How Do Cats See Color?

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Do Cats See Color?: A View From Their World

Have you ever just taken the time to watch your cat? Do you wonder what they see and how they see it? How do cats see color, you wonder? As they gaze up at you, are you curious how their eyes perceive you?

how do cats see color
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but I sure was curious. Seeing the light reflect in their eyes, seeing their reaction to certain movements or colors, it all made me very intrigued.

Over the years I’ve noticed that if one cat parent is curious about a certain subject – there’s a strong chance many more are too! 🙂

Many falsely believe that their feline is only seeing black and white. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. Your furchild is actually enjoying a world full of colors, albeit differently than you perceive them.

Understanding what they see and how cats see color is really a fun and interesting subject. Lets dive in for more!

Related: Bored cat in your home? Here are 10 of the best videos cats watch for hours of catastic entertainment!

Cat Vision: Rods vs. Cones

In both the human eye and the cat eye, we have photoreceptors called rods and cones contained within the retina. These cells are responsible for gathering light and relaying the message to the brain of what they see.

Rods, along the outer sides of the retina, allow you to see at night or in lower light conditions. Rods are also responsible for our peripheral vision. Since night vision typically involves darker colors and grey, rods enhance these colors.

Cones on the other hand are located in the center of your retina and help you see colors during the day, as well as the finer details of life. Cones also give us the ability to differentiate between colors correctly.

It is thought that when a person is color blind, there is a deficiency in the cone itself or possibly in the pathway to the brain. This results in not perceiving color the way it actually is.

For example, if the deficiency is in the cone that perceives red, all tones of red and its variations will be undetectable. A different color in its place all together will be seen instead.

Cats Are Slightly Colorblind

Science appears to confirm that cat vision may have some difficulty distinguishing colors on the red spectrum, such as pink or reddish orange.

Here’s why:

Humans have 3 main types of cones in the retina. These types allow us to see blue, red and green. When our cone cells are operating normally, they allow us to see a wide range of colors in vivid displays. We are able to detect many shades of the same color.

Cats also have 3 types of cones. However, the most marked difference between our kitties and us are the number of cones within each type. This lack of cones is what limits our felines’ ability to see the wider range of color variations we do.

Blues, greys and yellows appear to be the easiest for your feline to see, while red, orange, yellow and green may give them trouble.

While we may have the “leg up” on daytime color vision, our cats far exceed our abilities to see at night.

The reason…

Cats Have More Rods

While humans have approximately 10 times more cones than our cats – they have about 8 times as many rods as we do!

What does this all mean?

Since rods are responsible for night vision, motion detection and having a greater range of vision – it’s no wonder that our cats are natural hunters or love playing with their favorite toys in the middle of the night (much to your dismay at times, haha!) 😀

“When compared to humans, cats see better in dim light (dusk and dawn) and more accurately detect motion.”

VCA Hospitals

Another amazing bonus cat eyes have that we don’t: it’s called the tapetum lucidum.

This incredible layer of tissue behind the retina reflects any available light back through the eye, acting almost as a built-in flashlight for kitties! This tapetum lucidum further increases the cat’s ability to see in poor lighting.

There’s no doubt in my mind you’ve also noticed the reflective glow your cat’s eye has in the dark, in photos or from certain angles. You guessed it – the tapetum is responsible for this fascinating effect. 🙂

how do cats see color
Image by EgoAltere from Pixabay

Cat Vision Study

A few years back, there was a fascinating study done by Nickolay Lamm.

During this study, Nickolay consulted with some very knowledgeable folks who know their cat eyes!

Through this study, they sought to answer this very question: how do cats see color and what do they see in general?

Here are some photos to perfectly illustrate comparisons between how we perceive vision versus what our cats are seeing.

Pin This (Image is my own creation © )

Color Differences

In this photo below, you are seeing the believed overall color differences between our eyes (photo on the top) and our cat’s eyes (photo on bottom).

As you will notice, reds are seen as greens and shades of red also aren’t found. Yellows and greys are prominent. Fascinating isn’t it? A red colorblind individual would very much be able to relate to this image.

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

Color Saturation Differences

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

The saturation (vividness) of colors we see are a significant difference in vision.

As you will notice in the above photo, saturated greens appear more yellow to our kiddos.

Think of the colors in a rainbow. Notice how vibrant and varied they are? While your cat would still be able to appreciate the colors, they may appear dulled or less wide-ranging.

Night Vision

As we discussed above, due to the increased number of rods kitties have in their retina, their night vision is superior.

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

If you notice in the above photo, have a look at that right corner especially. Our vision may entirely miss the structures present next to the large building and the trees we may see a shadow of.

