Are Cats Colour Blind?

Are cats colour blind?

Are cats colour blind? The answer is “Sort of.” It’s complicated, but we can say that they are not entirely colour blind because cats can’t see red colour naturally. Instead, they see green.

Cat’s don’t see in white and black. According to Gregg et al., (1929) the most straightforward comparison to make is that a cat sees the world similar to how someone who’s colour blind would see it.

The Old Colour blind Myth:

It was once believed that animals, including dogs and cats, could only see in white and black. However, scientists have verified this to be a myth. In all animals and humans, the perception of colour is determined by cells in the eye known as cone photoreceptors. Cats have two kinds of cones, which are sensitive to green and blue light. This means they have an adequate level of colour vision. The story of colour vision in other animals depends on the types and presence of cones.

How do cats see with their eyes?

The answer to this question is present in research carried out of the physiology and anatomy of the cat-eye. A visual image formation starts with light rays entering the transparent cornea at the eye’s front. The light rays travel through the gel-like (aqueous) liquid that fills the eyeball until they hit the retina lining the eye’s back. Within the retina are receptors for vision, i.e., rods and cones.

When light rays stimulate rods and cones, they transmit an electrical impulse to the brain that the mind interprets as a visual image. The cat’s brain is then able to see whatever they are looking for. Although cones and rods are both light receptors, they allow different types of vision.

Cones are sensitive to detail and colour. They create an image of detailed, sharp, and vibrant colours in various hues of the colour spectrum. Rods are chiefly sensitive to light and allow for vision in low-light levels. They produce a coarse and rough image in grey shades, much like what you see when walking through a dark room.

close up photo of a white cat with green eyes face


What is colour-blindness?

Colour blindness commonly refers to an inability to distinguish some standard colours from others. According to the World National Eye Institute, the most common type of colour blindness to affect people interferes with distinguishing red from green.

The second type of colour-blindness does not allow people to determine blue from yellow. A third, much rarer type known as monochromatism, only allows people to see white and black. Since the cat’s eyes are most sensitive to light blue and yellow wavelengths, they do not see colours like orange, red, or brown. They are similar to people with green-red colour blindness. Red hues likely appear as the colour green to your cat. Because cats don’t interpret the entire spectrum of colour that humans do, that doesn’t mean they don’t perceive different colours. They may not see the “true” colour of an object. They are also less sensitive to brightness changes, so they can’t recognize colour in the vibrant, rich tones that humans do.
What do cats see with their eyes?

Recent research tells us the image seen by your cat likely contains muted shades of yellow and blue, mixed with multiple shades of grey. Cats also have a more comprehensive vision range than we do, although cats do not have their human owners’ visual perception. While humans can see items in sharp detail 150–200 feet away, cats can only see clearly for about 18-20 feet. All of this is a fair tradeoff for the ability to see a slight movement of prey in the dark.

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What Colors Can Cats Interpret?

As we mentioned above, cats don’t see everything in grayscale and can see a broad range of different colours. Research shows this is due to the vast difference in the number of cones and rods. Cones and rods are located in the eye’s retina for both cats and humans. The “cones” are responsible for perceiving colour, while the “Rods” detect motion and light. Cats have more number of rods than humans do, making it easier for them to see in low or dark light situations. Humans have more number of cones than cats, which is why we see a broader colour spectrum.

What are the other differences between cats and human eyes?

To compensate for these minor deficiencies, cats have other visual advantages. Wired published a series of “photos”, created by artist Nickolay Lamm showing the differences between cat vision and human vision.

Field of Vision:

Cat’s eyes are more apart than humans’ eyes, meaning they have better peripheral vision than we do. A human’s sight is about 180 degrees, whereas a cat can see almost 200-210 degrees. While they can see the world on a broader scale, the tradeoff comes with how strong their vision is.
Fact: “Humans have 11 to 12 times better motion detection in clear light than the cat or dog since bright-light vision is a cone function.”

Elliptical pupils:

Also, cats have elliptical pupils when dilate to the max level, allowing them to capture more and more light as possible. They also have reflective cells below the retina, which combine to form the tapetum. The tapetum gives cats the “shiny eye” look and enhances their ability to see in very dim light.
Fact: “When compared to humans, cats see much better in dim light (dawn and dusk) and more precisely detect motion.”

Rods are the cells responsible for detecting motion. They even see minimal movements at great distances. Cats also have more rod cells than cones in the retina.

Distance:

Cats are known to be nearsighted animals, meaning they face difficulty in seeing things that are farther away. With humans, if perfect vision is 10/10. In cats, it’s more like 10/50 or 10/100. This means that your feline companion has to be only 10 feet away to see something a person could see from 50 or 100 feet away. So, while they’re able to have a more comprehensive view, cats’ visual acuity isn’t nearly as well-built as a human’s.

While a cat’s nearsightedness may seem like a weakness to us, it’s perfectly suited for hunting their prey. If a cat could see far away as humans do, they tried to pounce before its prey got close enough, and it would scare all its prey away!

