Do cats see color?
Are cats color blind? It’s a bit more complicated than you might think
The truth about cat eyes is a little more perplexing than you may know
By Rebekkah Adams April 14, 2023
You may have been told at some point that cats don’t see color, and pictured your pet examining the world in black and white. But as far as we know, only one animal actually sees that way (a fish) so that’s not what color blindness means in this situation.
- How do animals see color and light?
- So what colors do cats see?
- Is it true that cats have good night vision?
Cats aren’t fully color blind, so they do see some colors, but not others. Taking a deeper dive into your cat’s pretty eyes will help you understand them and can guide you with other things like training and play. So are cats color blind? Here’s what you need to know.
How do animals see color and light?
A quick lesson in biology first: Our eyes (and those of our cats) use rods and cones to see light and color respectively (of course color and light overlap, but you get the idea). Most humans have cones for green, blue, and red, and if any of those are missing, that’s what creates color blindness. About 8% of males (the human kind) are color blind, usually a form called red-green, which is somewhat similar to how our cats see.
So what colors do cats see?
Cats and dogs only have blue and green cones, which means they struggle to distinguish reds. Because we understand that color-blind humans see a little bit like cats, we can dive really deep into what our animals perceive. Red and pink usually look like green to them and purple might be indistinguishable from blue. This is good to know when choosing toys, especially because your kitty might struggle to spot a red squeaky mouse in the grass, but they’ll see a blue one right away. The last thing we want to mention is that our pups see a lot like their cat friends, so these same rules apply to them, too.
Is it true that cats have good night vision?
Perhaps to make up for their lack of red color vision, cats see excellently at night — a trait they evolved for hunting in the dark. In fact, they have up to eight times more rods than we do, meaning they see a lot better in dim light (that might be why they enjoy a good twilight prowl so much).
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You should also notice your cat’s pupils getting huge in low lighting, way bigger than ours, which allows them to spot a mouse even with almost no light around. Lastly, they have an extra layer in there that “mirrors” backlight and accounts for the glow you sometimes see in their eyes.
The good news is that a cat’s lack of extra color vision or poor eyesight in general (like dogs, it’s much worse than a human’s vision) doesn’t seem to stop them. In addition to red-green color blindness, they also are extremely nearsighted, so they often have trouble focusing at a distance. While it doesn’t stop them, we do need to take all these factors into account when trying to predict what they will be able to distinguish that we might see with no problem at all.
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The newest TikTok trend is cute, but not great for cats
Seeing a cat cry because you’re chopping onions might look funny on TikTok, but it can be harmful to your pet
If you haven’t spotted the #onioncryingchallenge yet on TikTok, you’ll be surprised to see all the little square faces pop up as its stars. That’s right, cats will tear up when an onion is cut just like us. It can be cute and funny to see small tears squeezed out of their scrunched up eyes, but don’t reach for the knife just yet. There are risks to your kitty that might make you stop and reconsider this particular trend.
We can’t lie, we’ve watched a few of these TikTok viral videos and given an «Aw» for the adorbs cats who can’t help but shed a tear. They start out with a pet parent chopping up an onion with the feline nearby watching. At first, she blinks, then squints, and finally her eyes get leaky. If you’ve ever had this root bring on the waterworks, you know exactly where she’s coming from. Commenters were quick to jump in to share a laugh or offer tips on keeping the tears at bay, while many cat moms were distraught having just learned that onion tears work on furry friends too.
Being a cat person will help you get dates: Study
You’ll be glad you have a feline or a Fido after you read this
All pet parents understand that our fur babies come first, even if that sometimes means scaring away potential mates. Still what many don’t realize is that owning a pet can actually attract a person to you (and your beloved animal). It’s officially time to retire the stereotype that having a cat means saying goodbye to meeting a special human someone. In fact, recent research claims the opposite — that being a cat person may actually make you more likely to score a relationship or a good date.
