How Cats See the World

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Feline and human eyes share some similarities, but there are some significant differences in how cats see the world. Cats’ eyes are perfectly designed by nature to aid them in hunting in low light and at night. While they can’t see colors as we see them, they have great night vision, and they can also pick up movement better than human eyes.

Are cats color blind?

Cats can see some color, but they can’t see the entire spectrum. In essence, they are very much like color blind people. Experts are divided on what colors cats can see, but they appear to see less saturation in colors than people. Domestic cats may see only blue and green shades, and, much like color blind humans, may not be able to tell the difference between red and green.

Cats have excellent night vision

Cats’ ability to see well in low light and at night is important for a natural hunter like the cat. Cats have elliptical pupils, as opposed to humans’ round pupils. Elliptical pupils can get larger and open or close faster than round shaped pupils. The enlarged pupils make the cat’s night vision possible. Cat’s outstanding night vision is also due to the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue located immediately behind the retina. The tapetum lucidum reflects light and increases the available light for photoreceptor cells on the retina, which improves vision in low light conditions.

Motion, depth and peripheral vision

Cats’ eyes can detect even the slightest movement, which helps them while hunting. They also have the ability to move their eyes extremely rapidly, which allows them to see and follow prey. Cats have binocular vision, so a cat can see three dimensionally, giving them the ability to perceive depth and determine the distance of objects. However, cats’ 3D vision is not as finely tuned as that of humans. Cat’s protruding eyes give greater peripheral vision than humans have. A cat’s field of vision is about 185 degrees, people can only see about 120 degrees.

Cats are nearsighted

Cats are nearsighted, meaning they can see better up close than far away. A cat can only see as far as a few hundred yards and the rest of the world is seen blurred. Interestingly, cats are also unable to see directly underneath their nose, which is why they sometimes have trouble finding a treat placed directly in front of them.

A look at how cats see the world

Artist Nickolay Lamm consulted with several veterinary ophthalmologists to create visualizations comparing how cats see the world vs. how humans see the world. His fascinating photos can be viewed on the Popular Science website.

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Cats’ eyes are the ultimate combination of beauty and functionality.

This article was previously published on Answers.com and is republished with permission.

9 Comments on How Cats See the World

  1. Nan Faulkner
    June 11, 2018 at 9:19 am (2 weeks ago)

    Very interesting, informative article.

    Reply
  2. Janine
    June 11, 2018 at 7:53 am (2 weeks ago)

    I always wondered why they had a hard time finding the treat right under their nose.

    Reply
  3. Maxwell, Faraday & Allie
    November 16, 2013 at 11:15 pm (5 years ago)

    We popped over to read your excellent article on about.com – I love the tapetum lucidum (night vision goggles, built in!). And it’s so obvious that it’s weaker in Siamese, when observing them in low light, too.

    Reply
  4. James Willbanks
    November 13, 2013 at 11:50 pm (5 years ago)

    That’s quite different from what I would expect. I have seen my Tabby catch a fly in mid air with 1 paw. And sees little things I cant. one the other side our tux can’t seem to drink water from a clear plastic glass with moving it with his paw, after he sees the water move he’s good to go. so they are near sited but that can’t be if they can knock a fly out less than 10″ or so.

    Reply
  5. Sue Brandes
    November 13, 2013 at 8:54 pm (5 years ago)

    That is so interesting.

    Reply
  6. Debi
    November 13, 2013 at 3:01 pm (5 years ago)

    Very interesting! I love information like this because it helps us to understand our fur babies better!

    Reply
  7. Vickster
    November 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm (5 years ago)

    Imagine trying to fit a pair of glasses on a cat!

    Reply
  8. Viki Worden
    November 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm (5 years ago)

    This is great! I always wondered how my kitties saw things. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Reply
  9. June Ferley
    November 13, 2013 at 8:30 am (5 years ago)

    Thank you! This is so fascinating. Now I wonder how my dog sees too!

    Reply

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