations do not manifest.
The result is that breeders must cross the blue-eyed cats with non-blue-eyed cats, assuring a litter of about 50/50 blue/non-blue-eyed kittens. Though only half of the kittens are then part of the Ojos Azules breed, this avoids having much of the litter comprise deformed dead kittens.
One indicator of the Ojos azules cat gene is a flattened tail-tip.
Although the eye color is described as having depth “even greater even than that seen in a Siamese” it, in fact, does not. The blue color seen in cats is due to the same physical phenomenon, the absence of melanin in the iris. The cause of the absence of pigment differs between Siamese, white cats, and Ojos but the end result is pigment loss and blue eyes.
The depth of color of the blue eyes is due to currently unknown polygenetic variations. The depth of eye color can be selected for in breeding programs and current show Siamese have extremely deep eye color.
Due to their rarity, little is known about the temperament of these strikingly pretty cats. The handful that are known to exist are with breeders who are working with geneticists to determine if the gene is viable for conservation. If their efforts are successful, we will discover the underlying personality of the cats.
The coat is short, soft and silky and they are accepted except for solid white. The standard for the breed is still being developed however the deep blue eyes are a key feature that must be present. The coat itself should be soft and silky. There will often be white patches on the extremities such as the face, feet and tail. They are typically a medium-sized cat with a moderate triangular head shape with a pretty expression and large eyes that highlight the deep blue color.