Our feline friends however can naturally shed some light on the subject and see all the details of the objects.

This ability not only makes them outstanding at hunting during the night, as is required in the wild, but it also keeps them safer. Dangers have a harder time catching them unawares.

How neat is that? A built in security system! Pair their unique night-time eyesight with their remarkable hearing and you’ve got one awesome creature! 🙂

Tapetum Advantage

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

Wow! Look at that light difference! This is what I am calling “the tapetum advantage.” What a powerful piece of eye tissue that is!

For me personally, I can’t help but compare it to a flashlight for us. Cats (and some other cool creatures) were just innately born with the ability to shine light wherever they need it. 🙂

(If you ask me, they shine light on our hearts too!) All that laughing and smiling they make us do, how about it?!

Distance Differences

It is believed that kitties are naturally nearsighted. I guess some people would like to blame their “occasional” aloofness to… “oh hi, I didn’t see you there!” 😀

But the truth is, cats really don’t see very well far away. They do however see in great detail close up, which helps them detect even the slightest of motion.

When you combine their wider range of vision (peripheral) with their superior motion detection system – you have a cat that can hunt with the best of them.

Yeah, it could also be why your feet or ankles may be ever so irresistible too!

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

Wider Field of Vision

how do cats see color
Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

These photos illustrate that even though we as humans (top photo) have great peripheral vision, cats are even better!

With an average range of 180* (degrees) as a human, cats are thought to have around 200* (degrees) field view.

As you see in these photos above, we have blind spots (the black areas) past a certain point of vision. Our felines though do not have this same blind spot. They are able to scan prey from a wide angle “lens” and thanks to their motion detection, catch it (most of the time)!

Sharpness Comparison

Photo credit: Nickolay Lamm

As you can see, there is a very significant difference between the clarity of which we see our world with.

Whether it is with or without corrective lenses, we as humans see with 20/20 vision on average.

Our cats on the other hand are seeing with visual acuity around 20/100 – 20/200. What we can see with 20/20 vision at 100 to 200 meters would require our cats to be within a distance of 20 meters.

This has a great impact on how cats function in their world. Although they have adapted to this visual lack with acute hearing and smell, their world can still be pretty fuzzy. (no pun intended!)

Cats Are Colorful

Cats are hilarious. They can be terribly frustrating but oh so rewarding! They will make you smile, chuckle, scratch your head and say, “Awww how cute!”

Their personalities are as colorful as our world. There are no 2 cats exactly the same. I’ve heard it said many times – you could be the crazy cat lady or daddy, have 100 cats, but none would be exactly alike. Very true!

Speaking of color, I found a very unique cat video that is a personality test. Based on which cat you pick, will give you insight into your personality traits. It may not be the most scientific test around, BUT, it honest to goodness was accurate for me!

I wanted to share it with you, my cherished readers. Let me know if your results were accurate in the comments section below. Also, if I can answer any questions for you, let me know that too!

And please, if this article helped or entertained you, share it with your social media friends! I thank you sincerely! <3

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  1. Great article. You did not mention that cats can see spirits and ghosts. All of our cats can see the ghosts that pass through our place. We can hear the ghosts at times. We can smell them at other times. The ghosts often steal things from us, but we never see them. However, the cats can see them very well, and stop to watch the ghost, and sometimes follow them around. It gets a little eerie watching the cats watching the ghosts.

    1. Thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed.

      What you say about cats (and many animals) seeing into the spirit realm is very true. I did consider putting that in this article but figured I’d leave it for another time. I believe their little spirits are far more sensitive to surroundings than we will ever know.

      Sorry to hear about what’s going on at your home, oh my! Sounds like your cats have been quite busy over there!

      1. The biggest problem ghosts is when we get kleptomaniac spirits. It’s weird how things will just disappear, never to be found again. The most infamous incident is when my wife was chopping vegetables with an 8 inch knife from our Japanese knife set. She set the knife down on the cutting board while we stepped out for a few minutes to watch the sunset. When we came back inside, the knife was gone, never to be found. The only thing we can figure is the ghosts took it. Other things have disappeared, as well, but we were both witnessed that mysterious disappearance. Otherwise, when the ghost come through, they add to the entertainment for us and the cats.

  2. Rods & cones, that tickled my memory from somewhere many years ago at school. This is fascinating, and you’ve covered it so thoroughly – I feel quite enlightened as I didn’t really have a clue. Interesting that it’s quite the misconception about what cats can see in terms of colour, but that they may still be a bit colour-blind with some end of spectrum shades. Fantastic post! xx

    1. Thank you so much Caz! Always good to hear from you.

      It is pretty amazing just how complex the eye is, both in humans, cats, dogs or any other animal. Having a better idea of what they are seeing in their world is pretty fascinating 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  3. This was great. I really liked the comparison photos that showed the difference in human vision versus cat.