It’s official: there are romantic benefits to owning a cat
Luckily for us, new research conducted by OnePoll for World’s Best Cat Litter of 1,000 cat owners (and 1,000 non-cat owners) has discovered that kitty moms and dads are actually more likely to be in a relationship and equally likely to be married. But if you’re in the dating market, there’s even better news. 72% of everyone surveyed thought owning a pet was an attractive quality, and many stated they would be more interested in dating someone who had one. To top it off, 40% claimed they had gone home with a potential date to meet a particularly cute pet at one time or another, so your little kitty might help you out in that department too.
Cat people will still scare away a few dates (good riddance)
On the flip side, we all understand there are some drawbacks to living with a pet, mainly that some won’t be able to enter into a partnership with us (and our fuzzball) no matter how much they might want to. Research participants were very cognizant of allergies in particular, with 41% saying it would pose a potential problem. That’s just slightly more than the number who mentioned a dislike of cats would not stop them from dating someone (40%). It’s important to note that hating cats mostly crossed the line, and cat people generally do not want to date those who don’t understand their kitties.
Pets are part of the family for many
Every cat person knows that our pets are important to us and equivalent to family. “Even if you’re not the type to treat your pets like they’re your children, they’re still an important part of the family and can wield a lot of influence,” says Jean Broders, Director of Marketing for World’s Best Cat Litter, in a statement. “Cat owners clearly seem to know this, as our findings indicate they’re more likely to worry about making a good first impression on a partner’s pet.”
This adorable video of a cat and dog’s friendship is the cutest thing we’ve seen
You won’t be able to take your eyes off this tiny kitten and her giant best pal
We have all been on the receiving end of tiny pet kisses that warm our hearts to infinity. Sometimes sweet kitties and puppies even give each other affection by delivering plenty of happy licks to their canine or feline friend. Everyone wants their dogs and cats to get along but this pair takes it to the next level.
Watch as the most precious kitten gives her giant dog friend «smol kisses» on the Animals Being Bros subreddit posted by u/westcoastcdn19. Keep in mind this little kitten is approximately the size of the dog’s head yet smooches with abandon. She’s totally engrossed in her job though, and dutifully cleans him with her tiny tongue. Meanwhile, the pooch opens his eyes and indulgently lets her continue, happy that they are besties.
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Can Cats See Color? Differences with Human Eyes Explained!
Cats can’t see the same range of colors as humans, but they don’t see the world in complete grayscale, as some believe. Exactly which colors cats can see is a hotly debated topic in science. Some believe that cats can only see blue and gray. At the same time, others argue that cats should be able to see yellows as well. Here’s what science knows so far!
Color Vision: How Does It Work?
Our eyes perceive color through a series of nerves in the eye. There are two kinds of nerves in the retina, rods, and cones. The cones are what allow us to differentiate colors. Like humans, cats have cones that will identify red, blue, and green shades.
However, the human eye has about ten times the color cones that a cat’s eye has. So, humans see a more significant variation of color than felines. While we can perceive the same types of colors, we have a greater color resolution. So, where a human could differentiate between reds and pinks, a cat may see them as the same color.
What Colors Can Cats See?
The colors cats can see most accurately are blues and violets. While they have cones to see red and green, fewer of those cones and cats don’t see the colors as vividly. They’ll have trouble differentiating between the colors that they have fewer cones for.
There’s debate in the science community about whether cats can see yellows. While dogs have specific cones dedicated to seeing yellow, cats have cones for red, green, and blue, like humans. Humans can see yellows, so logically we could only assume that cats can see yellows.
However, since dogs have cones specifically designed for yellow and cats have neither cones for yellow nor as many cones as humans, it’s unclear whether or not they can perceive yellows. We can’t just ask them, so we must rely on other methods of observation.
Does This Mean Cats Have Poor Vision Compared to Humans?
No, not at all! Cats did not become one of nature’s greatest hunters because of their poor vision, and even some of nature’s other greatest hunters have genuinely poor vision. Cats compensate for these differences in their sight with other senses and even other differences in their vision.
