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Do cats see in Colour?

Are Cats Color Blind? Do Cats See Colors?

Are Cats Color Blind?

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Like most cat owners, you probably have a basket full of colorful cat toys. But do you ever wonder if your feline fella can even see colors? Are cats color blind like dogs? Do cats only see in black and white? How do cats see the world around them?

Do Cats See in Black and White?

It is widely believed that both cats and dogs see in black and white. But that’s not the case. While it is true that cats cannot perceive the rainbow’s colors just like humans, it does not appear entirely black and white to them. Actually, both cats and dogs can see colors­ but quite differently from humans. Where exactly does the difference lie? How is cat vision different from human vision?

Cat Vision Vs. Human Vision

We do not know exactly how the world looks through cats’ eyes. But with years of research, we have been able to get an idea of how the cats’ eyes work. With input from veterinarians and ophthalmologists, Nickolay Lamm, an artist, has presented his idea of how the world might look through cats’ eyes. He did this project for

Cat VisionHuman Vision
Cats have 10 times fewer cones than humans and thus cannot clearly differentiate between colorsHumans have more cones and can clearly differentiate between all colors of the rainbow
A higher concentration of light rods equip cats with superior night vision and motion detectionA lower concentration of light rods explains the bad human night vision as compared to cats
Cats are short-sighted and can only see clearly within a range of 20 feetHumans can see clearly between 100 to 200 feet
Cats have a 200° wide viewThe human eye offers only a 180° wide view
Cats have about 50% larger cornea than that humansHumans have smaller cornea as compared to cats
Cats have superior night vision—they require only one-sixth of the amount of light required by the human eye to see clearlyHuman night vision is inferior when compared to felines

human vs feline vision

Both Cats And Humans are Trichromatic

Humans are trichromatic. We have three different cone cells in our eyes, letting us identify red, green, and blue combinations. Like humans, cats are also trichromatic. But despite being trichromatic, cats’ vision is quite different from humans. This is because of the variation in the numbers of light rods and cones present in human and cat’s eyes.

Cats Have Fewer Cones And More Light Rods

According to VCA hospital, cats have 10 times fewer cones than humans. The cats’ inability to differentiate between colors is due to the lower number of cones in their retina.

The higher number of rods compensates for the lower number of cones in cats. Where cones have the duty of identifying colors, rods detect light and motion. The higher number of rods gives cats an edge over humans when it comes to night vision or seeing in dim light.

Cats Are Short-Sighted

In addition to the difference in the number of cones and rods, cats are also short-sighted. They can only see objects clearly within a range of 20 feet. In contrast, humans can clearly see as far as 100 to 200 feet.

Cats Have a Wider Field of View

Another difference between cat vision and human vision is in their peripheral vision. The human eye is designed to offer only a 180-degree wide view; cats’ eyes are programmed to enjoy a 200-degree wide view.

Are Cats Color Blind?

No Cats are not color blind—meaning they do not see the world in black and white.

Cats’ vision is similar to color-blind humans. They do not perceive the full range of colors. Even the colors that cats tend to perceive are not “truly” appreciated by them—they appear to be washed out because of the lower concentration of cones in cat eyes.

As discussed earlier, cats have very few cones as compared to humans. This is the reason that many people tend to wrongly believe that cats are color blind. But cats are not color blind—they see colors but are not as vibrant as humans do.

Cat with Beautiful Eyes

Which Colors Can Cats See?

Cats are not color-blind, but it does not mean that they can appreciate the colors of the rainbow just like humans. It also does not mean that they see in black and white; they do see colors. But there is still no clear answer to “what colors can cats see?”

While some scientists and vets believe that cats can only see shades of blue and grey, others argue that cats can also perceive yellow and green. However, it is confirmed that they cannot perceive pink or red hues.

Besides wondering about the colors cats can see, watching your cats roam around and be active at dawn and dusk, you may wonder whether cats can see in the dark. If yes, how well can cats see in the dark? Are cats nocturnal?

