How Cats See the World

Can Cats See Color: This Is How Felines See the World

Perhaps, the color doesn't mean much to a cat.

Cat owners often specify individual bowls for each cat — a yellow bowl for Snowball and a black bowl for Max. But have you ever wondered if the cats can tell the difference between which color is assigned to them? We associate the varied colors of the rainbow with many things around us. Common sense told us that red means stop, green means go as children. Boys wear blue, and girls wear pink. Thematic event management teams eagerly await the announcement of the Pantone Color of the Year. Still, the color doesn’t mean much to a cat.

How Do Cats See the World?

Cats have their eyes set further to the side of the head compared to human anatomy, which means they get a broader peripheral view than us, spanning about 200 degrees instead of 180 degrees. They see more of the big picture than we do! When they focus on a single point, looking straight ahead, their view above, below, and to the sides is broader than how a human’s visual field will be.

Cats are hunting creatures. The most practical sense in hunting is sight, but cats are also nearsighted. Humans see clearly from 100 to 200 feet away is blurry to cats. The same object will come into clear view for cats at 20 feet out. 

That isn’t very promising for a hunter. However, what cats lack in visual acuity, they make up for in their ability to see better in dimmer lights. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are the most active when all is quiet in the house — at dawn and dusk. They are gifted with night vision to detect motion at night when they are supposedly hunting. 

In our retina, at the back of our eyes, are cells called photoreceptors. One type is called a “rod,” and the other is called a “cone.” these photoreceptors receive and convert light rays into electrical signals processed by neurons, then sent to the brain. The brain turns these into the picture we see.

Cats have the same receptor and processor of light rays as us. The big difference is that they have more rods than cones. Humans can distinguish colors better but see poorly at night because we have more cone receptors. On the other hand, cats have higher concentrations of rod receptors, which allow them to have better night vision to detect the brightness and see shades of gray. They have eight times more rods than humans to detect motion more accurately at night. The lack of cone receptors, however, diminishes their color perception.

Are Cats Colorblind?

A quick answer is yes. Cats are colorblind, as we know and define colorblindness. Humans use three cones to see the full spectrum of colors — red, blue, and green. Cats, however, only have blue and green cones; this means their color perception is muted or diminished, which is similar to colorblindness in humans. 

Cats do not have monochromatism where they can see objects in just black or white; that is not colorblindness. They are only unable to distinguish some colors from others. They do see color, but it’s less vibrant than how we see palettes and shades of colors. Lacking the red cone, they are not very sensitive to red light.

What Colors Can Cats See?

Cats are not entirely colorblind. While red is not their favorite color, their eyes are sensitive to blue wavelengths. Our feline friends can distinguish hues of blue, particularly blue-violet. They can see yellow and green shades as well.

Their color visuals may not be as lively as ours, but they don’t live in a drab world devoid of color! They do see beyond shades of gray, white, and black. It’s a misconception that they are tuned to dull grays and blacks; they can see yellows, blues, greens, and violets — though less vibrantly. Their visibility of a rainbow is limited. While we enjoy the entire R-O-Y-G-B-I-V colors of the rainbow, our feline friends won’t see the reds and oranges in there.

How Can We Make Our Cats Happier?

Turn this knowledge about your cats into useful, practical applications to make them happier felines. When buying toys, choose yellow and blue toys and avoid red ones. They will find these blue and yellow playthings more attractive. Always Keep their color range in mind when selecting items for them. Please give them a comfortable spot by the window, so they can enjoy viewing birds and other creatures fluttering about 20 feet away from them. When calling their attention, it is best to stand directly in front of them where they can see you up close.

They are different but not less happy than us. Cats can enjoy a colorful palette of life when we keep this information in mind.