How Well Do Cats See (What You Need To Know!)

As a cat parent you may have always wondered how well do cats see? Sometimes your kitty seems to deliberately ignore you, even though you’re only standing a few feet away! Other times she comes running as soon as you walk in the kitchen! This is perfectly normal, as all cats seem to have selective hearing and vision!

In this article you’ll discover how your cat sees the world, and most importantly, how she sees you! You’ll learn how a cat’s eye works, and if cats see color the same way we do. Why their pupils have vertical slits, and if cats can really see in the dark?

How a cats eye works

how a cats eye works

The eyeball itself is contained within the socket. The iris, or colored part of the eye, controls how much light is let in. The black area, or lens, changes shape depending on whether you’re focusing on distance or close up. A cat’s lens isn’t as flexible as ours and limited in the amount it can contract or expand.

However, slit shaped pupils enable cats to judge distances better. This is stereopsis, which simply means comparing two slightly different images. If you hold your finger out in front of you, then look at it with one eye shut, then the other eye, you’ll see the position looks slightly different. This helps your cat hunt prey either at dusk, or daylight, and judge distances in either type of light.

Your cat’s field of vision is wider than ours, and spans two hundred degrees, as opposed to ours which is a mere one hundred and eighty degrees. Just like us, cats have both cone cells and rod cells. Cone cells enable our eyes to respond to different wavelengths of colour. Cats have far fewer cone cells than us, but six times more rod cells.

Why your cat sees better in dim light

Rod cells give low light vision which is one of the reasons your cat is able to see better than you in dim light. While you reach for the light switch to see, your cat can happily watch a mouse scurry across the floor with no problem! This is of huge benefit as cats are crepuscular, meaning they’re active hunters around dawn and dusk.

Cats have evolved from hot desert regions, making it necessary to conserve as much energy as possible during the day when the sun is at its strongest. This is why your kitty spends so much time sleeping!

Whereas you can see sharp detail in the distance unless you’re short-sighted, your cat is unable to enjoy such sharp focus. In contrast your kitty has better near distance vision. Though, if you place an object directly in front of your cat it will look blurry, but place it one foot away and it will appear sharper. This is why your kitty doesn’t always see treats if you place them directly in front of her.

Do cats see colors?

Unless your color blind, you’ll be able to see a full spectrum of color from reds, through to blues and greens, and yellow. Your kitty though is far less able to see colour. As she has fewer cone cells, her ability to distinguish some colors is limited.

It’s believed cats are able to see blue and green shades better than red. Though, as no one has yet devised a way of giving cats eye tests, or getting them to read charts, this is all conclusion! Some scientists believe cats are only able to see blue and grey hues, while others believe they can see yellow as well. It’s also thought that felines seen color less vividly than humans.

Do cats see things invisible to us?

cat staring at something

An interesting question many people ask is if cats are able to see things we can’t. All animals with the ability to see including us are able to detect electronic radiation. The spectrum needed for sight is known as “optical”, and as humans we can only see the mid range of wavelengths we know as light.

Longer range radiation wavelengths are known as infrared, and shorter wavelengths ultraviolet. Snakes have the ability to see infrared as well as normal vision. This allows them to find prey, as infrared shows up heat spots. It’s believed cats may also have the ability to see infrared. This is mostly down to owners reporting their kitties always seeming to find the warm spot on a duvet! If your cat finds warm spots it doesn’t mean she’s seeing infrared, as cats always have the uncanny ability to find the warmest spots in the home! However, cats do have sensitive heat receptors in the their skin.

Do cats see ghosts?

do cats see ghosts

Another interesting question you may have asked is if your cat can see spirit! I think we’ve all noticed our kitties staring intently at an empty space. It can be very unnerving, especially if you’re on your own! It’s not uncommon for cat owners to find their fur babies staring at the ceiling or spot on a blank wall. Even growling or hissing as well. It’s possible your cat may be tuning into psychic energy and seeing something you you can’t if you notice the following signs.

  • Staring at a blank space for a long period of time.
  • Looking scared or startled for no reason, with a fluffed out, arched tail.
  • Repeatedly going back to a spot or corner of the room, as if waiting for something.
  • Growling or hissing at something when there’s nothing there!
  • Your cat’s eyes seem to dart erratically as if following movements of something or someone!

