Can Cats See Through Glass?
Questions About Cats

Can Cats See Through Glass?

Cats will often spend countless hours staring out of a window. This is a key stimulation for a feline. The cat is watching birds and other wildlife outside.

Cats can see through glass, but are confused by this transparent barrier. Indoor cats are likelier to avoid running into glass as they are near-sighted. Cats that spend time outside are more far-sighted. These cats may fail to acknowledge glass windows or doors, potentially resulting in a collision.

While clear glass provides a cat with a stimulating view, it can cause accidents. Tinted glass, in particular, can be dangerous. The glass can blend into walls due to the limited color palette of feline vision.

Can Cats See Through Windows?

Windows are a favored form of entertainment for indoor cats. The Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science has stated that 84% of cats spend hours looking out the window, so it is clear that cats can see through clear glass.

During the day, a cat will likely be watching birds. If you observe your cat, it will stare intently and start to make chirping noises. This denotes excitement as the cat’s hunting instinct is starting to build.

A cat staring out the window at night is slightly different. There no birds for the cat to contemplate hunting after dark. Cats can see in gloomy conditions if there is a little light, though. Streetlamps, or even the moon, will provide enough illumination for a cat to see.

Cats will proceed to stare out the window to guard their territory. Other wildlife or neighborhood cats may roam on your property at night. Your cat will be keen to ensure these intruders do not get any ideas. Your cat has painstakingly marked territory for itself.

Provided the cat is calm while looking out of the window, it is not a problem. In fact, it should be encouraged. By staring out of a window, a cat is quiet and happy. That’s surely everything that you want from a pet.

Pleasure can turn to frustration in the blink of an eye. Cats do not always understand why an invisible barrier is keeping them from potential prey. This can lead to unwelcome actions, including scratching.

Can Cats See Through Tinted Glass?

Tinted glass presents more problems for feline vision and is best avoided in the home. This is due to the unique composition of a cat’s eye. As per Experimental Eye Research, a cat’s eyesight is comparable to a human with red-green color-blindness.

It’s the retina that differentiates the eyesight of animals and humans. In both species, light hits the retina and sends messages to the brain. This creates the pictures that make up our vision. The makeup of a cat’s retina is slightly different to our own.

Both humans and felines have rods and cones in the retina. Rods provide peripheral vision and enable superior eyesight in darker, gloomier conditions. Cones are responsible for the perception, and distinguishing, of different colors.

cats staring through windows

The human eye contains around 120 million rods, and about 6 million cones. In cats, this ratio is almost reversed. Felines have significantly more cones than rods in their retina. This is why cats have superior night vision, but struggle to differentiate color.

It is a myth that cats are completely colorblind, viewing the world in varying shades of grey. Some colors and shades are much easier to felines to distinguish than others, though. Blues and greens are typically visible. Reds, and any variation thereof, less so.

This means that, should you wish to use tinted glass, stick to blue or green shades. A cat has a fighting chance of distinguishing these colors. The cat probably cannot see through the tint, but it will at least acknowledge it.

Red, pink, orange or even purple tints are potentially dangerous. The cat will not acknowledge the presence of a window tinted with these shades. At best, the cat will confuse the window with a wall. At worst, it will walk directly into it.

Can Cats See Through Glass Tables?

If you have a glass table in the home, your cat will likely gravitate toward it. Cats find it soothing to lay on glass. It provides temperature regulation on their belly and paws. It’s also a flawlessly smooth surface. It’s also easy to apply scents to glass and claim territory.

Some cats will also lie on a glass table to hunt. They can see through the surface but have a barrier between themselves and prey. The cat may wait for a spider to move, for example, from an elevated vantage point.

As cats can see through glass tables, they must be managed carefully. Ensure that your cat understands that an elevated table is in position. The cat may leap from a sofa, for example, aiming for the floor. If it lands on a table unexpectedly, it may hurt itself.

If the cat has sufficient weight, and power behind the leap, it may even break the glass. This is obvious dangerous, as well as distressing for you.

If you use glass tables, consider adding colored rims or placing items on the table. The aim is to make it clear to the cat that the table is present. This minimizes risk of the cat failing to acknowledge the furniture and leaping straight through it.

Can Cats See Through Glass Doors?

Cats can see through purely transparent glass doors, much as they can windows. If you have a glass door between your kitchen and backyard, the cat will see through it. This is assuming the door is purely transparent. If you have safety glass, the cat’s vision will be obscured.

It is advisable to install some kind of safety feature on such a door. Pure transparency can be dangerous for felines. If the cat is having a burst of energy, it may run headlong into the door. If it’s completely clear, the cat will assume there is no barrier.

This is especially likely if your yard is home to prey for the cat. Cats quickly grow excited when catching sight of prey in peripheral vision. If your cat notices a bird, it may not waste any time attempting to get up close.

Combat this by using privacy glass on the door. This will prevent your cat from seeing through the glass. It will acknowledge a barrier, much as it would a wall. This may reduce light in your home, but it’s a price worth paying for feline safety.

Why Do Cats Walk into Glass?

A cat will typically walk into glass through excitement. It will then have a one-track mind, running in a straight line.

Part of this is due to a cat’s eyesight. By their nature, indoor cats are nearsighted. This is to avoid hunting. The cat can ensure it retains laser focus on prey when up close. Unfortunately, it also means it may not visually acknowledge a glass door until it’s too late.

Cats that spend more time outdoors will be farsighted. This is because the cat spends a lot of time surveying territory for predators and prey. Again, though, the cat may not detect a transparent glass door from afar. If it starts chasing a rodent, a collision will follow.

Can Cats See Through Transparent Plastic?

Cats have a similar relationship with transparent plastic as clear glass. They will be able to see through it, but not necessarily understand it.

Cats can obviously break through such a flimsy barrier. If the cat is determined enough, it will quickly find a way. This is a dangerous precedent to set as the cat may attempt the same trick with glass.

There are occasions that transparent plastic is appropriate. A cat flap is a good example. If you have a nervous cat that refuses to use the cat flap, transparency will help. The cat will be able to see what is on the other side and build confidence.

Just ensure that any use of transparent plastic is safe. Do not use a solid plastic barrier. Cats can smell plastic and may start to explore it further. This may include clawing or licking. Some cats are allergic to plastic so this will make them unwell.

Plastic is best used with color. Bright greens and blues will be visible to a feline. The cat will then negotiate its way around the material accordingly.

can cats see out windows?

My Cat Scratches Glass

Of all unwelcome cat behaviors, scratching is high on the list. Applied Animal Behavior Science lists scratching of furniture just behind generalized anxiety as an issue. Glass windows, tables and doors can fall into this remit.

Cats scratch glass for a number of reasons. This table explains the reasons for the behavior and potential solutions:

Frustration at a barrier preventing huntingDraw curtains or drapes and give your cat a time out
Searching for a weak spot in the glassRemove your cat and distract it
Caught glimpse of reflection and suspected an intruderRemove your cat from the glass and show its reflection in mirror
Attempting to sharpen clawsSupply a scratching post
Marking territory with scentAssign particular territory and provide materials to scratch and paw
Trying to ‘tunnel out’ of the homeLet the cat outside if it roams. If not, distract the cat with play or food
Stress and anxietyIdentify the stress trigger and remove it ASAP

Glass is typically tougher than the keratin in a cat’s claws. This makes it unlikely that any marks or grooves will be left. All the same, it’s best to train your cat out of the behavior.

Cats can see through clear surfaces, especially glass. Any kind of tint of pattern starts to muddy feline vision, though. Cats also do not understand glass and may walk into it. Think carefully about the use of glass in your home to protect cats.