Can Cats See Color? Know How They See The World

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can cats see colors

Have you ever wondered if can cats see color? If they see the world like we do?

We’ve always spoken about the bird's-eye view in photography and sometimes dabble into how fish see the world through fish-eye lenses to make things look interesting. Yet, only a few have ever talked about what the world looks like for our furry feline friends.

As humans, when we look at a rainbow in the sky, we typically see all shades of color!

But have you ever wondered what cats see when they look up at a rainbow? Do cats see color shades of the rainbow? Can they distinguish each color? And as for other colors, are they able to see shades of black and white, or do colors look entirely washed out?

Scientists used to think felines are only able to see two colors so they were considered Dichromats until further investigation helped them figure out that they're not.

While feline eyes are most sensitive to wavelengths in the blue-violet and yellow ranges, it appears they might be able to see a little bit of the color green as well. In other words, cats are mostly color blind to other types of colors.

The research on feline color vision is entirely a deep dive with pretty amazing results. While cats can’t appreciate all the colors that humans do, they still live a pretty colorful life!

How do cats see the world?

Did you know that cats' visual fields are broader than ours? They can see their environment at a wider point of view that span roughly 200 degrees wide, instead of just the regular 180 degrees.

green eyes

However, their visual acuity isn't exactly as good.

Even with this limitation for great distances, they make up for their intense ability to see in the dark.

They are at their best at night, equipped with the visual benefits that allow them to survive and thrive in the world.

Cats can see well in dim light and pick up on slight movements from afar. Their heightened sense of awareness after night time gives them that incredible hunting ability. This asset also helps cats know when they need to flee.

We now know that cats’ eyes can detect even the stealthiest of creatures, but what about detecting color?

How can cats see color?

A feline’s anatomy of the eye may both have rods and cones that make up their visual perception. It also reveals more rod cells than cone cells.

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Your cats’ eyes have these photoreceptors parked in their retinas, which gives them the night vision they need to see in dim light. So, instead of seeing vibrant colors, they’re able to detect more movement in very dim light, with little color differentiation.

Just as cone cells are responsible for distinguishing colors, rod cells have a special job to do as well. Rods detect light levels and motion. What cats mostly have in their retinas are the cell bodies responsible for the capacity to see rapid movement.

The same type of cells also helps detect motion, even small movements at great distances. So, the more there are rod cells, the more they have that night vision to see movement better even in the dark.

This tells us that we can't expect cats to perceive the full pigment of an object's color. Cats are truly less sensitive to changes in brightness, this means that they can’t perceive most colors in rich and vibrant tones.

What colors can cats see?

The presence of cell bodies that are color-sensitive, giving cats the ability to differentiate colors, are called “cones.”

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Human and feline eyes have three types of cones that can identify combinations of red, blue, and green.

Color is determined by the nerve cells in the eye. The retina of the eye has two main types of cell bodies–rods and cones. Humans have 10 times more cones than cats, and so our furry friends have limitations in color vision when receiving a full range of colors than us. Instead, they can only perceive color shades of blue, yellow, and green.

How you can stimulate your cat's vision?

Since your feline's vision is crafted to make her the ultimate predator, you can do encouraging activities that will help her. Below are ideas that can keep your pet's visual sense stimulated.

Laser pointers. Play a laser pointer's light across your walls and floors at home. The fast moving light will be immediately picked up by your pet's rods, prompting her to chase it like she's in the wild.

Exciting meals. Ditch the boring same spot, food dish. Rather, you can try hiding her dinner in various places around the house to bring out the hunter in her. You can also try puzzle toys or indoor hunting feeders that will allow her to play, hunt and score her next meals.

Videos. When you go out of the house, you should leave the tv open for your cat for auditory and visual stimulation. Put it on the national graphic channel or search for footages or birds flying, mice scurrying or fishes on a tank.

Fresh catnip. This should be a treat to her. Do not give this to her on a daily basis. When your feline companion smells the oils produced by the plant, she will experience a spike on her activity levels and an nirvana-like state.

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How do cats see humans?

Unlike dogs, cats apparently treat us just like any other cat!

In today's age and time there are millions of cats that reside in homes in the US alone, yet there are still a lot of things we don't know about them – like how do they see their owners?

A cat behavior specialist from the University of Bristol and author of Cat Sense, John Bradshaw has an intriguing conclusion: Cats don't understand us the way dogs do.

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He said that: “There's been a lot of research with dogs and how dogs interact with people. [It's] become very clear that dogs perceive us as being different than themselves: As soon as they see a human, they change their behavior.

The way a dog plays with a human is completely different from [the way it plays] with a dog. We've yet to discover anything about cat behavior that suggests they have a separate box they put us in when they're socializing with us.

They obviously know we're bigger than them, but they don't seem to have adapted their social behavior much. Putting their tails up in the air, rubbing around our legs, and sitting beside us and grooming us are exactly what cats do to each other.”

Now, that is an interesting fact right there. Clearly, felines have good visual recognition – except to human faces. Instead of recognizing our faces, they use our scent, cues, and our voices. That is according to the researchers of Tokyo University.

How does a cat’s vision compare to human vision?

Cats are more near-sighted than we are. When looking at an object from the same distance, the object may appear quite clear to us, but at this distance, it’ll be quite blurred to our cats.

For example, if a human sees an object clearly from a distance of a hundred feet, the figures at that length will appear blurry to a cat. In general, objects will not appear sharp until the cat is much closer to it, approximately 20 feet away.

Cats have a broader range of peripheral vision because their eyes are set a bit on the sides of the head, this makes up for the limitations they have on their visual capacity.

It allows them to have a wider view than we have, even when their eyesight doesn’t seem to go as far as ours. So, cats don’t have the depth perception that we do.

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The science behind why cats can see in the dark is all thanks to their elliptical pupils that dilate to its maximum. The way their eyes are designed gives them the advantage of capturing as much light as possible.

They also have reflective cells under the retina of each eye that gives cats the “shiny eye” look and their ability to see in dim light.

So, it’s true that cats have been designed to have more rod cells than humans do, giving them the edge when it comes to seeing in low light or identifying moving objects.

The next time you come across another rainbow in the sky, remember how different both you and your cat perceive it.

Nonetheless, know that they can see a lot better in the dark, and maybe at that moment, you’ll understand why your cat’s been hunting down pesky creatures to keep the household critter-free even after sundown!

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