Do Cats See in Color or Black and White?
Questions About Cats

Do Cats See in Color or Black and White?

Cats can see in color, but their world is not as rich and vibrant as ours. Extremely near-sighted, cats view the world in a somewhat foggy haze and are only able to see a minimal amount of color. The color vision of a cat is similar to a person who is color blind.

A cat’s view of the world is defined by what is found in the retina. The properties involved (cones and rods) that allow us to see clear and rich colors while struggling in darkness are reversed for a cat. This is why they can see in pitch black wooded areas. These are the same locations that we would need a flashlight to navigate.

Cats also have a different vision field compared to humans. This allows them to see more when focused on a specific object. You can think of this trait as being like a widescreen television. Due to eye placement, cats can take more in by a matter of 20 degrees.

In this guide, we will detail what cats see, how they see and compare it to human vision. While your cat can’t see all the colors of the rainbow, their world is much more than simply black and white.

What Colors Do Cats See?

Experts believe cats can see blue and green. However, many other colors, most notably reds and pinks, are distorted. Hard-to-see colors may appear as green while a deep purple may look like a different shade of blue. For these reasons it has been concluded that cats have the color vision of a person who is color blind.

To understand why cats are unable to see true colors, it’s crucial to take a look at the details of the eye. The difference between the human retina and that of a cat is the core reason why cats don’t share our field of color.

The retina is comprised of two different cell types: rods and cones. The ability to notice rich colors is determined by the cones. Both humans and cats have three different types of cones that can identify the colors green, blue, and red. However, moving forward is where cats and humans begin to differ.

how do cats see human faces?

Because humans are equipped with over ten times the number of cones than cats, humans can see and appreciate a seemingly endless amount of colors. On the flipside, cats have been blessed with more rods than humans. Able to detect various levels of light and motion, cats can see in dark areas far better than humans.

Humans have the color wheel while cats have the supreme night vision. Visually speaking, this is the most critical difference.

Are Cats Color Blind?

Based on what cats see, their color vision field looks rather washed out with only hints of color. The field is certainly not black and white, but it’s something that would likely give humans a major headache.

While a cat’s color field lacks the richness of hues and saturations, their world is somewhat of a color blur. This is what a person would define as a fog or a haze. If you wear glasses for near-sightedness and took them off, the quality of your vision (in a daytime well-lit area) would be similar to that of a cat.

The color vision field of a cat is extremely distorted, and it certainly lacks the “awe” factor that most humans have come to know and love.

Cat Vision vs. Human Vision

The best way to appreciate and understand the true vision of a cat is to compare it to ours. Although most of the differences are not as extreme as you may think, those minor differences change the entire picture of what cats and humans see.

Visual differences go far beyond colors. Are you able to detail a person or a sign from 50 feet away? Your cat is at a major disadvantage if attempting to view the same.

Let’s dive a bit deeper and unlock the mystery of a cat’s vision…

Why are Cats Unable to See True Colors?

Humans have more retina cone cells. This allows us to see the world as a vibrant painting while cats are only able to see a marginal amount.

When people speak of true colors, they’re often talking about the richness and saturation of a deep blue, vibrant orange, etc. Cats are unable to see hues and saturation. No colors are rich and clearly defined for a cat.

can cats see pink?

  • The opposite of true color for a cat is faded and washed out. The deeper and more intense a color is to us, the more bland and blurry it can appear to a cat. Unable to lock in on a specific color like the human eye, the color appears hazy to a cat. For example, a rich green grass may appear brown or exhibit a mustard color. True green grass to us may look like dead grass to your cat.

Understanding the Visual Field

Cats have a much wider vision field than humans. While we can see in better detail, cats can see a wider picture.

The vision field of a human is 180 on average. The same field is 200 degrees for a cat. Both fields include straight ahead, below, side to side, and above. The extra 20 degrees for a cat is found in the expanded or side to side view.

Cats can stalk prey as well as stay on high alert for their safety by using these “extra” 20 degrees. This type of visual field can be invaluable for a cat at night in a wooded area.

Do Cats Have Blurry Vision?

Cats are far more near-sighted than humans. Any distance beyond 80-100 feet may as well be miles for a cat. This is why, when taking in the entire view of a specific vision scope, cats will always deal with blurry images.

  • 20 feet and closer is the hot zone. Most images are quite sharp and clear to a cat within 20 feet. By comparison, most humans can see in sharp visual quality up to 100 feet.

Have you ever been outside and attempted to call your cat home? Have you ever seen your cat just a few houses down and called yet received no response? The vision fields and clarity differences are likely the reason. While you can see your cat as clear as crystal, there is a very good chance they can’t see you. Keep the “beyond 20 feet” rule in mind when attempting to call your cat inside for the day.

What Colors are Cats Attracted to the Most?