Could it be cats have sixth sense? My belief is just like some people are sensitive to spirit, so are our pets. There are even some in care homes and hospitals who claim to have seen resident cats sitting on patients just before they pass. Scientists though, claim they may be responding to pheromones.

How well do cats see compared to dogs?

You now know your cat’s eyesight is different from yours in many ways. Far superior in dim light, yet inferior in distinguishing color. However, how does your cat’s vision compare to a dog’s?
Hunting animals including cats and dogs have their eyes situated on the front of their faces. In contrast, prey animals such as deer and rabbits have their eyes on the side of their heads, enabling them to keep a lookout for predators while eating.

Having eyes situated on the front of the face gives depth of perception, essential for pray animals to judge distance and timing. As humans we have excellent binocular vision as our eyes are set straight forward. Dogs in contrast have their eyes set at about a twenty degree angle.

Dogs have greater depth of vision

This gives dogs greater field and depth of vision, but poorer binocular vision. If you have a dog, he may not see you clearly if you’re standing on the other side of a field. Of course, he’ll hear your voice, but unless you’re standing within twenty foot, he won’t see you in sharp focus.

Your cat on the other hand has her eyes set facing forward. This gives greater depth of perception that’s the same as that of a human. Both dogs and cats have a reflective layer of cells at the back of the retina that reflects back light entering the eye. Known as tapetum lucidum, this gives your dog and cat increased night vision.

Like cats, dogs have red-green color blindness. Though there’s no way of knowing exactly how dogs or cats see, it’s believed they have vision similar to a color blind human. It’s thought dogs are more sensitive to violet, yellow, and green. Scientists believe cats see blue, green, and grey more effectively. There’s even growing evidence to suggest cats are able to see ultraviolet!

Your cats vision

So now you know the answer to the question “how well do cats see?”, I hope it’s helped you better understand your kitty’s view of the world. In this article you’ve discovered how your cat’s eyes work, and her vision compared to yours. You’ve learnt how she sees colours, and if your kitty can see things not visible to you! We’ve also looked at the differences between dog and cat vision.

Just like you, your cat can develop eye problems at any stage in her life. It’s important to care for your cat’s vision by ensuring she gets the right nutrition. Eye diseases in cats are more common in older years, but you should always consult your vet if you notice any symptoms.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article and found it useful, please share:) Has your cat ever spooked you by staring at a blank wall? Please share your comments below

Wishing you a purrfect day:)
Kathy

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8 comments

    1. Hi Vesna, thank you, and glad you enjoyed my article. Yes, understanding a little bit about cats helps you look after them better:)

  1. Hello,

    I am a cat owner; I enjoyed your article. Cats before they became pets, they have the abilities wild cats have to be able to hunt and find their preys. Being able to see better than us during the night is understandable. It is known that cats are night creatures. Even though they wake up and move around during the day but they prefer night over day anytime. Why? Simply it is in their nature for the hunt!

    So many studies believe that cats can actually see even better than dogs with a wide range as you said with around 200 degrees. But what bothers me the most, there are some studies suggest that cats can forget how you look very fast after leaving them for a long time, not like dogs. So is the problem with their memory, or do they see us differently, which affect their memory!

    1. Thank you Mohammad. Yes, cats originate from hot desert regions and evolved to conserve energy during the heat of the day. Sleeping and just chilling out meant they had plenty of energy for hunting at night! Cats have a long term memory that’s 200 times better than dogs! They never forget those they love, as well as those who may have treated them badly. My previous cat was a rescue. She was very nervous around men and for some reason was scared of my partner! He always spoke to her kindly and gently. Yet she ran out of the room every time he walked in! I can only assume she had past memories of being ill treated 🙂

  2. Hi,
    I enjoy reading your article. I love cats, but I assure you that there are certain aspects of their lives that are always strange to me.
    Thanks to your article, I have learned a lot about the cat, especially how it sees. I knew that both the cat and the dog had a deeper vision than humans do, but I didn’t know the cat’s field of vision was 200 degrees.

    1. Thank you Sebastian 🙂 Yes, our vision is quite inferior in many ways to that of a cat or dog. Cats have an amazing field of vision, but their only drawback is they can’t see anything really close up!

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