Cats can see in color, but their world is not as rich and vibrant as that of humans. 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 someone who is color blind.
A cat’s view of the world is defined by the retina. The properties involved (cones and rods) that allow humans to see clear and rich colors while struggling to see in darkness are reversed for a cat. This is why they can see in pitch black wooded areas.
Felines also have a different visual field to that of humans. This allows cats to see more when they focus on a specific object. Due to their eye placement, cats can see an additional 20 degrees.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Colors Do Cats See?
- 1.1 Are Cats Color Blind?
- 1.2 Cat Vision vs. Human Vision Compared
- 1.3 What Do Cats See When They Look at Humans?
- 1.4 Is Color Important to Cats?
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 human who is color blind.
To understand why cats are unable to see true colors, it’s crucial to take a look at the areas 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 see 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.
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 flip side, cats have more rods than humans. Able to detect various levels of light and motion, cats can see in dark areas far better than people. Humans have the color wheel while cats have supreme night vision.
Are Cats Color Blind?
According to the Journal of Neurophysiology, cats are 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, though.
While a cat’s color field lacks the richness of hues and saturations, their world is a color blur. To a human, this would be defined as a fog or a haze.
The color vision field of a cat is extremely distorted, and it certainly lacks the “awe” factor that most humans enjoy.
Cat Vision vs. Human Vision Compared
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. Humans can see the smaller details of a person or a sign from 50 feet away. However, your cat is at a major disadvantage when attempting to view the same things.
Why are Cats Unable to See True Colors?
Humans have more retinal cone cells. This allows humans to see the world as a vibrant painting while cats are unable to see as much detail.
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.
The opposite of true color is faded and washed out. The deeper and more intense color is to humans, the more bland and blurry it can appear to a cat.
Cats are unable to lock in on a specific color, so it appears hazy to a cat. For example, rich green grass may appear brown or exhibit a mustard color. However, true green grass to humans may look like dead grass to a feline.
Understanding the Visual Field
Cats have a much wider vision field than humans. While humans can see in much greater detail, cats can see a far wider picture.
The vision field of a human is 180 degrees 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 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 or in a wooded area.
Do Cats Have Blurry Vision?
Cats are more near-sighted. Any distance beyond 80-100 feet may as well be miles away for a cat. This is why, when taking in the entire view of a specific vision scope, cats will always deal with blurry images.
Most images are relatively sharp and clear to a cat within 20 feet. However, humans with normal vision can see everything in detail for up to 100 feet.
Have you ever seen your cat just a few houses away and called, yet received no response? The vision fields and clarity differences are likely the reason. While you can see your cat, there is a high chance they can’t see you. Keep the “beyond 20 feet” rule in mind when calling your cat.
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.
White is also an aggressive color. If you are attempting to hold the cat in your arms to calm its nerves, wearing a white shirt could be counterproductive. If you want to set a calming mood for your cat, you should select these colors:
- Pastel Purple
- Pastel Blue
- Pastel Green
Cats Thrive in the Dark
The night is when cats’ vision works optimally. 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 that a human would require.
According to Science Direct, cats are equipped with a tapetum lucidum.
Acting as a mirror, the tapetum lucidum reflects light that enters the area between the rods and the cones, which helps to improve night vision.
It’s believed the tapetum lucidum 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 see the color of your shirt or hair, cats can see humans relatively well. Cats can see humans in the same way that most other humans do, just in less detail.
Cats can tell the differences between other humans, but not the distinct facial features. In other words, cats have no real idea of what we look like.
Research suggests that cats are only 50% likely to be able to determine the face of their owner from that of a stranger when shown pictures.
However, cats are 90% likely to be able to spot the difference between a familiar cat and an unfamiliar cat when shown 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.
Cats can recognize a great many things. Unfortunately, the detail of a human face is not one of them. Cats recognize humans in 3 main ways:
- Physical touch
Is Color Important to Cats?
Vivid colors are less crucial to cats. While it may seem sad 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 relatively uneventful life. Eating, sleeping, and stalking is the routine daily life of a feline.
To us, it makes a big difference if your shirt is black or red. People live in a world where seeing colors is critical, but this is irrelevant to a cat.
Can Colors Cause Behavioral Issues?
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 flood of color, cats can react harshly to what they struggle to see.
Have you ever seen your cat (when indoors) stare into the distance? Have you seen your cat visually lock in on something with odd intensity? Both cases could be an example of a color rush.
Additionally, intense colors may also provoke your cat into thinking that a predator is nearby. Through the eyes of a cat, the blur of too many undefined colors can cause behavioral problems.
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 “attack” the undefined flash of color.
Although cats don’t need to be able to see in color, they are naturally curious. Listed below are a few color items that cats tend to be fearful of:
The latter three present both color differences and mimic the size of small creatures. For example, cucumbers are mistaken for snakes. If your cat were to come across any of these items, it could become afraid.
While the visual field of a cat can be a bit dim, blurry, and lacking in sharp clarity, it’s not a huge departure from that of humans, and it’s certainly not a mere black and white.