Cats can see colors, but their world is not as rich and vivid as that of humans. Because they are highly nearsighted, cats see the world in a somewhat foggy haze and can only discern a minimal amount of color. A cat’s color perception is similar to that of a color-blind human.
The retina determines the cat’s view of the world. The eye components involved, cones and rods, allow humans to see clear and rich colors, while humans have difficulty seeing in the dark. In cats, it is the other way around. This is why cats can see so well in pitch black, while they cannot see colors as well as humans.
Cats also have a different field of vision than humans. This allows cats to see more detail when focusing on a specific object.
Because of the position of their eyes, cats can see an additional 20 degrees compared to humans.
What Colors Can Cats See?
Cats can see blue and green hues very well. Other colors, especially reds and pinks, are distorted.
Hard-to-see colors may appear green, while a deep purple may look like another shade of blue. For these reasons, cats are said to have the color vision of a human who is color blind.
To understand why cats cannot see colors as well as we do, we must look at the components of a cat’s eyes.
An essential difference between the human retina and that of a cat is why cats do not share our color field.
The retina comprises two different types of cells: rods and cones. The cones determine the ability to see rich colors.
Both humans and cats have three different types of cones that can detect green, blue, and red.
Since humans have more than ten times as many cones as cats, they can see a seemingly infinite number of colors.
Cats, however, have more rods for this purpose than humans. Because they can detect different levels of light and motion, cats can see in dark areas much better than humans.
Thus, humans have enhanced color vision, while cats have excellent night vision.
Are Cats Color Blind?
According to a scientific study published as early as 1954, cats are color blind.
The color vision of cats looks somewhat washed out and shows only hints of color. However, their vision is by no means black and white.
Since a cat’s color field lacks the richness of hues and saturations, its world is more of a colorful blur. A human would call this a fog or haze.
A cat’s color vision field is distorted. They lack the clear and distinct ability to distinguish many colors that most humans have.
Comparison Between Cat Vision and Human Vision
Although most of the differences are not as extreme as you might think, these differences change the entire picture of what cats and humans see.
The visual differences go far beyond colors.
Humans can see the finer details of a human face or a street sign from 50 yards away.
Your cat, however, is at a disadvantage when trying to see these things.
Why Can’t Cats See As Many Colors?
Humans have more cone cells in their retinas.
This allows humans to see the world like a vivid painting, while cats can’t see as much detail.
When humans talk about colors, they mean the richness and saturation of a deep blue or a bright orange.
Cats cannot see hues and saturation, and no colors are rich and well-defined to a cat.
To cats, colors are more faded and washed out. The deeper and more intense a color is to humans, the more bland and blurry it can appear to cats.
Cats are not able to focus on a specific color. Therefore, the color appears blurry.
For example, lush green grass can appear brown or mustard-colored. To humans, what looks like lush green grass may look like dead grass to cats.
The Visual Field of Cats
Cats have a much larger field of vision than humans. While humans can see in much more detail, cats have a much wider picture before their eyes.
On average, a human’s field of vision is 180 degrees. In a cat, the field of vision is 200 degrees.
Both can see straight ahead, down, to the side, and up. Cats’ additional 20 degrees is accounted for by extended lateral vision.
With this extra 20 degrees, cats can stalk their prey and remain on alert for their own safety.
This visual field can be invaluable to a cat at night or in a heavily wooded area.
Do Cats Have Blurred Vision?
Cats tend to be nearsighted. Any distances beyond 25-30 yards are undetectable to a cat.
For this reason, cats always struggle with blurry images when taking in the entire image of a given visual range. Most images are relatively sharp and clear for a cat within six yards.
However, people with normal vision can see everything in detail up to 30 yards away.
Have you ever seen your cat just a few houses away and called for it but received no response?
The differences in fields of vision and clarity are probably the explanation. While you can see your cat, there’s a good chance he can’t see you.
So keep the 6-meter rule in mind when calling your cat.
What Colors Are Most Apparent for Cats to See?
Cats can see blues and greens, so, logically, these colors will catch their attention.
White is also a vital color that attracts cats. Cats see white as a bright color.
For this reason, cats are often attracted to crumpled paper rather than a brand new toy.
However, white is also an aggressive color for cats. Wearing a white shirt might even be counterproductive if you’re trying to hug the cat to calm it down.
If you want to create a calming mood for your cat, you should choose one of these colors:
- Pastel purple
- Pastel blue
- Pastel green
Cats See Well in the Dark
At night, a cat’s vision functions optimally. Since cats have more rod cells in their retinas than humans, they can see in dim and dark environments.
Cats are estimated to need only 1/6 the light a human needs to see.
Cats have what is called a tapetum lucidum. The tapetum lucidum acts like a mirror and reflects light entering the area between the rods and the cones, which improves night vision.
Tapetum lucidum is also thought responsible for the familiar glow in cats’ eyes in the dark.
What Do Cats See When They Look at Humans?
Even though cats cannot always see the color of a shirt or hair, they can see people relatively well. Cats can see people the same way most people can, in less detail.
Cats can see differences between different people, but not the different facial features.
In other words, cats don’t clearly know what we look like.
Research has shown that cats are only 50% able to distinguish their owner’s face from a stranger’s when shown pictures.
However, cats are 90% able to distinguish between a familiar cat and a stranger when shown different pictures.
The same is true for familiar environments shown in pictures. Cats recognize a familiar outdoor patio about 85% of the time.
Cats can recognize a great many things. Unfortunately, the detail of a human face is not one of them.
Cats are, therefore, more likely to recognize humans in the following three ways:
- Physical touch
Are Colors Important to Cats?
Vibrant colors are less important to cats. While it may seem sad that cats can’t see the world the way we do, what they see is perfect for their needs.
It makes a big difference for humans if their shirt is black or red. We humans live in a world where recognizing colors is critical, but for cats, it’s irrelevant.
Can Colors Cause Behavior Problems in Cats?
Although cats don’t need to see colors as humans do, our colorful world can sometimes cause cats to behave strangely.
Since our world is often made up of a barrage of colors, cats can react violently to what they can’t see correctly.
Have you ever noticed that when your cat is in the house, he stares out the window into the distance?
Have you observed your cat fixating on something with a strange intensity? Both of these cases could be an example of a color frenzy.
In addition, intense colors can make your cat think a predator is nearby. The blur of too many undefined colors can lead to behavioral problems in cats.
Cats are obsessed with movement. For this reason, games where they chase something never get boring for them.
However, if unfavorable colors accompany the movement, your cat may become overwhelmed. In extreme cases, your cat may attack the undefined flash of color.
Although cats do not need to be able to see in colors, they are very curious by nature.
The following are colored objects that cats may be afraid of:
These objects can have irritating color differences and be the size of small creatures.
If your cat comes into contact with one of these items, he may become frightened. However, it may be that your cat is just scared because it was caught off guard.
A cat’s visual field may be hazy, blurry, and out of focus, but it is not much different from a human’s visual field and is certainly not all black and white.