Cats are marvelously adapted to seeing in the dark and at night, and even in the slightest bit of light their vision is far superior to humans.
So it’s not surprising that some have been led to assume that felines are color-blind. But cats see colors, even though the range is different from human vision. You can test this by shining a red light (from a flashlight or laser pointer, perhaps) and watching your cat’s reaction.
While you may not notice the red light at all, you’ll see your cat’s pupils contract and its eyes hone in on the light.
Although cats are known to be color blind, cat owners often wonder whether their pet felines are really color-impaired or only seem to be colorblind because we associate them with black and white.
In fact, the truth is that cats can see just as well as humans in terms of overall color vision, but their eyes lack certain shades on the color spectrum that a human can see. Scientists have discovered that cats are red-green colorblind, although it is not like red-green colorblindness in humans.
What is color blindness in Cats
You’ve heard about color blindness in dogs, but what about cats? The condition is not uncommon in felines, and it can lead to some interesting behavior. For example, if your cat is colorblind, you may notice that it only chases red laser pointers or red toys, because it can see the red light.
The condition is caused by the presence of either an X chromosome, or a condition called leucism, which results in the loss of color-producing pigments.
There are some cats that have difficulty in distinguishing color, and this is called feline color blindness. This is not a specific disease, but a vision problem that is shared by many different cat breeds.
In humans, color blindness is found in about 8 percent of males and 0.4 percent of females. Color blindness can be inherited, but it can also result from a physical injury.
The feline color blindness is different from human color blindness in that it is more prevalent in certain breeds and affects the ability to perceive green and blue colors.
Field of Vision
Your cat’s field of vision is limited to about 180 degrees, or half of what humans can see, allowing them to see all the important things going on around them without having to turn their heads.
But just because a cat can’t turn its head doesn’t mean it can’t see behind it—it actually has a sixth sense called “whisker vision” that lets it see and feel what’s going on behind it without moving. Using its whiskers as antenna, a cat can determine the exact size and location of an object without even turning its head.
Cats’ eyes are more sensitive to light in the blue portion of the spectrum, but they do still have some sensitivity to green and yellow.
Colors that cats can see: They cannot distinguish between red and orange or violet from indigo.
Contrast is a big deal for cats: When it comes to picking out shapes on white backgrounds, most felines will choose black objects over gray ones. That’s why you’ll often find your cat curled up next to an open bag of kitty litter!
Cats are not color blind: The retina has cells called rods which allow night vision by absorbing light through tiny holes along each cell membrane. There also exists cones (cells containing pigments). These cells are mostly concentrated at the center.
Why Do Some Cats Have Two Different Colored Eyes?
Have you ever noticed your cat’s eyes? Many domestic cats have eyes that have different colors. Usually, a cat can have amber, amber, and green, green, or green and yellow eyes. Some cats have two different colored eyes, why?
It has to do with the presence of an extra layer of tissue known as the tapetum lucidum . This tissue is responsible for reflecting light, and when present, creates the effect of having an “eye shine”.
The iris of a cat’s eye is made up of several concentric rings of different colored tissue. These rings, from outside to in, are made up of melanin, lipochrome, and tapetum.
The iris then is made up of melanin in the periphery, tapetum in the center, and lipochrome in between. The lipochrome helps draw light into the eye, and give it a blue hue.
Living with Pets
Cats are famously known for not being able to see in color. This is because most cats have a form of “color-blindness” called color-deficient dichromacy.
This means that they still see some color, but not very much. In fact, they can only see the colors blue and yellow. This is why the majority of cats do not seem to care about variations in colors of their toys.
The fact that not all cats are color-blind is a common misconception. In fact, some cats can see in full color. This is because there are actually three different types of dichromacy. “Monochromacy” is the absence of color vision, which is what most cats have.
Cats can see much better than humans at night, but they are not color blind. Cats cannot distinguish between red and green, but all other colors are fine.
Cats see well in dim lighting, allowing them to hunt for prey at night. Their pupils dilate to let in as much light as possible. This also helps their eyesight in the daylight. Cats’ vision is more acute in the dim light because their pupils are much larger than ours.