The ability to see color is something that many humans take for granted. However, many animals see only limited amounts of colors. For example, dogs can only perceive yellows, blues, and combinations of those two colors. So what about our cats?
It’s easy to look at our feline companions and wonder how they see the world. If you want to gain some insight and expertise about your cat’s vision, this article will look in-depth at whether cats can see in color. We’ll also discuss other aspects of cats’ vision and look at how different it is from a human’s.
Can Cats See in Color?
The short answer to this question is yes, cats can see in color. However, this does not mean that they see color in the same way as humans.
The three shades of light that make up all the rainbow colors are red, green, and blue. Humans are trichromats, which means that we can see all three of these colors. Interestingly enough, cats are trichromats, as well. However, they cannot perceive color in quite the same way as most humans can.
The vision of a cat is strikingly similar to that of a human who is red-green color deficient. While cats can perceive blue and green with clarity, shades of red are muddied. For example, the color purple, which contains red, tends to look more like blue from a cat’s eyes.
Humans are also lucky because they perceive more vibrant hues and saturations. The colors that cats see, on the other hand, are more muted.
While cats may not see as many bright and vibrant colors as humans, they can observe an extra color known as ultraviolet light, also known as UV light for short. While studies on UV detection in cats are still uncertain at the time, the consensus is that cats can see UV light.
As you may already know, light travels in waves. Human eyes can perceive some of these waves, so we can see colors that range from red to violet. There are two colors just outside this range, however, known as infrared and ultraviolet, which humans cannot see. On the other hand, cats are lucky enough that their eyes are somehow able to discern ultraviolet light.
Some proposed reasons for why cats can detect UV light include identifying prey, selecting mates, and communicate.
Rods and Cones
Every eye contains a retina, which harbors cells known as photoreceptors, called rods and cones. The job of these photoreceptors is to translate light into signals, allowing us to perceive light and color. Rods detect brightness, and they are best for both peripheral vision and night vision. Cones, on the other hand, enhance the way we perceive colors.
The reason that cats see more muddied tones than humans is that their eyes do not contain as many cones as our eyes do. These cones allow humans to perceive very rich hues. On the flip side, cats’ eyes have more rods, which helps them to see well in the dark. Human eyes do not contain as many rods as cats, which is why we see poorly at night.
Night Vision: Can Cats See In The Dark?
Cats are nocturnal animals and do most of the hunting during the night. The large amount of rods in a cat’s retina allows them to adapt and see well in the dark. They can see just as well as humans in only one-sixth of the amount of light.
Another characteristic of cats eyes is a reflective surface behind their retina known as the tapetum. If you’ve ever noticed your cat’s eyes glowing in the dark, this is the reason why. It behaves like a mirror, any passing light through the rods and cones of a cat’s eye are reflected to the retina. This gives the rods and cones a second chance to perceive small amounts of light, providing them with excellent night vision.
Visual Field and Acuity
A creature’s vision allows them to be best suited to their environment. Because cats are predators, their vision must be specialized to help them hunt.
Visual field is the term used when describing how much a creature’s eyes can see when they are focused on one point in space. The visual field of human vision is 180 degrees, while cats have a wider visual field of 200 degrees.
While cats may have bested humans in terms of the visual field, humans win a point for visual acuity. Visual acuity is how clear one’s vision is, and it is measured by how well you can see objects from a fixed distance.
Most humans’ visual acuity is 20/20, meaning they can see an object clearly from 20 feet away. Meanwhile, the visual acuity of a cat can range from 20/100 to 20/200. This means that, while a human might be able to see a specific object well from a distance of 100 to 200 feet, a cat will have to be 20 feet away to see the object with the same clarity.
In other words, cats aren’t very good at perceiving objects that are far away. Instead, they are better suited to seeing objects up close, which is helpful when hunting for prey.
The difference between a cat’s vision and a human’s vision is stunning. While humans may be better at perceiving colors and objects that are far away, it’s no secret that a cat’s vision has some powerful abilities. Even though humans and cats are both mammals, we have wildly different lifestyles, and as such, we need to be differently suited to our environments. The specialized features of a cat’s vision is just a part of what makes them such excellent hunters.