    1. Isn’t that amazing? They did a really great job at giving us a glimpse into their world.

      Does my heart good to hear you enjoyed! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts <3

  4. I too loved the comparison photographs. I had no idea. They sure have good night vision though.

    Have a fabulous day, Holly. ♥

    1. So sorry for my delay in reply Sandee. For some reason, lots of comments are going into spam folder that shouldn’t be!

      Isn’t their night vision amazing? It’s as though they have a flashlight installed right into their eyes. Pretty neat! Thank you so much for taking your time to comment! Good to hear from you!

    1. It is my pleasure. I agree with you – I love knowing that their world is colorful too. So much would be missed if it weren’t, even if you didn’t know you were missing it!

      Thank you so much for taking your time to comment. You are so sweet and are welcome here any time! <3

    1. They truly are! Thank you for reading! I couldn’t share it if you weren’t here to enjoy it! Thank you for commenting. Always a pleasure hearing from you, Diane!

  5. Wonderful post and learnt a lot from this . I always assumed all animals only see black and white . It’s interesting to know about the slight colors that they can see. Very interesting to know about their night vision and nicely explained with pictures how they are able to see the details .No wonder they are so alert with the slightest motion. Thank you for this share!

    1. Not being able to get inside their skin and experience life the way they do – it’s easy to assume we know what they see and how 🙂 They are fascinating!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! That’s what I love to hear. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. I appreciate you!

  6. Thanks for this most interesting and informative post! I always wondered how much color my cat sees. I wish they could see in full color like we do, but all the other wonderful abilities they have are definitely a plus. 🙂
    I found your blog from seeing the link at one of MNL’s posts.

    1. My pleasure 🙂 I thank you for taking your time to read & reply!

      I completely agree with you about what cats see. Who knows, maybe they even see a bit more color than the pictures depict!

      Thank you so much for coming by. MNL and the “Cactus Catz” blog are awesome! ♥ Always lots to enjoy there! I encourage everyone to go & have a visit.

  7. Wow wow!!! This is a great article. It was amazing learning about cat vision; I’m always curious about how various animals view and perceive the world.

    When I read here that cats see greys and blues better, I immediately thought this is to their evolutionary advantage: the favorite meal of (wild) cats are rodents! And the comparative photos between human and cat vision are especially interesting! The ‘Tapetum advantage’ is really a HUGE advantage!

    Thank you for crafting and sharing this informative post, Holly! I also learned something new today 😉

    1. You are so sweet & truly made my day! Thank you so much for your thoughtful and kind comments!!

      You have an excellent point there. Indeed, the blue and greys would definitely be needed most in the wild. So glad I could help you learn something new today. You help me learn new things all the time 🙂 Have a truly wonderful day! <3

    1. Thank you so much! Makes me smile to hear you enjoyed! Wishing you a very happy & blessed day 🙂 Thanks for coming by. I hope you will return!

  8. As a red-green colourblind cat lover it’s great to know I perhaps see the world in a similar fashion to my feline friends… by day. Goes without saying that night-time is another story! Great article 😻

    1. How about that! Fascinating you can see the world as our feline companions do. I’ve always thought it interesting (albeit challenging) to live with colorblindness. It gives you such a different perspective. My husband says the same about not wearing his prescription glasses.

      So thankful you enjoyed this article. Most of all, I’m grateful you shared your thoughts with me! Thanks for coming ♥ Hope to see you again!

      1. Thanks for your response 😻 I don’t find it challenging as I’ve always been colourblind. And I’m not severly colourblind. Just a bit. I will certainly keep a (colourblind) eye on your site 😻 I have six rescue cats at the last count so a great find! By the way, I love your logo. The hearts in the cat remind me of those images you see (with dots) to test for colourblindness 😺

      2. You are most welcome. I sincerely appreciate when people like you come and share their thoughts. Especially when it’s meaningful conversation, as your comments are 🙂

        God bless you for taking in your six rescues. I guarantee they are now living a life of luxury and spoiled rotten in a way they never dreamed of before you. Thank you for loving them ♥

        Thank you so much for your compliment on the logo as well. I keep going back and forth about changing it and/or the website appearance. It’s such an ordeal to change though that I haven’t thus far.

        Wonderful to hear from you. Thanks again for taking your time to read and share your thoughts. Many blessings to you & yours. Hope you will indeed keep coming back!

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