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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 of whether or not your cat can see colors.

  

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. 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 makes it difficult to tell red from green and the second type doesn’t let people distinguish blue from yellow.

And What Makes a Color Colorful, Anyway?

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.

So, Which Colors Can Cats See?

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 Cathealth.com. 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?

In some aspects, cats color vision is similar to humans how 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.