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Do Cats See Color? How Cats See the World

It was said for a long time that dogs only see black and white, though this is actually incorrect. Dogs have dichromatic vision, which means they only possess two types of cones in their eyes. Cones differentiate colors, so dogs can only make out blues and yellows. But cats and humans have trichromatic vision, though the way we see is vastly different from each other. Cats can see colors, but for a feline, vision is more akin to how a colorblind person sees. They see blues and greens just fine, though shades of red and pink can be a bit harder to discern. Let’s take a closer look at cat vision and see if we can view the world through their lens for a moment.

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Can Cats See Colors Like Humans

cat looking far away
Image Credit: Pixabay

Even though people and cats are both considered to be trichromats, we don’t see in quite the same manner. Humans can clearly differentiate blues, greens, and reds. Cats can easily tell the difference between green and blue; reds are a different story. But it’s not just colors that appear different to a cat.

Cat Sight Distance

Humans with “perfect” vision have 20/20 vision, while cats have between 20/100 to 20/200 vision. But what does this mean in the real world? Essentially, it means that cats can’t see very far. They’re often considered nearsighted, so they can’t see far-off objects in great detail as we can. For a cat with 20/100 vision, it must be 20 feet from an object to see it as clearly as a human with perfect vision could see the same object from 100 feet away. Only being able to clearly see close objects can help cats when hunting, allowing them to more easily distinguish their prey from anything else.

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Cat Sight Field of View

A cat’s visual field is wider than ours. Humans have approximately a 180-degree visual field, allowing us to see everything to our sides and directly in front of us. Cats have a wider visual field of about 200 degrees, meaning that they can see things slightly behind them.

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Cat Sight Saturation

For humans, saturation allows our world to pop and seem vibrant. But cats don’t have the same level of saturation in their vision. For a cat, everything is duller. Colors don’t stand out the same way and there are fewer hues of each color.

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Cat Sight Night Vision

Ever notice how a cat’s eyes seem to glow at night? Well, their eyes are far better at detecting light due to the higher number of rods in their retinas. They only need one-sixth as much light to see as a human does. That glowing is caused by the tapetum, a structure that’s located behind the retina. It acts like a mirror, reflecting between photoreceptors and the rods and cones in the retina, essentially magnifying the amount of light available.

cat looking at the window
Image Credit: Pixabay

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Can Cats See Red?

Even though cats are trichromats, they can’t clearly make out reds, pinks, or purples. Pinks and reds will appear more like green to a cat, while purple colors will appear as different shades of blue.

How Many Colors Can Cats See?

This is a difficult matter to discuss because of the way a cat’s eyes work. Human eyes have cones to detect red, blue, and green. The other colors we see are combinations of these colors. Cats are also trichromats, with retinas that contain all three types of cones, though they can’t see reds the same as us. Human eyes can differentiate more than 10 million different color shades, but there is no definitive answer available regarding how many of these hues cats can make out.

What Colors Do Cats See?

The cones in a cat’s eyes allow them to detect particular wavelengths of light, including the blue-violet and yellow-green wavelengths, though their ability to detect the red-orange wavelength is lacking. They can see yellows, gray, blue, and even greens, but there are far fewer shades of each color through a cat’s eyes.

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Conclusion: Are Cats Color Blind

Cats were long believed to be dichromats, similar to canines. We know now that this isn’t the case. They’re trichromats like us, but that doesn’t mean that cats see like us. A cat sees similarly to a person who’s colorblind to reds. They still have all three types of cones, but their ability to see the red-orange wavelength is significantly impaired. Cats also don’t see as many hues as we do, and the shades they do see are muted, so their world appears far less vibrant than it looks to us.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixabay