How do cats see?

What do our cats see when they look at us? And do they see things the same way we do? We’ve taken a closer look at how cats see the world to try and understand our feline friends a little better. 

 

Do cats see differently to humans?

In a word, yes. Cats’ eyes aren’t the same as humans, which means they have different strengths and weaknesses when compared to human eyes—and makes them well-suited to, well, doing cat stuff. These differences in how their eyes work result in a few key variations that we’re going to investigate: colours, distance, and light.

 

How cats see colours

Cats’ eyes lack a colour receptor, meaning they can’t see the colours red or green. While they can still see other colours, anything red or green will just appear to them in shades of grey. This doesn’t bother cats, though, because they tend to rely more on brightness than actual colour.


Cats are near-sighted

Thanks to a difference in eye muscles, cats can’t really see things that are far away. Anything beyond about 6 metres will be too far away for them to see clearly. Us humans have muscles in our eyes that allow us to focus on things at various distances, but cats just don’t have these. What they do have, however, is much better peripheral vision than us. This allows them to spot any potential threats or prey within a wider area.

 

How cats see in the dark

Cats can see really well in the dark, which is news that won’t be surprising to any cat owner who has to experience their cat treating their home as a night-time adventure playground. Cats’ eyes need to be able to see in low light conditions because they’re most active at dawn and dusk—the time they’d naturally be out catching prey. To find out more about this, you can read our explainer on cats’ sleeping habits!

While neither humans nor cats can see anything in pitch black conditions, if there’s even a tiny amount of light available, cats’ eyes have a huge advantage. Their eyes allow them to see around 6-8 times better in the dark than humans, thanks to an increased number of light receptors in the eyes, and pupils that can widen much more to allow more light in. 

 

What does this actually look like for cats?

So we know that cats see less colour, and are more sensitive to light. It might be hard to imagine how all of these elements combine, and to picture exactly what our cats can see when they’re looking around. Thankfully for us, artist Nickolay Lamm put together some examples of what the world looks like for cats, working together with opthamologists and vets to make it as accurate as possible. 

And finally… How do our cats see us?

While we might now know the basic science behind how cats see (and what things look like to them!) but what do they see when they look at us, their humans? Well, experts believe that cats see us humans as slightly clumsy, giant cats. That’s right: unlike other pets, such as dogs, it’s believed that cats don’t differentiate between cats and humans, so they just think we’re really large, not very coordinated cats which is why, unlike dogs, cats don’t change their method of greetings or behaviour around humans. And if you’re curious, you can find out more about what cats think of humans in this National Geographic article!

02/03/2022 by NatuTeam

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