Have you ever planned of giving a colorful toy or even a litter mat for your cat only to reconsider because you thought your cat won’t be able to appreciate it? Have you ever asked yourself: “Are cats color blind?”
Arguably one of the oldest myths about cats is that they are color blind. But recent studies have suggested otherwise. This article will try to uncover the real score about cats and their sight.
The Myth About Cats Being Color Blind
Since the 20th century, people have believed that cats can’t recognize colors. One of the few published studies claiming that cats are color blind was done by a Nebraska Wesleyan University professor, F.M. Gregg. Said experiment was done in 1927.
In the said experiment, cats were given meals in various color codes. But the professor noted that there wasn’t any difference in the behavior of cats when he gave them meals in grey color.
Of course, a lot of things can happen in 100 years. Nearly a century after Prof. Gregg’s findings, numerous researches have proven that cats are not exactly color blind.
Cats Are Partially Color Blind
In 2013, artist Nickolay Lamm published a series of photos depicting how cats see the planet. He consulted with three top veterinarians for the said initiative. This is arguably the most vivid illustration on cat vision that we have today.
As you can see from the video, cats aren’t exactly color blind. They can still see colors, although less vivid than what the human eye can see.
Their vision is not as good as that of humans especially during the day. Why? Because humans have more cones, or photo receptor cells found in the eyes responsible for color vision, than cats.
Humans have three cones—red, blur, and green. Cats, though, only have two kinds of cones - blue and green sensitive. As a result, cats can discern greens and blues.
But they won’t be able to distinguish reds.
Cats, thus, are not able to appreciate the true colors of the world around them. They don’t see changes in brightness the way humans do.
Their inability to see the full range of colors the way that we do can be attributed as the reason why F.M. Gregg’s tests, and other researches back in the day, made it appear that cats are color blind.
Other Visual Differences Between Cats And Humans
Aside from color perception, there are other visual differences between humans and cats. For one, cats are more near sighted than their masters. Their visual acuity is between 20/100 and 20/200. Humans, on the other hand, have a visual acuity of 20/20.
This means that cats won’t be able to see an object unless it is about 20 feet away from it. Humans however can see the object clearly even from a distance of 100 feet.
If we are to go back to Lamm’s images, this explains why cats have a blurry picture of their surroundings.
Despite these visual deficiencies, so to speak, felines compensate with other visual advantages. These are:
1. Ability to see in the dark.
Perhaps the biggest advantage that cats have than their human friends is the presence of more rod cells in their retinas. Rod cells make it easier for cats to detect motion even at night.
Cats need only 1/6 of the amount of light that humans need to see in the dark. This explains why cats are blessed with the ability to see movement in dim light. It also makes them great hunters.
Furthermore, cats are blessed with tapetum, a structure behind the retina that improves night vision.
The cells in this structure reflect light that passes between rods and cones, allowing cats to pick up even the smallest amount of light during night time. This is also said to be the reason why cats’ eyes glow in the dark.
2. Wide peripheral vision.
Humans only have a visual field of 180 degrees. Our feline friends, though, have up to 200 degrees. This means they have greater peripheral vision than us.
Again, this visual advantage contributes to the ability of cats to hunt in the dark. Not only are cats able to navigate better at night; they can also see a prey like a mouse moving in a corner.
As you can see, cats compensate for their inability to recognize full colors by having a better night vision and peripheral vision.
Now that you know how cats see their world, you should be able to make good choices for your pet. For instance, since you know that cats don’t recognize reds, then you won’t buy her a red litter box. You’d rather give her blue or green stuff.
And now that you understand how cats’ vision works, aren’t you even more impressed with how amazing our feline friends are?