Do Cats Have Night Vision?

Not exactly! But cats do have better night vision as compared to human beings. The higher number of light rods, larger cornea, and reflective tapetum lucidum present in cats’ eyes help them see better in dim light. That said, cats cannot see in pitch-black darkness.

Are Cats Nocturnal?

No! Cats are not nocturnal. Are they diurnal? No, they are not diurnal either. Actually, cats are crepuscular beings. This means that their circadian rhythms dictate them to sleep throughout the night and day and be active at dawn and dusk. Before domestication, when cats were in the wild and had to forage and hunt for food, they used to hunt at dawn or dusk. Today, despite having been domesticated for ages, they have still kept their hunting instincts as well as circadian rhythms intact.

Can Cats See in the Dark?

Yes, cats can see in the dark. But they cannot see in complete darkness; they need some level of light—dim light—to be able to see. They see well in dim lights, during twilight—at dawn and dusk. They only need one-sixth of the amount of light as compared to humans to be able to see. This means that cats can see well with the moon out or a really dim-lit lamp in the room.

How Do Cats See in the Dark?

Noticing your cats easily swerving through a cluttered room without hitting anything, you may wonder how cats can see in the dark when they cannot even differentiate between colors, and the whole world appears blurry to them.

Let’s discuss how cats can see in the dark—dim light?

As discussed above, cats have a higher number of light rods in their eyes, which plays a role in enabling them to see in the dark. These light rods are responsible for detecting light. They also make cats detect motion in dim lights. Cats’ ability to see in the dark is furthered by the presence of a unique material, tapetum lucidum, in their eyes.

According to Dr. Cynthia Powell, tapetum lucidum acts as a mirror and reflects the light passing through the retina, brightening the view for them. Tapetum lucidum is also responsible for making cat eyes glow in the dark when light falls upon them.

Moreover, cats also have elliptical pupils that allow them to capture the maximum light, bettering their night vision. It is due to all these qualities that cats’ night vision is twice as efficient as dogs.

Combined with the night vision, higher motion-detecting capabilities in low light make dawn and dusk perfect hunting times for cats.

Can Cats See in Ultraviolet?

Yes, cats can see in ultraviolet light.

While the human eye is designed to block ultraviolet (UV) light, the cat eye is programmed to see in UV light. UV light passes through the UV-transparent lenses of these animals and hits the retina, where it is converted into nerve signals and sent to the visual system in the brain. As per research, in addition to cats, many other animals such as dogs, ferrets, and hedgehogs can see in UV light.

Are Blue-Eyed Cats Blind?

Have you heard this rumor? How about this one: “white cats are prone to blindness.” Well, the good news is that none of these is ‘entirely’ true. But the sad news is that having a white coat increases the chances of deafness in cats, especially when they have blue eyes. According to research, 17 to 22 percent of white cats with non-blue colored eyes are born deaf. The incidence of deafness jumps to 40 percent when white cats have one blue eye. And the probability of deafness shoots up to 65 to 85 percent when white cats have both blue-colored eyes. So, if your ball of cotton is a cat with blue eyes, there is a huge probability that she might be deaf. We hope she is not. That said, with great care, you can help your cat live a normal and happy life.

Did You Know?

At the time of birth, all kittens have blue eyes. Their eyes color transitions into their adult eye color as they age.

What Does Cat Colorblindness Mean for You and Your Cat?

Knowing your cat cannot perceive the vibrant colors of the rainbow, you might feel sorry for your cat. But don’t. Their superior night vision compensates for their impairment. However, it would help if you considered which colors a cat can see while shopping for cat toys and other products for your cat.

You should only buy those products with colors that a cat can easily see, such as blue, grey, and yellow. Similarly, you can avoid buying products featuring red or pink colors.

Do cats see in Colour?

