Can Cats See Through Glass? (Colored, Stained, Frosted + Clear Glass)

Cats love to sunbathe by windows and stare out of glass doors. However, they’re also prone to running into a glass divider if they’re not paying attention. They may even move away from your window if a predator gets close or a sprinkler dowses the glass. This can leave you confused about if the cat understands the concept of glass.

Cats can see through clear glass, but they don’t understand it. Because cats don’t have the same number of cones in their eyes as humans, they struggle to perceive as many light reflections. Also, cats are red-green color blind, making it difficult to see out of colored, stained, or frosted glass.

At best, your cat will register movements or outlines but be mostly unable to see through colored or frosted glass. This is partly because cats are nearsighted and prioritized night vision during their evolution. They didn’t develop the extra muscles or cones needed to see more clearly through materials like glass.

Can Cats See Through Windows?

Cats can see through windows. According to the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, a survey of 577 indoor cats revealed that 84.3% of them spent an average of 5 hours a day looking out of windows.

Also, owners noted their cats observing the following and reacting to them:

  • Birds
  • Small wildlife, such as squirrel or rodents
  • Foliage

Other cats, people, and vehicles were also noted. If cats couldn’t see through windows, there would be no reports of cats taking notice of certain movements or objects over others.

Additionally, the study found that looking through windows provides domestic cats with environmental stimulation. Watching for prey, detecting changes in the weather, and enjoying plants moving in the wind is practically cat TV.

Aside from enjoying the view, cats may also stare out windows because they’re:

Do Cats Understand Glass?

Cats don’t understand glass, which seems odd given that cats are found looking out windows or pawing at glass doors.

However, cats don’t entirely understand glass as a barrier, even though they’re physically capable of seeing through most types of it.

That’s because felines lack the necessary amount of cones in their eyes. There are two important cells within the eye in humans and felines: rods and cones.

Rods are responsible for discerning between varying light levels. Meanwhile, cones are responsible for differentiating between different colors.

Humans have significantly more cones than cats, which means that we can detect a wide variety of colors and far more detail than our feline companions. Because of this difference, it’s harder for cats to focus on objects extremely close to their eyes.

Cats cannot detect the slight shimmers and subtle reflections we perceive when looking at the glass. Since they cannot see evidence of glass as a barrier, cats sometimes don’t notice the barrier at all.

A prime example is when a cat runs away from a threat it sees through a window. It doesn’t understand that the glass separates it from the danger, so it doesn’t know it’s safe.

Likewise, owners must take extra precautions if they have any glass doors in their homes. Cats may run head-first into the barrier since they can’t precisely detect signs of it as solid material.

That’s especially true if they’re running at high speeds or are distracted. Even if they’ve learned through touch and practice that the glass is there, they may forget, and their eyes can’t quickly remind them.

Can Cats Scratch Glass?

Although cats don’t completely understand glass, they can still touch it.

That enables them to understand the barriers that exist around your home, so they don’t walk headlong into every window they see. You may find your cat tapping your glass coffee table, uncertain if it should stand on it.

Once the cat becomes used to the glass, it may scratch or paw at it. Cats do this for a variety of reasons:

  • Leave behind their scent
  • Sharpen their claws
  • Relieve boredom
  • Brace themselves and stretch

Fortunately, cats’ claws are unable to leave any permanent marks. Your cat’s nails are made of keratin, which is a 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. The Mohs hardness scale is used to characterize the relative softness or hardness of a mineral on a scale of 1 to 10.

Since 10 is the hardest, and glass is a 5.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale, your cat’s claws won’t leave a scratch on the glass.

Can a Cat Break Through Glass?

As fragile as glass may seem, cats are unlikely to break through it.

It does happen, of course, but it depends on the following factors:

  • Physical state of your cat
  • Structural integrity of the glass
  • Location of the glass

For instance, consider a glass table. Your cat may be able to break through the glass if the cat is:

  • Particularly heavy
  • Leaping from a high vantage point
  • Jumping on thinner or more decorative glass

Breaking through glass windows is less likely. These types of glass are scientifically designed to withstand heavy winds, environmental changes, and even flying debris, such as the occasional small stone.

