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How Do Cats See the World?

A beautiful furry cat staring out a window

 

Have you ever wondered what, exactly, does your beloved cat see? When looking into their eyes while they glow in the dark, or when watching cats as they maneuver gracefully in low light and snatch flies out of mid-air with amazing precision, it’s easy to wonder how exactly do cats see the world? What do they actually see?

cats see the world in blues, grays and yellows quotation

In order to understand – or get some idea about – how cats see the world, we have to consider the differences between human and cat eyes. Cats eyes are structured with some similarities to humans, but their eyes have adapted for different purposes than human eyes, according to Animal Authority. Their shape, their ability to expand and contract and their ability to let in or filter out light all contribute to how cats see the world and their success as hunters.

 

Cats’ Eyes are Meant for Predators

A grey short-haired cat on the hunt

Cats are born hunters, and to be successful, they have to be able to detect the slightest movement. Their eyes have adapted to move extremely rapidly in order to allow cats to see and follow the movements of their prey. They also have a 200-degree field of vision compared to only 180 degrees for humans. According to Live Science that mouse tucked in the corner or that toy you are dangling, seemingly out of sight.

 

Cats Are Nearsighted

A black cat with a blurry background

Since cats don’t have the muscles that change the shape of the lenses in the eye, a cat’s visual acuity, which is the ability to see things at a distance, is surprisingly less sharp than ours, according to a Wired Magazine. An object that’s 100-200 feet away will look perfectly sharp to you, but it’s going to be blurry to your favorite tiny predator. The small rodent a few feet away, on the other hand? You won’t notice it, but the cat will catch for dinner.

And possibly share it with you, because you’re apparently unable to see food that’s right in front of you.

 

Cats Hunt at Dusk and Dawn

A silhouette of a cat  running at dawn with the sun in the background

Because cats hunt and dust and dawn, they have to be able to spot their prey in low light, which is the biggest different between human and cat vision and the eyesight capability cats are best known. Much of that capability lies in the retina. Retina is the light-sensitive layer lining the back of the eye and consisting of the cells called photoreceptors.

Humans have many more cones – photoreceptors in charge of details and colors – compared to cats, while cats have many more rods, photoreceptors that let them see in low light.

cats have unique ability to spot prey in low light quotationTo make it simple, thanks to the cones, humans see many vibrant colors and a detailed picture; cats, on the other hand, see fewer colors, everything is less sharp, but the movement in the corner of their eye, in the light so low it would cause a clumsy human to bump into something, is easy to detect, and the rat is no more.

How cats are able to see in low light is covered more extensively in our blog Can Cats Really See in the Dark?

 

Do Cats See Color?

Cute cat surrounded by colorful balls of yarn

The question of whether cats see color is often comes up among cat lovers. And the short answer is yes. But, according to Petfinder.com,  due to cat’s smaller number of cones in the eyes, colors are not as vibrant to cats as they appear to humans. Cats have fewer of the cones that process red light, so it is thought that their world is blue, gray, and yellow. However, they do have a bit of a color superpower. Ultraviolet.

A study by the Royal Society Publishing found that cats and some other mammals can see colors at the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. Considering that some birds and flowers have ultraviolet coloration, cats definitely see some things that we don’t, and not just in low light.

 

So how do cats see the world?

When we combine all of the above, we can begin to see how cats see the world. During the day and under bright lights, the world that cats see is somewhat blurry if things are close to them. They do see color but with but with less vibrancy than humans and they have a wider field of vision than we are used to.

And during the night, in low light? Some things will look sharper to us, because cats are nearsighted, but they’ll be able to see numerous details in something that just looks large a dark blob to us. They won’t be sharp if they’re more than 20 feet away, but unlike us, cats will see them.

Don’t worry, though. Your feline friend will still love you even when you’re blurry to them, and they will forgive you for not being able to spot, let alone catch, a mouse in the dark corner.

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