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How Do Cats See?

Updated: August 9, 2022 by Kristen Chapple

This is something many of us are curious about: How do cats see the world around them? We do know that those little purring friends of ours see things around in a different way than us, humans, but how different is still more of a mystery.

We know that cats are attracted by shiny or feathery moving things, but that has more to do with how do cats see things rather than to their predator instincts. Their vision is made to detect movement rather than see sharply.

A Cat’s Field of View

Compared to the human vision, a cat’s field of view is wider, opening to 200 degrees, while a human’s field of view is only 180 degrees. The result is a better peripheral vision for cats, thing which helps them spot that mouse in the corner faster. Or that laser point you keep teasing your little friend with.

How Do Cats See at Night

Another advantage felines have over humans is that they are crepuscular creatures and can see better in low light. The eye of a cat has up to eight times more rod cells than the human eye, making them more sensitive to low light and able to spot movement better than us. But that means seeing better during dusk and dawn, not in pitch black darkness.

The elliptical shape of a cat’s eyes and larger surface of corneas and tapetum, the parts of the eye that reflect light back to the retina, also influence the amount of light that a cat’s eye receives. This all means that your furry little friend requires around 6 to 8 times less light than you to see things around.

How Do Cats See Color

While they do have their advantages, when it comes to color vision, we do better. Cats don’t see colors the way we see them. For example, scientists believe they see the color red as rather something dark.

The retina of a human eye has 10 times more cones than the one of a cat’s eye, which means we function better than cats in bright light. That includes seeing more vibrant colors and better movement detection in bright light. Research shows that cats don’t see the full range of colors that we do.

How Do Cats See in the Distance

Due to the higher number of cones in our eyes, we have a greater range of vibrant colors and a better resolution to our vision than cats have. We see sharper than cats in the distance, having clarity somewhere between 100 to 200 feet (30 to 60 meters) away, while cats have to be a lot closer, no more than 20 feet (6 meters) away from the objects to see them sharp and clear.

That happens because a cat’s eye can’t focus the way a human’s eye can, as they lack the eye muscles we have.

What cats have better in this area is depth perception, being able to calculate distances a lot better than us. That’s why a cat’s movements seem to be a lot more precise than ours.

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