'Ojos Azules' means 'blue eyes' in Spanish, and Ojos Azules cats capture your attention as soon as you see them with their deep blue eyes. These are set against a myriad of coat colours for which you wouldn't normally expect to see blue eyes in cats. The contrast can be breath-taking, making these cats very unusual and extremely beautiful. Typically, these rare cats are medium in size and will often have white patches on the body. Generally, white patching on the feet and a white tail-tip are associated with the gene which causes these unexpected intense deep blue eyes. So where did the Ojos Azules come from?
The history of these cats appears to have started in 1984 in New Mexico, USA, where they were identified in a feral colony. A group of avid cat fanciers discovered that some felines in feral cat populations roaming in the area had deep-seated eyes that were a shade of the darkest blue. They ended up rescuing a female cat with tortoiseshell markings and named her 'Cornflower'. She became the matriarch of the breed. When bred to unrelated males, Cornflower's kittens exhibited the same intense blue eyes, thereby proving that the trait was a dominant one.
TICA recognized the Ojos Azules as a breed in 1991, but there are a few breeders working with it today. The TICA New Breed program allows for the registration and development of cats and is over-seen by TICA's Genetics Committee, and yearly reports are produced, with the health and overall development of the breed being monitored. But so far no other registries have recognised the breed, and these cats are still very rare; there were only ten known Ojos Azules cats in 1992. The TICA breed standard was updated in January 2009.
The gene seems to show up periodically, and may be more widespread than originally thought, or there may be another mutation causing similar blue eye colour. 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 known imports of the Ojus Azules to Australia, this cat would appear to be the result of a spontaneous mutation in the domestic population there.
The coat of the Ojos Azules is short, soft and silky, and they are accepted in all colours except for solid white. The standard for the breed is still being developed; however, the deep blue eyes are the 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, and they have a pretty expression, and large eyes that highlight the deep blue colour. There are occasional rumours of long haired Ojos Azules cats, and TICA recognises both long and short haired versions.
Due to the rarity of the breed, not that much is known of the temperament of the Ojos Azules. However, they have been described by some people as being active, affectionate, and sociable cats, which get along well with humans and other cats. They are relaxed and docile, and love being stroked, particularly behind the ears. Others have claimed that these cats love to engage their human companions in play right from the time you bring them home from the breeder or the cattery. They are loving and adorable, and can easily get along with other pets in the family. In fact, they are said to love dogs too. They like to play with your pets and kids, and would never express repugnance even if roughly handled. The Ojos Azules will take its time meeting new people, but eventually will enjoy the company of visitors too. As an active breed, they certainly love to jump and pounce, but, unlike many other curious cat breeds, the Ojos Azules would never crawl up your shelves, refrigerator, or other higher high spots. They would prefer chilling out on your bed, carpet or sofa. They are intelligent felines, and will seldom take any bad decisions that would go beyond their owner's rules. In fact, temperament-wise they sound like the ideal cat for most people!
Ojos Azules cats are easy to groom, and do not need a lot of brushing. Like most other cat breeds, they can be groomed gently, bathed if necessary, and have their claws trimmed when required. This will probably be all that is required.
Some people have been concerned that these cats may be deaf, owing to the fact that deafness can be associated with blue eyes in some cat breeds. However, the mutation responsible for the blue eyes of the Ojos Azules does not appear to cause deafness.
A far more serious issue has been the appearance of deformities at times when these cats are bred together. When a kitten is homozygous – ie has two copies of the gene for the blue eyes - deformed kittens have been born, often dead. It has been reported that when the kitten is homozygous it has cranial deformities, white fur, a small curled tail, and stillbirth. However, when the kitten is heterozygous, ie it only has one copy of the gene, those lethal genetic mutations do not manifest. For this reason, International Cat Care has commented: “Despite being a most attractive feature of these cats, surely a breed must be based on sound health where the combination of two of the animals with blue eyes should not result in severe problems”. Nevertheless, some breeders are working with geneticists to find out if the striking blue eyes can be conserved without health issues, and if the gene is viable for conservation. But until that is determined, it is unlikely that this beautiful breed will become more common.