Do Cats See in Color or Black and White?

Do Cats See in Color or Black and White

If you are wondering whether cats can see in color or if they perceive the world in black in white, you are not alone. Initially, people, including scientists, believed that animals, including cats, see the world in black and white. But through research, scientists have discovered that cats do perceive color.

Do cats see in color or black and white?

Cats do see colors but not as many as humans.

Cats can see red, blue, and green. However, they cannot perceive red, pink, and purple as people do. Your cat may see red and pink objects as having the same color. Ditto with purple. To your cat, this color is the same as blue. Some scientists believe that like dogs, cats can also perceive yellow.

Human eyes vs. feline eyes: color perception

To understand the difference between how people and cats see color, you need to have some understanding of the feline and human eye anatomy.

People and cats distinguish colors through the nerves in their eyes. Human and cat retinas have two types of cells for this task: rods and cones. 

Cones are responsible for identifying and distinguishing colors. According to scientists, cats and people are trichromats. This means that both have three kinds of cones in their eyes. Like humans, cats have three types of cones which allow them to see red, blue, and green. 

However, humans have as much as 10 times more cones in their retinas compared to cats. This is why people can see more colors than their pets.

On the other hand, cats have more rods in their retinas compared to humans. This allows felines to see in low light levels.

Comparing human vision with a cat’s

How does your vision stack against your cat’s?

Visual field

Visual field refers to how much area the eyes can cover when these look forward. Here, your cat has an advantage over you. 

Due to the position of his eyes, your feline has a visual field of 200 degrees while people only have 180 degrees.

Visual acuity

Visual acuity refers to the clarity of vision. A human with perfect vision has a visual acuity of 20/20. Your cat, on the other hand, can have a  visual acuity between 20/100 and 20/200.

This means that to be able to see an object that you can see clearly at 100 feet distance from you, your cat needs to move about 20 feet near that object.

Simply put, cats are nearsighted. Not that it is a bad thing. You have to remember that cats are predators and being nearsighted actually works to their advantage.

Night vision

If there is one area where your cat has a clear advantage, that would be the ability to see in the dark.

No, cats cannot see in complete darkness. But because they have numerous rods in their retinas, they can see in low light conditions.

Apart from having more rods in their retinas, cats also have elliptical pupils. Felines can dilate their pupils to a higher degree. Furthermore, cats have tapetum or reflective cells underneath their retinas. This is why cats have shiny eyes. The combination of these allows cats to see things even when it is too dark for you.

How cats use their eyes to their advantage

Although cats cannot see as many colors as people do, they are perfectly fine with that. Your cat may not look the part, but he is a good predator. And a lot of that has to do with his vision.

If you consider your cat’s ancestry, you will see that his eyes are perfect for him. His ability to see in the dark and slight movements give him the upper hand in attacking prey and escaping predators that are larger than him.

How to use your cat’s vision to your advantage?

Knowing these bits of information, you can make better choices for your pet.

For example, if you are buying new toys for your cats, you know exactly which ones will catch his attention. 

And if you want to get your cat’s attention, you should stand in front of him so that he can see you clearly.

Cats are not color blind

For years, people believed that cats are color blind, seeing the world in black and white. However, science has proved otherwise. Although cats cannot see the colors of the rainbow, they do see a few colors. Experts compare the cat’s ability to see colors to that of a colorblind human.

Image: / Angela Kotsell