GCCF Rules – Section 1
1g. Before any progeny may be registered from any breed of white cat, male or female, this cat must have had a BAER or OAE certificate of freedom from unilateral or bilateral deafness submitted to the GCCF Office. White cats without such certification will be registered on the non-active register until such time as the required certificate is sent and an application for transfer to the active register is made. Cats should be microchipped when tested with the number recorded on the test result and the cat’s own veterinary records. (Added 24.02.2016, Effective 01.06.2016) Note: Vendors must advise buyers/potential buyers in writing that white cats may be deaf from soon after birth in one or both ears. (Added 19.6.19)
In cats, inherited congenital (present from birth) deafness is seen almost exclusively in white coated individuals. The deafness is caused by degeneration of the auditory apparatus of the inner ear and may affect one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).
Breeding studies have defined the relationship between deafness in white cats and blue eye colour. The gene responsible is an autosomal dominant gene termed W (for White). This gene appears to be pleiotropic – ie, it has more than one effect, being responsible for the white coat colour and also blue eyes and deafness. However, while the gene has complete penetrance for white coat colour (all cats that carry the gene will have a white coat), it has incomplete penetrance for blue eye colour and for deafness (but these two are strongly linked). Thus deafness is strongly linked to the white coat colour and blue eye colour, but not all white cats or white cats with blue eyes are necessarily deaf. The variable penetrance of deafness and eye colour may be caused by interplay with other genes and/or environmental factors.
The risk of deafness in relation to coat colour and eye colour is shown in the figure below. If deafness occurs, it may be either unilateral or bilateral.
Overall, deaf cats with white coat colour and one or both blue eyes, make up around about 1-1.5% of the total cat population. However, the prevalence of white cats does vary in different geographies.
If a white cat has 2 blue eyes, it is 3-5 times more likely to be deaf than a cat with 2 non-blue eyes, and a cat with 1 blue eye is about twice as likely to be deaf as a cat with 2 non-blue eyes. In addition, longhaired white cats are 3 times more likely to be bilaterally deaf. In a feral situation deaf white cats experience strong negative natural selection pressure as:
- They are deaf
- They are photophobic (intolerant of bright light because of the blue eyes)
- They have reduced vision in low light conditions
However, among pet cats it is much more common to find white cats, probably simply due to selective breeding (human preference and intervention). Many cat breeds are known to have the white coat gene and can, therefore, produce deaf white individuals. The GCCF now insists on white cats registered on the active register being checked for deafness (e.g. using BAER testing – brainstem auditory evoked response … this is a simple non-invasive test that can be performed at specialist centres to determine accurately whether deafness is present).
Where can you get your cat BAER tested?
BAER test centres and contacts:
Small Animal Hospital, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Glasgow, Bearsden Road, Glasgow, G61 1QH,
Contact: Mrs Gillian Calvo (VN).
Tel : 0141 330 5848;
Hearing Assessment Clinic (Mobile), Seadown Veterinary Hospital, 1 Frost Lane, Hythe, Hants
Contact: K Morris MRCVS.
Tel: 02380 842237;
Davies Veterinary Specialists, Manor Farm Business Park, Higham Gobion, Hitchin SG5 3HR
Tel: 01582 883950
Prime Veterinary Practice,
93 Newbold Road, Chesterfield, S41 7PS
Contact: Dr Dinu Catilina
Tel: 01246 23 67 91
Perdita’s Pet Services Ltd (Mobile)
BAER screening, microchipping included, in the comfort of the kittens’ own home, covering the whole of the UK.
Contact: Louise Clement
Tel: 07972 748583
Slane Veterinary Clinic, 3 Churchlands, County Meath, Ireland.
Contact: Dr I Finney DVM MRCVS
Lea Hurst Vet Services, University of Liverpool, Small Animal Teaching Hospital, Lea Hurst Campus, Neston, The Wirral CH64 7TE
Pride Veterinary Centre, Riverside Road, Derby, DE24 8HX
Tel: 01332 678333
St George’s Veterinary Group
8 St George’s Parade,
Chipping Norton Veterinary Hospital
West Bar Vet Hospital,
19 West Bar,
Haygate Vets, Unit 1,
Poyner Court, Lawley Square,
Milton Keynes Veterinary Group,
Walnut Tree Hospital, Local Centre,
Fyfield Barrow, Walnut Tree,
Milton Keynes, MK7 7AN
Tybridge House, Tybridge Street,
St John’s, Worcester,
608 Warwick Road,