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How to recognize an albino cat ? What attention to give him?

The albinism is a genetic particularity but in no case a pathology. On the other hand, it can be at the origin of certain fragilities which impose to take precautions. Let's take stock of the cause of this anomaly, the distinctive signs that an albino cat presents and what his master must avoid or privilege so that his little feline a little bit particular is the best protected possible.

Origin of albinism

Albinism is a genetic condition but also hereditary, that is to say that it is transmitted by the parents. It can affect humans as well as all animal species. This term covers various anomalies due to a deficit or total lack of melanin, although the melanocytes have a completely normal structure.

Melanocytes are large cells scattered throughout the body, for example
  • In the basal level of the epidermis,
  • In the hair follicles,
  • In the internal tissues of the digestive tract,
  • In the heart muscle,
  • In the meninges,
  • In the inner ear,
  • In the eyes.
The role of a melanocyte is to produce the most important pigment in the body that gives color to the skin, hair, feathers and eyes. This pigment is called melanin. It plays a very important protective role against the aging process due to the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays (UV).

Consequences of albinism in cats

In an organism without genetic particularity, melanocytes synthesize melanin through melanogenesis. In the case of albinism, there is a lack of pigmentation which is called hypopigmentation. It usually affects the eyes, hair and skin. But the biosynthesis of melanin being largely decreased in the case of albinism, it also leads to an insufficient development of certain constituents of the eye or of another organ. We speak about hypoplasia.

Characteristics of the albino cat

The albino cat has a melanin deficiency that results in the following characteristics:
  • Pale pink skin on the body, pads, lips, nose, ears and eyelids,
  • Red circles around the eyes, sometimes turning red, sometimes light brown, but can also be green or blue,
  • A 100% white coat, without any colored spots, but a cat with a white coat is not always an albino cat. Also, some albino cats are born completely white and their hair becomes partially colored after a few months.
Albinism can be total or partial. In the latter case, the cat has only some of the characteristics of albinism, so that to the untrained eye, it may be more difficult to detect this anomaly. An example of this is the Colourpoint cat, which has at least partial albinism.

Protecting the albino cat because it is fragile on many levels

In order to know what precautions to take when your cat has partial or total albinism, it is necessary to look at the daily consequences of this genetic and hereditary particularity for the little animal.

The eyes

Any cat is nyctalope, which means that it sees in the dark. But the albino cat has a night vision even more developed than that of its congeners. On the other hand, it does not have a very great visual acuity during the day. Moreover, the fact that it presents a deficit of melanin at the level of the eye makes its eyes very sensitive to the light and thus more fragile. The albino cat is exposed to the risk of blindness.

Ideally, the albino cat should be kept indoors during the brightest hours of the day, taking care to filter out daylight with curtains, a dark screen or shutters.

The ears

The ears of the albino cat are sensitive in many ways. If skin cancer is diagnosed in the small feline, to limit the serious consequences to which the animal is exposed, it may be decided by the veterinarian to perform an otectomy. This is a surgical procedure that consists of cutting the ears.

Some albino cats are at high risk of deafness due to a malformation of the inner ear. If the animal doesn't seem to understand when its owner speaks to it, or simply calls it by name, it may have a hearing problem. For a long time, this lack of understanding was associated with a lack of faculties, but this is not the case. The albino cat is as intelligent as any other cat, but he may be deaf.

It's best not to let your deaf cat wander off the family property because he can't hear sounds that might warn him of impending danger. For example, he may be knocked over by a vehicle because he cannot hear it, and for the same reason he is particularly vulnerable to dog bites.

The skin

The albino cat's skin is just as fragile as its eyes or ears, because its skin is not protected against UV A and B rays. His skin can therefore redden, even burn, at the slightest exposure to the sun. Recurrent exposure can cause serious illness. It is thus necessary to consult the veterinarian as soon as one notices a redness or a swelling, even a thickening of the skin of his albino cat. Usually, the veterinarian will take a biopsy of the cat. This is necessary if actinic keratosis is suspected because it is a warning sign of squamous cell carcinoma, a rapidly spreading skin cancer.

The albino cat is therefore at risk of cancer. To protect them from the sun's rays, they should not be allowed outside in the middle of the day, at least between 10 am and 5 pm. Before and after, the exposure to the sun's rays is less direct. It's best to get your albino cat used to being walked on a leash from a young age. This allows him to go out at any time under the vigilance of his master who, of course, will make sure that his little companion can stay in the shade.

At the same time, any albino cat must benefit from a sun protection through a specific cream that can be prescribed by the veterinarian. Obviously, it is a product designed for the cat, an animal that spends a lot of time licking itself. The sun cream for albino cats is non-toxic. There is no question of using a sun protection for humans unless it is an organic sun product for children, without any chemical additives, without perfume, ultra soft and adapted to very sensitive skin.

Even if albinism is not a disease, the albino cat must be the object of particular attention because it is fragile. It is necessary to show it very regularly to the veterinarian so that a monitoring can be set up throughout the life of the cat.

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