Are Cats Color Blind?


Two kittens playing with colorful yarn for are cats color blind story

You're thrilled to see the latest little toy for your feline friend has arrived in mail. You quickly unwrap the new play wand with colorful cloth ribbon. You dangle it in front of your cat and the game is on! They're quickly jumping to swipe it and chasing the ribbon in circles around the room. 

But why? Does it really have to do with the bright colors of the ribbon? Would you have gotten the same reaction from just a black or white piece of cloth?

The question of whether cats are color blind continues to be the subject of much research and debate. Like many things with our complex kitties, the answers depend on your perspective and definitions. So in this blog, we'll offer a short summary of the latest science and most accepted answers to the question can cats see in color.


Hold On. What Is Color Blindness, Really?

Some people think that color blindness means seeing the world in black and white, but it’s not completely true. Scientists know that color blindness actually means an inability to tell the difference between one color and another. There is a rare type of color blindness called monochromatism that only allows seeing black and white, but there are two other, more common types. The first and the most common type of color blindness, according to researchers, makes it difficult to tell red from green and the second type affects the ability to distinguish blue from yellow.

The rarest form of colorblindness is monochromacy or monochromatic colorblindness.

An example of how monochromatic colorbliness sees the world

This means that individuals can see the world only in shades of gray that range from white to black. Individuals with mono chromatic vision see light intensity rather than color. It is a very rare condition believed to affect only one in approximately 30,000 people in results from nonfunctioning color sensitive cone cells.

Some animals, including the Australian sea lion and the owl monkey are naturally monochromatic. Cats are not.

The second relatively rare type of color blindness is the type that makes it difficult to distinguish between blues and yellows.

Example of how tritanopia colorbliness sees the world

This type of color blindness includes, Tritanopia, which makes it difficult to distinguish between blue and green, purple and red, and yellow and pink. Colors also look less vibrant to those with tritanopia. Tritanopia is caused by having a complete lack of blue retinal receptors and having only green and red cone pigments.

To people with this condition, purples appear to be deep red, shades of blue appear to be greenish and oranges and yellows appear to be pink. This type of colorblindness can be acquired but also, in some cases, can be reversed.

Blue-yellow colorblindness also includes tritanomaly, which is hereditary and makes it difficult to discern between blue and green and yellow and red/pink hues.

But the most common type of colorblindness is deuteranomaly, which makes it difficult to distinguish reds from greens.

Example of deuteranomaly or deuteranomaly or deutan colorblindness

It is believed to be present in about 6% of men. A deuteranopic person can distinguish colors along the color wheel, however reds pose more of a problem. This type of colorblindness often does not get in the way of normal activity.

So which type do cats have? It’s not that simple.

And What Makes a Color Colorful, Anyway?

Orange tabby cat inside Furry Masterpieces Cardboard Cat House with Scratcher

It’s in the eye, really. As noted by VCA Hospitals. There are two types of cells in the retina, rods and cones. Cones are the ones that help us differentiate colors (that is, make the world colorful), and both humans and cats have three types of cones that identify various combinations of blue, red, and green. However, cats only have a very small number of cones that respond to red, plus humans have ten times more cones than cats do. That’s why colors look a lot more vibrant to us than they do to our favorite tiny predators.

It's for this reason that our Furry Masterpieces and other cardboard cat houses are designed for cats, but styled in terms of color and design, for people. Our Furry Masterpieces Cat House with Scratcher, for example, lets your cat be part of iconic artworks, such as the Mona Lisa and Starry Night.  Its built-in, reversible cat scratcher, airy but enclosed design and strategically placed play holes are for the cat, but the color is for you.

So, What Colors Can Cats See?

Cute cat with colorful yarn for story on colorblindess in cats

The question of what colors cats can actually see continues to be the subject of considerable research and debate. No one has settled yet on a definitive answer, according to Some say cats see shades of blue and green, others that it’s blue and gray, perhaps they also see yellow, like dogs, and they might even be able to see ultraviolet. 

One point most experts agree on is that cats definitely don’t see the world in black and white. They do see some colors. According to Spruce Pets, the vision of cats is similar to that of a person who is color blind in that cats see shades of blue and green, but reds and pinks are tricky for them to discern.

In other words, while cats don’t see the same colors that you do, they do live in a world that’s fairly colorful. Though all those colors are likely to be pastels, or washed out because of the much smaller number of cones in cats' eyes. 

Don't feel sorry for them, however, as we might have more cones, but cats have more rods in their eyes. And that means they see much better at night and in low light than we do!

So, What’s the Verdict? Do Cats See in Color?

In some aspects, cats color vision is similar to how humans experience the most common type of color blindness, plus the colors they do see are not as vibrant as the ones that we perceive. However, other differences in cat vision mean that describing them merely as close to a color blind human would be inaccurate; they don’t see the world the same way we do, but it doesn’t mean that their vision is worse than ours – in some cases, it’s the opposite – it’s just different.

And there are colors in it, perhaps even ones we can’t see.

Frequently Asked Questions?

What Colors Do Cats See?

The colors cats best included shades of green and blue. The colors pink and red can be hard to distinguish and sometimes appear green to cats. Purple also tends to look blue cats. Generally, colors are also less vibrant and clear to your cat than to humans.

What Colors Do Cats See Best?

The colors that cats see best and are most easily able to discern are blue hues. In particular, blue-violet hues are the easiest for cats. The second most easily discern colors for cats are those in the yellow-green wavelength.

Do cats like certain colors?

It’s not possible to know what colors make a particular cat feel good. But if you want to choose an engaging toy it’s best to choose a color they can see, including blue-violet and yellow-green wavelengths.

And don't forgt to sheck out our awesome and exclusively designed Cardboard Cat Houses with Replaceable Scratchers!