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It’s no secret that humans and animals see color differently. Even some humans don’t even see the same colors as each other — my dad is red/green colorblind and doesn’t see half the colors I’m able to.
Depending on the animal, the range of color they see differs. For example, primates see the same color spectrum as humans, but spiders and insects view the world primarily in ultraviolet, which is entirely different from what humans are able to see.
So are cats color blind?
Quick Answer …
Sort of. Cat’s don’t see in black and white. They’re able to perceive different colors, just not with the same vibrancy humans see. The easiest comparison to make is that a cat sees the world similar to how someone who’s colorblind would see it.
What Colors Can Cats See?
As I mentioned above, cats don’t see everything in grayscale and are actually able to see a large range of different colors. This is due to the difference in the number rods and cones.
Rods and cones are located in the eye’s retina, for both animals and humans. The “cones” are responsible for the ability to perceive color, while the “rods” detect light and motion. Cats have more rods than humans do, making it easier for them to see in the dark or low light situations. Humans have more cones than cats, which is why we see a larger color spectrum.
Wired published a series of “photos”, created by artist Nickolay Lamm, where it shows what humans see versus what a cat would see. The results are pretty different — the daylight photos are a bit blurry and less colorful, while the nighttime comparisons are much easier to see in from a cat’s point of view.
While the color spectrum cats see isn’t as vibrant or dramatic as what we’re able to see, the other attributes of their vision make up for it. There are a few other ways a cat’s vision differs from a human.
Field of Vision
Cat’s eyes are located further apart than our eyes are, meaning they have better peripheral vision. A human’s field of vision is about 180 degrees, whereas a cat can see about 200 degrees. While they’re able to see the world on a wider scale, the trade-off comes with how strong their vision actually is.
Cats are nearsighted, meaning they have a hard time seeing things that are far away. With humans, perfect vision is 20/20. In cats, it’s more like 20/100 or 20/200. This means a cat has to be only 20 feet away to see something a person could see from 100 or 200 feet away. So, while they’re able to have a wider view, the visual acuity isn’t nearly as strong as a human’s.
While a cat’s nearsightedness might seem like a weakness to us, it’s perfectly suited for hunting prey. If a cat could see far away and tried to pounce before its prey got close enough, it would scare all its food away!
As I mentioned above, cats have more rods in their eyes, making it easier for them to see and detect motion in low-light situations. Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning they sleep all day and are most active at dusk and dawn. These are typically the times when it’s hard for us humans to see, but for cats, it’s primetime.
Have you ever taken a cute photo of your cat with the flash on, but instead got a creepy-looking picture of your cat with glowing eyes? This reflection of light is due to a structure located behind the cat’s retina called a tapetum lucidum. It’s essentially a mirror for light when it’s dark outside, but it also allows cats to pick up any small amounts of light around at night and use it to see better.
Cats are also able to open their Iris widely to let more light in. You might have seen this happening to your cat’s eye when they’re exposed to large amounts of light after being in the dark — it’s a dramatic shift in the shape of their Iris, and it happens pretty quickly.
Are Cats Attracted to Certain Colors?
Cats don’t see as many colors as human due to the number of cones they have: humans have red, green and blue cones whereas cats only possess green and blue ones. The lack of a red cone just means certain colors look like grey to your kitty, like pink or red, while green and blue hues would become more vibrant.
Because of this, it’s hard to say whether cats are attracted to certain colors. If they seem to prefer one toy over the other, it’s probably due more to the kind of toy rather than the color itself. The vision benefits cats have make them more attracted to movement than color, which is why it’s common for them to love chasing around toys that move.
Can Cats See in Total Darkness?
Cats can’t see in complete and total darkness, they still need some light — precisely, they need one-sixth of the amount of light humans need to see. If your house gets incredibly dark at night, it might be a good idea to put out a few nightlights so your cat doesn’t bump into anything.
A cat’s vision is definitely something to marvel at. They don’t have the sharpest eyesight, yet they’re still able to hunt prey (and toys) with incredible accuracy. Unfortunately, research shows cats aren’t very good at discerning their owner’s faces, however they do recognize our voice and scent!