Night Vision:

Cats are crepuscular vertebrates, meaning they sleep all day and are most active at dawn and dusk. These are usually the times when it’s hard for us humans to see, but for cats, it’s primetime. As we discussed above, cats have more rods in their eyes, making it easier for them to detect motion in low-light situations. So, they view better than humans in the evening and morning times.

Have you ever taken a beautiful picture of your cat with a flash but instead of a fine quality picture, a strange picture of your cat appears with shining eyes? This reflection of light rays is due to a structure located behind a cat’s retina called the tapetum lucidum. It is a mirror of light when it is dark outside, but it allows cats to take any small light at night and use it to see better.

Cats are also able to open their elliptical retina to give more light. You may have seen this happen in your cat’s eye when you are exposed to a large amount of light after being in the dark. It’s a dramatic change in the shape of their iris, and it occurs very quickly.

a close up on a green/ yellow cats eye


Are Cats Attracted to Certain Colors?

Studies show cats don’t see as many colours as humans due to the number of cones: humans have green, red, and blue cones, whereas cats only possess green and blue ones. The lack of a red cone means specific colours look like multiple grey shades to your kitty, like red or pink, while blue and green colours would become more vibrant.

Because of this, it’s difficult to say whether cats are attracted to specific colours or not. If they seem to prefer and love one toy over the other, it’s probably due to the kind and type of toy rather than the colour itself. The cats are more attracted to movement than colour, which is why it’s common for them to love chasing around toys/objects that move.

Can Cats See in Complete Darkness?

Cats can’t see in total and complete darkness. They still need some light to see precisely. On average, they need one-seventh of the number of light as compared to humans to see. If your house gets incredibly dark at night, it may be a good idea to put out a few nightlights so your cat doesn’t bump into anything.

A cat’s vision is something to marvel at. They don’t have the sharpest eyesight, yet they’re still able to hunt prey (and toys) with incredible accuracy. Unfortunately, research shows cats aren’t very good at discerning their owner’s faces. However, they do recognize our voice and scent!

Are blue-eyed cats always colour blind?

The colour of cats’ eyes doesn’t seem to depend on how many cones it has, and it is most likely doesn’t affect how they see colour. However, a recent study has proved that cats with white body coats and two blue eyes are more likely to be hypersensitive than other cats.

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Why do cats have a broader peripheral vision?

The Journal of Neurophysiology states that cats have broader peripheral vision due to their anatomical structures of eyes. Cat eyes are present slightly closer to the sides of their heads, while human eyes point directly forward. This gives cats an undue advantage for peripheral vision compared to humans, and that quality increases their vision up to 200 degrees.

There is a tradeoff, however, between depth perception and peripheral vision. The closer-together eyes of humans give them better depth perception than cats. But don’t misfortune our cat friends. Cats have an excellent depth perception of any carnivore species, which makes them the best visual hunters.

Does the colour of the eyes have some effect on the behaviour of cats?
No, the colour of a cat’s eyes does not affect the behaviour of the cats. The eyes’ colour is usually inherited in cats, and mostly the eye colour is a polygenetic trait, which means it is affected by multiple genes and the environment. All kittens are usually born with blue eyes.

The adult cat’s eyes’ colour always changes when they reach 1-2 months. Many cats have an amber tinge or a green colour eye when they are mature. Siamese or white cats always have blue eyes. White, blue-eyed cats, as a thumb rule, are considered to be deaf. This is because the gene that causes deafness is associated with white fur and blue eyes. White cats with multiple eye colours (e.g., one eye is blue and the other is yellow) may have a deaf ear, located on the side of the blue eye.

How can you stimulate your cat’s vision?

Since your cat’s vision is naturally designed to make it the ultimate hunter, you can plan dynamic activities to motivate its internal predator.

Try these tips to keep your cat’s senses active:

Play laser pointer light across floors and walls of your home. The fast-moving light will be pick up by your cat’ rods and make him chase after it like prey.

Ditch the food dish. Instead, hide your cat’s food in several places around your home to allow his natural predator’s instinct to emerge. You can also buy indoor prey feeders or puzzle toys that your cat has to solve to score in the next meal.

For your cat’s visual and auditory stimulation, play videos for your cat when you’re away. Find footage of birds flying around, colourful fish swimming in a tank, or surrounding mice.

Could you treat it with a fresh catnip?. If not, try that because as soon as your cat sniffs the oils produced by the plants, she will experience the increased activity and ecstasy-like enjoyment.

Exciting information about cat eyes:

The old Egyptians lined their eyes with kohl to replicate the dramatic cat’s eye. The size and shape of cats orbs, however, are not just for looks. They have unique features that make them first-class hunters, even though their colour vision is not as vivid as their human companions.

Rochelle

Rochelle is a self-claimed crazy cat lady and proud cat mum to Owlie! She has owned, rescued, and fostered cats throughout her whole life. Rochelle created Cats On My Mind as a hub for likeminded cat parents to get all the information they will ever need to give their fur babies their best life!

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