Cats can see shades of blue and green, so logically these colors are likely to get their attention. White is also a significant trigger color. Cats view white as a glowing color. This is why cats are often more attracted to balled up paper rather than the new toy you purchased.

White is also an aggressive color. If you are attempting to hold your cat to calm nerves, wearing a white shirt (for example) could produce a negative result.

If you want to set a calming mood for your cat, you should select these colors…

  • Pastel Purple
  • Pastel Blue
  • Pastel Green

Human clothing of these colors, as well as cat blankets of this variety, can act as a calming instrument.

Cats Thrive in the Dark

The night time is the right time for cats. This is where our furry pals have us beat in the vision department. Because cats have more retina rods than humans, they can see in dim and dark environments.

It’s estimated that cats can see using only one-sixth of the amount of light a person would require.

what do cats see when they look at humans?

According to Science Direct, cats are also equipped with a special piece behind the retina known as the tapetum lucidum. This is believed to help improve night vision. Acting as a mirror, the tapetum reflects light that enters the area between the rods and the cones which help to increase night vision. It’s believed the tapetum is responsible for the iconic glow of the eyes in the dark.

What Do Cats See When They Look at Humans?

While cats will not always be able to lock in on the color of your shirt or the color of your hair, cats can see humans quite well, generally speaking. Maintaining the color-blind theme, cats can see us in the same way that most other humans do to a respectable degree. The ability to identify strong detail is unlikely.

Cats can tell the differences between other humans but are not keen on distinct facial features. In other words, cats have no real idea what we look like.

Information suggests that cats are only 50% likely to be able to tell the face of their owner from that of a stranger when shown in pictures. On the contrary, cats are far more likely (almost 90%) to be able to spot the difference between a familiar cat and an unfamiliar cat when both are displayed in pictures.

The same also holds true for familiar settings shown in pictures. A known outdoor patio can be easily spotted in a picture (roughly 85% of the time) compared to an unfamiliar patio.

The final conclusion is that cats can recognize a great many things. Unfortunately, the detail of a human face is not one.

Cats recognize specific humans in 3 core ways…

  • Scent
  • Voice
  • Physical touch

Is Color Important to Cats?

Not really. One of the most critical things to understand is that cats share our world, but they do not operate in our world. While it may seem harsh or cruel that cats can’t enjoy the world as we see it, what they do see is perfect for their needs.

In comparison to humans, cats live a very uneventful life. Eating, sleeping, and stalking is the routine daily life of a cat. Although there will be times where they must use survival skills to fight off a predator, most domestic cats that have a loving home do not require much from life.

As a human, it makes all the difference in the world if your shirt is black or red. To a cat, that means nothing. People live in a world where the ability to see colors is critical, and it can be difficult to function without being able to spot color differences. All of this is irrelevant to a cat.

Although our warms hearts would love nothing more than to have our cats see the world as we see it, cats have very little use for colors.

Can Colors Cause Behavioral Oddities?

Although cats don’t need to see color in the same way we do, our colorful world can cause cats to act strangely at times. Because our world is often a color flood, cats can react harshly to what they struggle to see.

Can cats see when it's pitch black?

Have you ever seen your cat (when indoors) stare into the distance? Have you seen your cat visually lock on something with odd intensity? Both cases could be an example of a color rush that is causing your cat to become more curious than usual. Additionally, intense colors may also provoke your cat into thinking a predator is near. In the world of a cat, the blur of too many undefined colors can cause behavioral concerns.

Cats are obsessed with movement. This is why games such as follow the finger will never grow old. If movement is working in tandem with colors your cat can become overwhelmed. In extreme cases, your cat may accidentally break furniture to “attack” the undefined flash of color.

Although cats don’t need color, cats are naturally curious to a fault. When these two worlds collide, the result can be both humorous and potentially costly.

Listed below are a few color items that cats tend to be fearful of…

  • Balloons
  • Cucumbers
  • Apples
  • Bananas

The latter three present both color differences and mimic the size of small creatures. If your cat were to come across any of these items, they could become afraid. The Internet is filled with cats jumping out of their skin over the presence of cucumbers. The fear has everything to do with size and color.

In the case of balloons, the sizes and colors draw curiosity. The fact that a released balloon can float around your home and move when touched is all the more appealing. However, it is critical that your cat never attempts to hold or carry a balloon. The explosion can cause extreme fear and potential injury.

While the jury is still out on many levels regarding the color world of cats, what is known is that cats do see color. Although they are unable to see the rich and vibrant world that we enjoy, cats do not live in a colorless world.

While the visual field of a cat can be a bit dim, blurry, and lacking in sharp clarity, it’s not an insane departure from ours, and it’s certainly not a mere black and white.

The next time you hold your cat pay close attention to their eyes. They see much more than you may think. Although cats can’t enjoy the rainbow in the same way we can, it’s far from colorless.