Why Are Siamese Cats Cross-Eyed?


You may notice your Siamese cat’s eyes not lining up with each other. Although they may not see straight, your Siamese cat can see clearly just like those other cats. But why are Siamese cats cross-eyed?

Siamese cats are cross-eyed because of a genetic flaw in their eyes. The condition afflicting the early Siamese cat is called Strabismus. This is a big way to say that the eyes don’t line up with each other. In those with this condition, the center of the retina is off-kilter. This prevents them from seeing straight.


Why do some Siamese cats have crossed-eyes?

Crossed eyes in a Siamese cat may also be caused by nerve damage. The nerves around one eye or the other are weaker, rendering them unable to respond to the brain’s signals. This causes one eye or the other to wander on its own. This is the same cause of the lazy eye.

Of course, these are only the scientific reasons. If you would rather go with the legends (and who wouldn’t?) here is a story.

The Siamese is one of the oldest cat breeds in the world. Given their wise and regal status, the ancient royals selected them to guard a golden goblet. They watched over their charge so intently, as the story goes, that they went cross-eyed.

Or maybe once upon a time, a mama cat said to her kitten “don’t cross your eyes or they’ll stay that way!” And he didn’t listen.  

Whichever theory you go with, this trait only adds to their mysterious beauty.  Unfortunately, many cat fanciers didn’t think so, so they bred out this trait over time.  You can still find this unique feature in the Traditional Siamese and Thai Siamese.

The Thai Siamese has the same heritage as the original, but he is more westernized. This fellow has the same pointed coat and bright blue eyes.  The differences lie in his body type. His torso is still elongated, but less so, and he sports a modified wedge-shaped head.


Why have breeders eliminated crossed eyes?

As with beauty pageants, the standards are high for show and pure-bred cats.

But no pressure, right?

So to meet these standards, breeders will often work to eliminate crossed eyes. To do this, they will mate a cat with crossed eyes with one not possessing the trait. These efforts won’t come to fruition until two or three generations down the line.

It is also important for breeders to look into the background of the cat with uncrossed eyes. If one of his parents carries the crossed eye trait, his kittens have a 1 in 4 chance of inheriting it. 

It is somewhat ironic, as people will go to breeders looking for a “Purebred” Siamese cat. There are health considerations to consider when adopting a purebred cat.  The purer the breed, the more likely they are to have weaker traits as well.


Does a cross-eyed cat face health problems?

Crossed eyes do not usually have any effect on the cat’s wellbeing. The only exception would be if the cause of the crossed eyes leads to problems.

There are diseases of the vestibular system that can cause crossed eyes. This system provides the brain with information about motion and spatial perception.

If this system malfunctions, it can cause the eyes to cross. Other symptoms include dizziness and lightheadedness.

If the cat’s eyes cross due to nerve damage, she might experience other problems.  These include weaker vision and light sensitivity. 

Other causes include:

Injury or Trauma: 

While it is sickening to think of anything like this happening to someone so innocent, it does happen. Cranial inflammation can affect the muscle mobility of the eye.  This can also be a cause of nerve damage. This condition will sometimes resolve when the inflammation goes down. 

Disease:

  • Infections can lead to weakness in the small nerves of the eyes. This is especially common in infections of the inner or middle ear.
  • Cancer: Nerve damage can also occur when a tumor is pressing down on the nerves of the eye.
  • Meningitis is swelling of the protective membranes around the brain and spinal cord. This includes those surrounding the eyes and can cause crossed eyes. 

If your cat’s eyes are suddenly crossed, this could be cause for concern. If she also is more tired than usual and not eating, a trip to the vet might be in order.  The good news is that many of these conditions are treatable. 

Other symptoms that occur along with crossed eyes from disease include:

  • Balance Issues
  • Head tilting to one side.
  • Pupil size difference

Do other cat breeds have crossed eyes?

Crossed-eyes are most common to the Siamese cat but can occur in other breeds as well.  This can be due to injury, nerve weakness, or hereditary abnormalities. Or they may be part Siamese!

Other cats prone to crossed eyes include the Persian and the Himalayan.  My friend’s Russian Blue has one eye that crosses when he’s in a certain mood. And in dogs, the Boston Terrier is often a carrier of the gene.

How many types of cat eyes are there?

Like the marble, cats’ eyes come in all types and colors.  The cat is unique in every way – including their vertical pupil.  Almost no other being on earth has this feature. 

As for colors, they can be green, blue, gold, amber, red, yellow, and orange.  Even cooler are the cats who have bi-colored eyes.  

Odd-colored eyes happen because of different levels of melanin activity in each eye. Melanin is responsible for eye color. 

The Turkish Van features one blue, while the other is green or gold. Black cats will often have golden eyes – this is often seen in the stereotypical Halloween cat.  While the Siamese, of course, is famous for her sparkling blue peepers. 

Also important to note is that your kitten’s eyes won’t likely stay the same.  All kittens are born with blue eyes, but most will mature into one of the other colors listed above. 

Some eye colors can signal different health conditions.  For example, many deaf cats are all white with blue eyes. This leads people to believe that cats with one blue eye are also born deaf.  In fact, this only occurs in 20 percent of cats with odd-colored eyes.

Whatever the reason for them, I hope that the Cat Fanciers’ Association changes its mind. Because I think crossed eyes are paws-itively adorable in cats!

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Siamese cats are cross-eyed because of a genetic flaw in their eyes. The condition afflicting the early Siamese cat is called Strabismus. This is a big way to say that the eyes don’t line up with each other. In those with this condition, the center of the retina is off-kilter. This prevents them from seeing straight.

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