Several other differences between human and cat senses allow cats to compensate for their diluted color vision.
For starters, cats have vastly more rods in their eyes than humans do. They have a tapetum lucidum to help them see in the dark. They have a greater field of view than humans. These are without even delving into their other senses.
The 4 Differences Between Cats & Human Eyes
1. Rods vs. Cones
Cones are used for day vision and color differentiation. On the other hand, rods are used to detect light in low-light scenarios. Cats have six to eight times more rod cells than humans do. So, they can see in the dark six to eight times better than humans.
Having more rods means that the cat’s eyes are more sensitive to light in general. This is great at night but can be harsh during the day when the light is bright. Cats are nocturnal by nature, so it makes sense that their eyes are adapted for nighttime use.
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2. Elliptical Pupils
Cats also have elliptical pupils while humans have round ones. Elliptical pupils take in more light because they dilate. This allows more light to reach the retina even before we account for the number of rod cells present to capture it.
Elliptical pupils constrict much faster than round pupils and can dilate much further. While a cat’s eyeballs aren’t that much smaller than a human’s, their pupils are three times bigger. So, your cat can take advantage of the tiniest amount of light in the dark.
Not all cats have elliptical pupils. Big cats such as lions and tigers have round pupils like humans. Pupil shape and size vary from animal to animal and adapt to their natural habitat and position in the food chain.
Herbivorous prey animals tend to have horizontal pupils, while predators that hunt during the night or day and night tend to have vertical pupils. Predators who usually hunt during the day tend to have round pupils.
3. The Tapetum Lucidum
The phrase “tapetum lucidum” means “bright tapestry” in Latin. It’s a reflective layer inside the eye that acts as a retroreflector for light entering the eye. Retroreflectors reflect light back to the light source with the goal of the light following the same path out that it followed in.
By reflecting light back through the retina, each light particle that enters the cat’s eye can light their vision twice. To understand the exact workings of the tapetum lucidum, we have first to know how brains perceive images.
Light first enters the eye through the cornea, which bends the light to help the eye focus. Some of the light enters the pupil and goes to the back of the eye where the retina is. The retina takes the light particles that enter it and transforms the light into electric signals that the brain can use to form a picture.
The tapetum lucidum must function as a retroreflector, not just a mirror. A regular mirror doesn’t control where the light it reflects goes. This can result in what’s called the scattering of light. If the tapetum lucidum scattered the light reflected, the cat’s vision would be distorted because the retina would send a different image to the brain.
Since the tapetum lucidum reflects the light on the same path that it hit the tapetum lucidum with, it hits the retina in the same place that it did on the way in, and the light doesn’t muddle the brain’s ability to perceive the image.
Cats are not the only animal with a tapetum lucidum. Dogs, birds, and many other nocturnal creatures also have a tapetum lucidum.
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4. Eye Position
Cat’s eyes are positioned slightly to the side of their heads. Their field of view is about ten degrees wider on either side, which doesn’t sound like much, but a ten-degree angle is quite significant.
This more expansive field of view allows the cat to keep tabs on things in its peripheral vision while hunting.
- Related Read: Do Cats’ Eyes Change Color?
While the cat’s color vision may be a hotly debated topic, we understand more and more about how their vision works every day. From the cones present in their eyes to the tapetum lucidum, cats have evolved to suit their needs as nocturnal predators. Even if they can’t see the same range of color that we do, their other adaptations to their vision and senses keep them at the top of the food chain!
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Featured Image Credit: cocoparisienne, Pixabay
I’m a freelance writer with a passion for animal science and technology. I love to share the world of animal science with people to help them make informed decisions for themselves and their pets. I’ve worked in professional pet care for over six years and realised I could help change the world of pet care by bringing the information people needed to them in terms they could understand. Knowledge is power and I love to help everyone become the most informed they can be. . Read more