What Do Cats See? Do They See In Black And White Or In Color?

If you’re one of those feline furball owners who believe that cats are superior beings, then you’re absolutely right, at least when it comes to a cat’s senses.

Felines are complex (not complicated) creatures that have been blessed with admirably heightened senses. In fact, they are some of nature’s best hunters!

Let’s focus on a cat’s eyesight. What do cats see? How do they see our world? What are the differences between human eyesight and feline eyesight? Why do your cat’s eyes glow in the dark? How is your kitty able to see in pitch black darkness? Why does it have slit-like pupils instead of perfectly round ones?

It’s not high quality cat food and special nutrition that gives these furballs their superhuman eyesight. Felines are just born with outstanding vision.

What Do Cats Actually See?

How does your cat see the world around him/ her? Here’s the short answer – in a unique way, which is a lot different than yours.

People have an approximate field of view of around 180 degrees. Cats, on the other hand, have a full 200 degree range of vision. Furthermore, they see everything around them in a different depth of dimension than we do. A feline’s eyes are always facing forward, which allows for stronger depth perception than the human eye.

Cat eyes are extremely sensitive compared to a human’s eyes. However, kitties don’t need to blink in order to lubricate their sensitive eyes with tears, unlike people.

How Can Cats See In The Dark?

Felines are nocturnal creatures by default.

They tend to spend their days sleeping or simply relaxing while waiting for nighttime to strike, which is when they get significantly more active.

Cats can see in the dark because they have six to eight times more rod cells in their retinas than humans do. Rod cells allow us to detect light at really low levels. So in other words, felines are six to eight times more sensitive to light than us.

Not only that, but they are also among the many living organisms which have tapetum lucidum.

Tapetum lucidum is a special extra layer behind the kitty’s retina which reflects the light passing through the retina back towards the eye. As a result, it increases the light levels in the rod cells.

This special extra layer is also the reason why your cat’s eyes appear to be glowing in the dark. What you’re actually seeing isn’t a glow, but an extra reflection of the already available light. Apart from cats, a large variety of animals, such as dogs, birds, rodents, raccoons, and deep-sea creatures also have this special extra layer.

Can Cats See Colors Or Only In Black And White?

It’s a popular but inaccurate theory that cats are completely color blind and can see the world around them only in black, white, and grey hues.

Yes, cats can see colors.

The human eye has three kinds of cones for the three basic colors – red, green and blue. Felines also have cone cells and can distinguish one color from another.

However, a cat’s eye doesn’t perceive colors like a human’s eye.

Kitties have a shorter color specter than us and find it difficult to tell apart many hues. Nevertheless, they can easily tell the differences between two extremes like red and green. The easiest colors for cats to see – that is to say, the colors they see best and most accurately – are blues and violets.

Of course, your pet won’t care about the color of your shirt or the color of its favorite toy. Color perception isn’t as important to your precious pet as it is to you. A cat’s heightened eyesight is determined by degrees of vision range and depth, not by the partially color-blind scenery in its surroundings.

Why Is A Cats Pupil Slit-Like?

Now that you know why cats see better in the dark, you can easily understand why their pupils are different than the round pupils which humans have.

Due to being more sensitive to bright light a feline’s eyes have vertical pupils. Your cat’s eyes have slit-like pupils so they can control the amount of light passing through the retina. The vertical pupil allows the kitty to reduce or increase the light levels perceived by the eye. This awesome ability comes in handy during nighttime hunts.

But not all cats have slit-like pupils. Your fluffy pal might have vertical pupils, but big cats such as lions and tigers have round ones like humans.

Regardless of this fact, your kitty’s slit-like pupils allow it not only to see without the aid of a pair of night vision goggles, but also to control the flow of light during daytime so that bright lights won’t blind it.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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