Cat with blue eyes staring at object

Key takeaway

While our feline friends may be agile in their movements and prone to having great night vision, their color vision varies compared to humans. Knowing how to take care of your cat’s eyes can be important to their overall health.

Do Cats See in Color?

While our feline friends are not able to see the full scale of colors that we are, that does not mean they have worse eyesight than we do.

Believe it or not, cats actually have the incredible skill of being able to track smaller, quicker movements from a larger perspective. Have you also ever noticed that cats tend to be more active at night? That is because they can see well in the dark, making getting around at night less of a mystery. 

Though the way a cat perceives colors vary from the way humans do, this is not the only aspect that differentiates vision between us and our furry friends. While cats are able to have a greater spatial perception, they are more nearsighted than humans. 

Read on to learn the ins and outs of how cats see the world, how to care for your cat’s eyes, the risks of not prioritizing your pet’s vision health, and more.

What Does a Cat's Vision Look Like?

Even though a cat’s vision and perception of color is different from how a human sees the same object, this does not mean that their vision is impaired or affects their daily lives. Without a true sense of the depth or brightness of a color, a cat’s visibility is stronger in other ways. Unlike humans, felines have wider depth perception, making their instinct to hunt part of their daily routine.

Cat vs human color spectrum

Are Cats Colorblind?

As lovely as it is sitting in a park and taking in the view of the greenest grass, the bluest skies, and all of the colorful flowers, it simply does not pan out as the same view for cats2. While their vision color scope does not come down to a simple black and white differentiation, cats are not able to distinguish colors to the same degree as humans. 

Based on how a cat’s eye is built, the manner in which they can interpret colors is based on how many photoreceptor cells a cat has. Given the number of rods and cones in a cat’s eye, they tend to be color blind to pink and reddish hues. 

Are Cats Nearsighted or Farsighted?

A quick wave of the laser pointer or dangling of a favorite toy usually gets our cat's motor skills working and puts their reflexes to the test. Though we might expect felines to be equipped with a strong vision given their capability to quickly react and adapt to their environment, cats are nearsighted, and often need to be further away from an item to better see it. 

Compared to humans who are able to see things at a distance much clearer and crisper, and capable of enhancing the view or image with the ability to see a wide range of lively colors, cats struggle to clearly see far away items. Human vision ranks on a scale of 20/20, but a cat's visual acuity is anywhere from 20/100 to 20/200, which means a cat has to be at 20 feet to see what an average human can see at 100 or 200 feet. 

It is also important to note that while cats must be closer to see clearly, their peripheral vision is greater than that of a human. Having greater visibility of items that are close by, cats are stronger, and more agile hunters of prey.

Cats have a wide range of vision than humans.

What Colors Can Cats See?

By this point we know that a cat’s vision and a human’s vision vary by a few factors; the richness of color that cats are unable to see, depth perception capabilities, and ability to clearly see an object. What is the driving factor for the differentiation? The retina3.

The retina is a layer of tissue towards the back of the eye (both in humans and in cats), that contains cells called photoreceptors. Photoreceptors play an important role in translating light rays into the images we see. Simply put, light rays are converted into signals that get processed by nerve cells which then send those signals to the brain. And voila, that is what gives us an image.

To break down the process even further, photoreceptor cells are broken out into two categories: rods, and cones. Cones are what help us with vision during the day and color perception, while rods process our peripheral and night vision. From there, research has found that cats have a higher quantity of rod receptors and a lower amount of cone receptors. Humans have the opposite finding, which explains why we’re able to experience colors in full but have difficulties seeing well at night.

Can Cats See in the Dark?

If you have a cat, there is no doubt that you have heard them scuffling around the house during the late hours of the day or in the early hours of the morning1. Cats are natural hunters, and do their best hunting at night, all thanks to their photoreceptor cells. 

Similar to humans, a cat’s pupil will dilate or expand to allow for more light to enter the eye when there is low light. As beautiful as they may seem, a cat’s vertical pupils often change in size, allowing them to focus on the amount of light entering the eye. Regardless, cats can adjust their eyes to take in a wider range of low light levels, which enhances their ability to see in the dark given that they are not equipped with direct night vision capabilities. 

cats have additional rods so they can see better in low light.

Do Cats Have a Favorite Color

It is easy to assume that because cats are unable to see the richness of color, they are entirely colorblind. But that is simply not true. Think of it this way: a cat’s vision pretty much mirrors that of a human who is color blind. They are able to see shades of blues and greens but often struggle with differentiating between reds and pinks. 

Have you ever considered how color can determine whether or not your cat is interested (or not) in a certain toy? If you have noticed that your feline is uninterested or reacts differently to toys that vary in color, it could be a result of how they perceive the object. Toys or objects that are shades of blues, greens, or yellow will stand out and entice your pet to play with them! 

How To Take Care of Your Cats Eyes

Though eye issues in cats tend to be less frequent or prominent compared to other animals, feline eye infections or issues tend to have a longer recovery and can often be a lifelong occurrence. Knowing the symptoms of potential infections can reduce your pet’s risk of chronic pain and infection. These are some of the common red flags to keep an eye out for: 

  • Redness or swelling of the eye
  • Cloudiness or change in eye color
  • Watery eyes with discharge
  • Frequent blinking or squinting 
  • If you are able to see the third eyelid

Final Notes

While many of the symptoms mentioned are common, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to provide a proper diagnosis and provide adequate treatment. Knowing how to recognize any potential concerns with your cat’s vision or eye health is critical. Like other animals, cats are still prone to eye issues, so with this knowledge, pet owners are the link to understanding when veterinary attention is necessary.

That’s where Dutch comes into play. With Dutch, we offer telemedicine for pets in a simple way. You can contact a licensed veterinarian right from the comfort of your own home and get the necessary treatment for your pet, right to your door.

References

  1. LLC, Aquanta. “Feline Vision.” Home, https://www.cathealth.com/cat-health/vision/1327-feline-vision.

  2. Logue, Heather, and Heather Logue. “Are Cats Color Blind? the Curious Truth about Cat Eyesight.” The Dog People by Rover.com, 30 Apr. 2021, https://www.rover.com/blog/are-cats-color-blind/.

  3. Spector, Dina. “How Cats See the World Compared to Humans.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 10 Mar. 2018, https://www.businessinsider.com/pictures-of-how-cats-see-the-world-2013-10.