Do Cats Understand Glass?

Can Cats See Through Tinted Glass?

Cat’s cannot see through tinted windows because they don’t have enough cone cells in their eyes. That is critical for differentiating between various colors.

According to Experimental Eye Research, feline vision is akin to red-green colorblindness in humans. Also known as deuteranopia, this is characterized by difficulty distinguishing between different shades of:

  • Red
  • Green
  • Even yellow

When presented with combinations of red and green together (or on their own), they may look yellow. If you have tinted glass, this can be problematic for cats, especially in red-green combinations.

Additionally, the Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology found that yellow, green, and white all look the same to cats. Despite extensive color training provided by the researchers, cats found it very difficult to differentiate between those three colors.

Many cats couldn’t tell at all. Domestic cats also seem to view blue and red as opposite colors, which proves that cats can’t see as wide a spectrum of colors as humans. 

It’s doubtful that your cat will be able to see well through tinted glass. The colors will be muddled, difficult to register, or impossible to see at all. The cat may be able to decipher outlines of figures and visualize movement behind the glass. However, it won’t be able to see through it as well as clear glass. 

Can Cats See Through Frosted Glass?

There are no current studies to determine whether cats can see through frosted glass. However, it is unlikely, especially when considering feline vision as a whole.

Domestic cats are nearsighted, which is advantageous for them because many cats are routine hunters. The ability to see prey up close helps when catching live food.

However, this means that cats cannot see far distances clearly. Adding frosted glass to this poor level of sight will further hinder their ability to see.

Compared to humans, cats have 20/100 or 20/200 vision. To view an object that a human can see clearly from 100 or 200 feet away, cats must be 20 feet or closer to it. Lower visual acuity in cats is partly because they lack certain eye muscles that we have.

These muscles in our eyes allow us to:

  • Integrate distance into our vision.
  • Coordinate where items are in space.
  • See distanced objects clearer by physically changing the shape of our eye lenses.

This is impossible for cats. Because of that, frosted glass is difficult to see through, and this may be why some veterinary offices utilize frosted glass in their appointment rooms and doors.

Of course, the main purpose of frosted glass in veterinary offices is to provide an adequate level of visual privacy for both clients and patients. However, it also has secondary purposes, such as helping to reduce stress in pets since many cannot see through frosted glass.

why do cats scratch glass surfaces?

Can Cats See Through Glass At Night?

Cats may be eager to look through your windows at night. Felines have excellent night vision and can spy much of the nocturnal activity you miss outside your window.

However, this partly contributes to why cats have more difficulty than humans when looking out of windows.

Throughout their evolution, cats didn’t develop the necessary anatomical structures in their eyes to:

  • Discriminate different hues
  • See great distances

That’s because the ancestors of domestic cats were night hunters. So, there were no selective pressures for them to develop those structures.

Without them, they find it harder to see through tinted or frosted glass or determine that glass is a solid structure. 

Can You Help A Cat See Through Glass?

Cats can see through clear glass. How well they see will depend on the following:

  • Distance of whatever object they want to view
  • Cleanliness of the glass
  • Color of the panes
  • Vision of the cat, such as poor eyesight

Cats can’t see very far, and they may struggle with colored glass, but they’re not blind to this material.

If you want your cat to have a good view and be entertained by the outside world, then:

  • Keep the windows clean
  • Avoid any coloring or embellishments
  • Allow the cat to access windows with more activity close to the glass
  • Let the cat peer out the window at night when its vision is sharper

Providing your cat access to clear windows is important for its well-being, especially if it’s strictly an indoor cat.

Not only does it provide visual stimulation during a long day, but it also lets in sunlight. Sunlight will help your cat produce more serotonin and absorb vitamin D, which can minimize the risk of seasonal depression.

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Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

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