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  • Molly Weinfurter

What Colors Can Cats See?

“Do cats see color?” is a question cat parents commonly wonder. It’s normal to be curious about how your pet sees the world. Despite popular myths, cats and dogs aren’t colorblind. Yet, their vision is very different from a human’s and from each other. So, what colors can cats see best? And can they see better at night?


orange cat with brown eyes up close

Do Cats Have Good Eyesight?

Overall, cats don’t have as good of vision as humans. When they see the world, it’s blurrier and less vibrant than how we perceive it.


A cat’s visual acuity, the ability to focus, is only about 20% to 40% of our acuity. Thus, they’re great at focusing on prey that’s nearby, but their eyesight doesn’t work as well for long distances. Luckily, their sense of hearing and smell makes up for their nearsightedness.


Cats also see fewer colors than humans, which will be described in more detail later. In general, the colors they see are less saturated than what we see. They rely more on movement than colors when looking for prey.


The one area of vision that cats excel at over humans is peripheral vision. A cat’s peripheral vision is 20 degrees better than a human’s. It helps them stay aware of their surroundings better and quickly spot things moving.


Cat Vision vs. Dog Vision

Cat vision and dog vision are very similar. They both see the same colors, but the main difference is their visual acuity (ability to focus). Cats have half the acuity of dogs, causing their vision to be blurrier and less vibrant, especially when far away. 


However, dogs don’t have as good of acuity as humans. Neither cats nor dogs will ever see the world the way we do, but cats have the worst vision of the three species in terms of color and focus.


Again, cats do have the upper hand when it comes to peripheral vision. Cats have a wider degree of peripheral vision compared to dogs just like they do for humans. So, while cats may not see the vibrant details of the world, they’re better at catching movement out of the corner of their eyes.


cat with beautiful blue eyes

What Colors Can Cats See?

A cat’s eyes are constructed differently than a human’s. Thus, they can see colors, but they can’t see them in the same way humans can.


Like humans, cats have three types of cones in their eyes to help them detect combinations of red, green, and blue light. However, humans can see a much wider range of colors than cats because we have ten times the number of cones in our eyes. Cat eyes are constructed differently than humans, so even though they have the same types of cones as humans, they can’t see certain colors like red and dark green.


Many scientists believe that cats are only colorblind to red and green, which is similar to a dog’s vision. So, they mostly see black, gray, white, brown, blue, and yellow. However, bright colors like blue and yellow are typically muted from a cat’s perspective. Some scientists believe that cats can see some types of green, such as yellow-green, but they can’t see the same wide range of green that we can.


What Color Can Cats See Best?

Blue and yellow seem to be the colors cats see best. Since red and dark green appear as black or gray to cats, it makes shades of blue and yellow stand out more. So, if you want to get items that your cat can fully appreciate, consider getting them toys, beds, and scratching posts that have blue and yellow on them.


brown cat with wide green eyes

Do Cats Have Night Vision?

Cats don’t have true night vision. They can’t see in the dark if there’s no light at all. However, they can see well in dark spaces, which is why cats are active at night. Cats can see six to eight times better in low-light conditions than humans can.


The reason cats can see so well at night is because they have more rods in their eyes and their pupils can expand much wider than a human's can. Those features allow more light into the eye, making it easier for them to see when lights are dim.


Cats also have a reflective tissue layer in their eyes, known as the tapetum, that reflects light at the rod cells of the eye, making it easier for the rods to perceive light. The tapetum is the reason cat eyes sometimes look like they’re glowing at night.


Are Cats Nocturnal?

Since cats can see so well at night, many people assume they’re nocturnal creatures. Yet, cats are not nocturnal. Instead, they’re crepuscular, meaning they’re most active at dawn and dusk. That’s why you might notice your feline companion staying up late or waking you up early while napping through most of the day.


Every cat has their own schedule, so some cats may be more active at night. Regardless of the routine your cat develops, they’re still not nocturnal.


gray cat with wide orange eyes

Frequently Asked Questions


Can Cat Eyes Change Colors?

A kitten’s eye color may change as they grow. Cat eyes could include browns, yellows, greens, oranges, ambers, and blues. By the time a kitten is three months old, their eye color should stay the same for the rest of their life.


Are Cat Eyes Sensitive to Light?

Yes, cat eyes can be very sensitive to light. Specifically, they're more sensitive to light than human eyes. That sensitivity helps cats see better in low-light conditions, but they’re still able to see well during the day too.


Why Are My Cat’s Eyes Dilated?

Your cat’s pupils may dilate to let more light into their eyes, such as in low-light conditions. They may also have wider pupils when playing or hunting. In extreme cases, dilated eyes could be a sign of health concerns in cats, such as stress or seizures. If the dilation is paired with other symptoms, take your cat to the vet just to be safe.


Do Cats Recognize Their Owner’s Face?

Yes, cats can recognize the faces of their owners. They can also recognize certain facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning. However, cats need to be close to you to notice the details of your face because their vision can be blurry when looking in the distance.


Can Cat Allergies Cause Blurry Vision?

Yes, if you have cat allergies, blurry vision could be a symptom. You may experience swelling or irritation around your eye, which can lead to vision problems. If you suspect you’re allergic to cats, talk to a medical professional for solutions.


Your Cat Can Only See Certain Colors

What colors cats can see consists of almost any color except for red and some greens. Certain aspects of a cat’s vision cause those colors to be muted or blurry, especially when the cat looks at something in the distance.


Since cats can’t see as many colors as we can, they rely a lot on movement when hunting or perceiving something. Their peripheral vision is better than ours to help with that. So, even though our four-legged family members can’t see the world the same as humans, they still get to enjoy it in their own unique way.

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