Brain - Optic Nerve - Eyes Path

Eyes are used to capture light and the optic nerves then send signals to the brain where the information is processed into an image. Click to enlarge and to read additional details.

This question can be answered pretty easily. If an animal eye has cones they will be able to see some color. What is difficult to know is which colors an animal can see and how strong or weak the color will appear to the animal.

Scientists can study an animal eye and find out if it contains cones and what colors of light the cones can detect. It is also possible to count the number of cones and their location in the retina to understand how strong or weak a color might appear to an animal.

But, what color does the animal see? Vision, like all of our senses, is processed in the brain. Without being able to get into the head of an animal, it is only possible to know what colors can be detected and not how they «look» to the animal.

This is also true for a more familiar animal: the human. Two people may say they see a painted wall as a particular color, but do they see it the same way? The answer is not known at this point.

Animal eyes: jumping spider, rattlesnake, owl, cat

How do animals see the world? We can study animal eyes but we may never be able to know exactly what different animals see. Images left to right: Jumping spider by Opoterser. Rattlesnake by Karla Moeller. Owl by Woodwalker and Poxnar. Cat by Guylaine Brunet.

Do Humans Have Better Color Vision Than Animals?

It is true that we see more colors than some animals. Your pet dog and cat sees fewer and weaker colors. Their view of the world is made of pastel colors. However, some animals see colors we cannot. Spiders and many insects can see a type of light called ultraviolet that most humans cannot see. Other animals, like snakes, are able to see infrared light. You can use the chart below to explore what colors certain animals see and how they compare to human color vision.


SPIDERS (jumping spiders)ULTRAVIOLET AND GREENDifferent
CEPHALOPODS (octopi and squids)BLUE ONLYLess
MAMMALS (primates-apes and chimps)SAME AS HUMANSSame
MAMMALS (African monkeys)SAME AS HUMANSSame
MAMMALS (South American monkeys)CAN’T SEE RED WELLLess
* pit vipers, some boas and some pythons

How Do Some Animals See Colors Differently Than Humans?

Below are two examples of how humans see the world compared to how some other animals are likely to see it. One is a butterfly that can see in the ultraviolet wavelength and the other is a rattle snake that can see in the infrared wavelength.

How humans see a butterfly

Humans see the world differently than most other animals. We have three types of cones that detect different colors in what are called the visible light waves. Here we see how a person with normal color vision sees a butterfly.

Click here to see how butterflies see the world

How butterflies see each other.

Butterflies can see light that humans cannot see. They see in the ultraviolet wavelength. The vision of butterflies is also not as good as humans. So they do not see things as sharp and detailed.

Many people also think that insects see in kaleidoscope vision, with hundreds of images of the same thing. But that isn’t true. Learn more with our story on bug vision.

What a human sees

Humans see light that enters directly into the eye, or is reflected off a surface of an object and then enters the eye. We see the man on the right with his left arm hidden in a black bag. Some animals can see in the infrared wavelengths. A lot of the heat released by objects in the natural environment is infrared. Essentially this means some animals can see heat in a way that humans cannot.

Click here to see how rattlesnakes see the world

What a snake sees - ultra violet

Because rattlesnakes can see in the infrared wavelength, they can see heat. In the picture of the man, his right arm is visible through the bag because it emits heat. Some pythons and boas can also sense heat in this way. On the snake’s head, the red arrow points to the pit organs the rattlesnake uses for thermal sensing. Because these snakes have both eyes and pit organs, it is thought that they see a combined image of visual and heat information.

The black arrow in the snake image points to the nostril. Though snakes have a great sense of smell, they don’t really use their nostrils to smell. Instead, they smell by picking up chemicals with a flick of the tongue, and transferring those chemicals to a sensory organ at the roof of the mouth.

Eye, optic nerve, brain illustration from Beginning Psychology (v. 1.0) via Creative Commons (by-nc-sa 3.0). Labels modified for this page.

Additional images via Wikimedia Commons

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