We love our pets and want to understand them as well as possible. This includes knowing how the world looks to them. Most of us know that cat sight is different from human sight, but you might still be wondering: Can cats see color? What colors can cats see?
The answer isn't a simple one, and it requires a little bit of a scientific dive into your cat’s anatomy. To understand what colors cats can see, we have to know how the human eye works – because, after all, our sight is the only experience we have to compare to what our cats see! This will give us a framework to look at how a cat’s eye processes light and color.
While our eyes tend to have a broader color spectrum, a cat’s eyes are far better than a human’s in other ways. Want to understand your cat’s point of view? Read on for a fascinating “look” into your cat’s eyesight!
How Humans See Color
We rely on our eyes to help us interpret not just color, but the world around us. To better understand how your cat’s eyes work, let’s start with our own eyes, including:
- The parts of the eye that help us see color
- How our eyes process light
- How this process creates our experience of color
The Parts of the Human Eye Responsible for Color
When it comes to seeing color, one of the most important parts of the eye is the retina, a layer of tissue at the back of the eye. This tissue is rich with cells called photoreceptors that turn rays of light into signals that become our sights.
We have two types of photoreceptors: cones, which handle daytime and color reception, and rods, which handle grayscale and nighttime vision.
How Humans See Color
The retina alone isn’t why we see. We have to have another highly specialized body part to make sight happen: a brain!
The eye works with the brain to process light and turn it into color. When we see color, we are seeing light reflected off a surface. Color isn’t within any object. Grass isn’t green. Grass just absorbs all the other colors and only reflects the green back to our eyes, so that’s what we see.
Color Blindness in Humans
You might know a person who is colorblind. This is a condition passed down by genetics that makes it difficult for people to differentiate between colors. It happens because one or more of the cones in the person’s eye don’t work properly.
It is mostly men who are impacted by color blindness, and there are a myriad of different types of this condition. Usually, colorblind people have a hard time differentiating between blues and greens or between reds and yellows. Some people suffer from rod monochromacy, in which they can see no color because they have no functioning cones in their retinas! Those people see the world in grayscale – much more cat-like than human-like.
Can Cats See Color?
The short answer is yes, cats can see color – but less of it than humans. They see the world much like a colorblind human would. So are cats colorblind? No. They just see differently than we do.
Cats have some similarities to humans in how they process light and color. When it comes to answering the question, “Can cats see color?” we need to understand exactly how the cat eye works and how this compares to human eyesight and what colors cats can see.
The Parts of a Cat’s Eye Responsible for Color
Like humans, cats have both rods and cones in their retinas that allow them to see color and grayscale. But, they have less cones than humans (and more rods), which impacts how they process light into color.
What Colors Can Cats See?
There is some debate in the scientific community about what colors cats can see. Some believe they can see only blue and gray. Others think they can see blue, gray, and yellow, more like a dog’s sight. It’s widely accepted that cats can see blues and greens, but reds and pinks might appear more green to them. Purples might just seem like another shade of blue.
A cat’s color experience is definitely less diverse and saturated than a human’s, but cats can absolutely see some color.
Other Differences Between Human and Cat Sight
Now that we know how cats see color, let’s examine some of the other differences between cat and human eyesight. A cat’s eyes have evolved differently than ours because in the wild, they often hunt in the dark. This means that cat eyesight is very different from humans’ in three key areas:
- Our ability to see at night
- Our clarity of vision
- Our width of vision
Night Vision in Cats and Humans
Can cats see in the dark? Yes, and quite well!
While cats have fewer cones than humans, they make up for it by having more rods. This means their night vision is far more clear and sharp than ours. They also have another part of the eye called a tapetum. This part acts as a mirror between rods and cones, tossing light signals back and forth to give the cat as many chances as possible to pick up small amounts of light. The tapetum is what gives a cat’s eyes that glowing, shiny look in the dark.
The rods used for night vision are also more sensitive to movement than cones, so cats can pick up on smaller and more subtle movements than humans. Hence their supreme mouse-hunting skills.
Clarity of Vision in Cats and Humans
Cats can’t see quite as far as humans can, and are considered to be near-sighted. They also have low visual acuity, meaning they need to be much closer to an object than a human to see it with the same clarity.
Width of Vision
A cat has a slightly larger visual field than a human, meaning they can see more things around them when they focus on a single point. This ability is in part because a cat’s eyes are set further apart than human eyes.
Use Colors Your Cat Can See for Play
So now you know! No more wondering if cats can see color, or what colors cats can see. While their color vision is more limited than ours, cats can certainly see blues and green – so remember that next time you’re shopping for a cat toy! Also consider your cat’s abilities and limitations when it comes to night vision, clarity, and width of vision. These wonderful facts about a cat’s sight help us better understand and appreciate their abilities, reminding us why we adore these fascinating creatures!