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Can Cats See Infrared Lights?

Most cat parents feel like, because cats are sensitive animals, they can see many things that humans can’t. Well, this could be true, except that cats cannot see Infrared lights.

Although cats have superior night vision and a wider angle of view than humans, they don’t see infrared lights just like humans.  But why can’t your kitty see infrared rays? Read on to find out.

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Why Cats Can’t See Infrared Lights

Cats are warm-blooded mammals, and it’s more difficult for warm-blooded creatures to have infrared vision.

If mammals like cats and humans could see infrared light, their body heat would create a massive interference, making the eyes see a world of temperature instead of color.

Overexposure to infrared lights raises the internal temperature of the eyes of any creature with temperature. It could virtually “bake” and harm their eyes.

Well, although cats can’t see infrared, they can detect it as heat. Cats have sensitive heat receptors, the reason for their uncanny ability to find warm spots anywhere.

How Do Cats See?

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Image Credit: M_Light, Shutterstock

Although you may attribute your kitty’s fondness to laser pointers and shiny objects to its hunting instinct, this character has a lot to do with cats’ unique and acute vision. While cats are more colorblind and cannot appreciate colors like other creatures, their world is not entirely black and white.

So, how do cats see?

1. Night Creatures

Cats have a superior ability to see in darkness, the reason why they are crepuscular creatures—meaning that they are most active at night and early mornings.

Felines have incredible night vision because of the high number of rods in their retina—six to eight times more than humans.

These extra rod cells make kitty more sensitive to dim light and motion in the dark than cat parents.

Oh, do you know why a cat’s eyes glow against flashlights in the dark? Cats’ eyes have a layer of tissue called the tapetum that reflects light to the retina.

By reflecting light, this structure gives the eyes a chance to gather as much light as possible, the reason why their eyes glow in the dark.

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2. Color Vision

Although cats have an edge during night vision, it’s not the same case with color perception. Your kitty companion does not experience the color spectrum like humans do because of their eyes’ physical structure.

Blue golden shaded british shorthair cat with green eyes_Anna Azarenko_shutterstock
Image Credit By: Anna Azarenko, Shutterstock

The reason is, the human eye has ten times light receptors known as cones, which function best in bright light. This characteristic gives humans up to 12 times better motion detection in bright light than felines.

Humans are also trichromats, which means that they have three types of cones that allow them to see a broad color spectrum, especially blue, green, and red. While cats are also trichromats, the cone’s distribution varies, making kitties unable to see the full range of hues as humans.

But just because felines can’t perceive spectrums like humans doesn’t mean that they don’t perceive different colors completely. A feline’s vision is similar to a colorblind human who may have difficulty seeing objects’ “true” pigmentation.

Since these animals are less sensitive to brightness changes, they can efficiently visualize every item in blue, yellow, and grey shades. However, just like humans, they find it hard to distinguish between overly bright colors like green and red. Generally, cats see these rich hues as grey.

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3. Nearsighted

Besides color perception, felines also lack visual acuity, which refers to the clarity of vision. A cat’s imagery is not as sharp as a human’s because their eyes lack the necessary muscles that alter their lenses’ shape.

This characteristic makes felines more near-sighted, making them unable to see objects at the same distance as humans can. Instead, cats need to be further away to get a more excellent resolution since an item appears blurry until the cat is much closer to it.

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4. Periphery Vision

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Image Credit: AmnaS, Pixabay

A cat has a broader angle of view—200 degrees compared to a human’s 180 degrees—to compensate for the other vision deficiencies.

Felines have a wider visual field because their eyes are more on the sides of their heads, giving them a better advantage at periphery vision than humans. This means that cats can see what’s ahead of them, above, below, and even to the sides comfortably.

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Can You Treat Cats with Red Light Therapy?

Although cats may not see ultra-red lights, your kitty can immensely benefit from Red Light Therapy. Red Light Therapy is a natural, chemical-free, holistic, and non-invasive therapeutic technique that helps treat various human and pet conditions.

Red light therapies use red and low levels of infrared light wavelength to treat various pet issues like:

  • Joint pain
  • Wounds
  • Soft-tissue injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Infections
  • Inflammations
  • Joint pain
  • Sprains and strains
  • Swelling
  • General muscle maintenance

How Does Red Light Therapy Work on Cats?

The good thing about cats is that although they can’t see infrared lights, they can feel it as heat on their skin, the reason why practitioners expose cats to near-infrared and low levels of red light wavelengths.

glowing eyes
Image Credit: Angeleses, Pixabay

While red lights only reach the tissues and heal surface wounds, infra-red rays usually penetrate deeper tissues like ligaments, muscles, and bones. Cells then soak the wavelengths up, boosting energy levels which hasten the body’s healing process.  And, no! Red light therapy does not hurt or burn a cat’s skin.

What Animals Can See Infrared Lights?

1. Snakes

Could the infrared vision be the snake’s sixth sense? Snakes such as boas, rattlesnakes, and pythons have hole-like receptors known as pit organs on their faces. These organs allow snakes to integrate infrared capacity with their regular sight.

When heat from prey animals reaches these pit organs, it activates the receptors’ protein channel, enabling the snakes to see in the dark. The pit organs allow the snakes to detect a prey’s image from a distance by sensing thermal cues from the animals’ bodies, giving them an incredible extra sense.

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2. Bullfrogs

Frogs such as bullfrogs use an enzyme that links to vitamin A, a compound that adapts their sight to see infrared radiation regardless of the environmental changes.

Unlike the fish, a bullfrog’s eyesight is suitable for both open-air and waters, allowing them to retain their infrared vision both in murky waters and dry land. Additionally, bullfrogs have eyes that contain enzymes, which enable vision in the air and the water surface. This makes it easy to catch prey like flies.

bullfrog
Image Credit: SteveCrowhurst, Pixabay
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3. Bloodsucking Insects

Mosquitoes and bedbugs rely on the smell of carbon dioxide gas that animals and humans exhale to hunt for food, just like other insects.

However, what sets mosquitoes and bedbugs apart is that they can also rely on their infrared seeing skills to pick up thermal signals and detect body heat from prospective warm-blooded hosts to bite.

 

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4. Fish

Some fish types like salmons, piranhas, goldfish, and cichlids have enzymes that activate their visual systems to see red and infrared lights. For instance, when salmons migrate from open salty oceans to murky freshwaters, the enzymes switch their eyesight, allowing them to see more clearly. This adaptation helps them to navigate and hunt in new environments.

Similarly, freshwater fish like cichlid and piranha can detect a far-red light, which is the range of light that precedes infrared light on the light spectrum. On the other hand, goldfish can detect both far-red light and ultraviolet rays interchangeably.

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Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

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Summary

Even though cats see well in the dark, these animals do not enjoy the same visual capacity and clarity as humans. In other words, cat-versions of environments appear less vibrant and less appealing than people-versions.

But that shouldn’t make you ignore and assume your cat’s eyesight health.  Be sure to test its vision capacity as it’s already blurry and can still degenerate further, impairing vision or causing blindness.

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Featured Image: Maximillian cabinet, Shutterstock