What and How Do Cats See?
Do you ever wonder what exactly Fluffy the Persian sees when they look at you? Can they see color? Do they recognize you?
Cats can be mysterious creatures, but science can tell us a lot about how cats see. If you’ve ever wanted to see the world from your cat’s perspective, this is a good place to start.
How Do Cats See?
Cat Vision v. Human Vision
You only need to take one look at a cat’s eyeball to see that it is completely different from a human’s. Before we get into it, here’s a quick breakdown on how eyes work, in general:
- The retina is a layer of tissue behind the eye that has photoreceptors.
- Photoreceptors translate light rays into messages for nerve cells, which get sent to the brain and translate into the images we see.
- There are two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones.
- Rods help with night vision and peripheral vision. Thanks to them, we can detect brightness and shades of gray.
- Cones let us see during the daytime and differentiate between colors.
Ok, now that you know how eyes work, we can explain why human eyeballs are different from cat peepers.
We, as humans, have a lot of cone receptors (daytime + Color) but not many rods (night vision + brightness + shades of gray). This means we can see lots of different colors but aren’t so great at seeing at night. (Fun fact: humans have 3 types of color-sensitive cones in the retina, which allow us to see the 7 million colors that we can see. Certain species of shrimp have four times as many cones. Bet you’ve never been jealous of a shrimp before.)
Cats, on the other hand, have a very high concentration of rods, but only a few cones. So they can see really well at night, but don’t recognize color as well.
Garfield Needs Glasses
You might think that cats can see their prey (whether it’s a mouse or your toes) from a mile away. But cats are actually nearsighted!
Humans have 20/20 vision, but cats’ eyes range from 20/100 to 20/200. That means that when we can see an object clearly from 200 feet away, a cat needs to be 20-feet away to see the object with the same clarity. If you find that confusing, here’s an example: say you can read a billboard crystal clear at 200 feet away... a cat would only be able to read the billboard crystal clear at 20 feet away! So if you want to show your favorite kitty your new shirt, you better get up close.
Color Your World
People think that dogs and cats only see in shades of grey, but that’s not true. Actually, cats can see colors—just not accurately. Like a person who is color-blind, cats can easily see blues and greens but struggle to differentiate between warm colors like red and pink. And Fluffy certainly can’t see as many shades and saturation levels as we can. This goes back to their lack of cone receptors that we talked about earlier.
Built-In Night Vision
Your cat may not be able to see as many colors as you can, but they have an advantage when it comes to seeing in the dark. As you know, humans aren’t good at that. Cats, on the other hand, have more rods in their eyes, which allows them to see better in the dark. In fact, they only need 1/6 of the light that we need to see!
This also helps them identify moving objects more quickly. So when your feline friend pounces on a mouse in the dark, they have their rods to thank.
How Do Cats See Humans?
While dogs recognize that humans are a different species from them, it’s believed that cats don’t seem to realize this. Instead, they seem to think that we’re just tall, mostly-hairless, clumsy cats. Researchers know this because cats greet us the same way they greet other cats—by rubbing against us and lifting their tail. They also display other behaviors, like kneading and grooming, that they would only display to other cats.
One huge difference between how cats see humans and how they see cats is that they can’t really distinguish between our faces, but, they can identify other cats. Studies have shown that cats only recognize a picture of their humans over a stranger about half the time. But when they had to choose between images of a cat they knew and a stranger cat, they chose correctly more than 90% of the time. This means they either can’t recognize our faces, or they simply don’t care what we look like.
But, that doesn’t mean they don’t know who we are. They just identify us in different ways, like our scent or our voices.
Naps Take Priority
This next fact probably won’t surprise a single cat owner; Even though cats may not be able to see us as clearly as we think they'd be able to, cats know when they’re being called—they just don’t care. Unless there’s an incentive to come when called (like getting food, going outside, or butt scratches) cats aren’t going to move from their napping spot.
Cats sleep up to 16 hours a day, so it’s important that they have a napping spot that they absolutely love. That’s why our feline friends love MAU cat trees so much. They’re the perfect spot to cuddle up for a cat nap! Plus the posts are ideal for re-directing the urge to scratch away from your human furniture, and the multi-level tiers are perfect for satiating Fluffy’s desire to run, jump, and hunt.
Try an Animmo pet bed or cat tree today! You’ll never have buyer’s regret with MAU cat trees because we offer a 30-day, 100% money back guarantee. We stand behind our products, and we’re confident that your furry friend will absolutely love it. And because we’re animal lovers too, we always donate 5% of our proceeds to animal charity.