Do Cats See In Color? We Look At How Our Kitty Cats See The World

We like to think our kitty cats see the world just as we do, but is that true? The one big question on everyone’s mind: Do cats see in color?

do cats see in color
Emilio Küffer / Flickr

How does your cat see the world? It may be something that you’ve never thought about before now, but perhaps you should. One of the things that many cat owners wonder about is do cats see in color? Well, it’s not actually a very simple question to answer, although it may sound it. The truth of the matter is that kitties see some colors but their vision is not exactly like ours is.

While that may sound a little complex right now, we will explain. You see, it’s all about how certain nerves in our eyes (and, indeed, the eyes of our felines) compute the information that they get from the outside world. When you look at something in front of you, you instantly take in a wealth of information. So, in theory, to understand this area, we first need to consider how our own eyes work on a day to day basis.

How do we see color?

To really understand what cats see when they look at the world around them, you need to know how we see color. It’s not merely enough to ask the question ‘do cats see color’, you need to think about what it really means to see and, indeed, understand what different colors are. So, how do we actually see color then?

Well, here’s the science. We humans have nerves in our eyes called ‘cones’. It is these nerves which allow us to see color and interpret what it actually is. When we look at something, different sensors inside the cones allow us to decipher which color each is.

Humans have three types of cone which means that we can see red, green, and blue with ease. Since we have many of these cones in our eyes, we can also see wide variations of these colors as well.

So, what is different about cats?

It may surprise you to find that cats also have three different types of cones. However, they have much less than we do in each eye. What that realistically means is that while they can see color, they don’t get as wide an array of colors as we might. That means that they see differences between the likes of red, blue, and green, but they don’t see the intrinsic differences between different tones and the like.

There’s another difference between cats’ vision and our eyesight. You may have noticed before now that your kitty has trouble seeing things that are particularly far away. There’s a good reason for that. Most cats are actually ‘near sighted’. That means that they can make out crisp, clear images when they are close to something, but not when they are far away from it. That can be tricky, especially when it comes to warding off predators and even hunting.

Cats see better in the dark!

While cats tend to lack color perception and struggle to see things that are far away, there’s one area of vision where they truly excel. When it comes to seeing in dim or darkly lit rooms or spaces, cats really are the masters. Their eyes have evolved to see a great deal in the dark, which means that they are able to hunt at night.

In this instant, color is not so important. The reason that cats have developed in this way is because they never needed to decipher different colors. Instead, they just needed to make out objects in the dark spaces around their home. In doing so, they can use their exceptional eyesight to win the upper hand at night time. In short, what they lack in color vision, they make up with their super cool night vision! Awesome.

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