Is it true that Cats can really see in the Dark?

  • Cats have a better capacity to sight in the dark than humans.
  • Cats are unable to perceive distant objects as well as humans.
  • Cats do not have the ability to see colors as effectively as humans.
So, what do cats actually see?

Artist Nickolay Lamm interviewed three specialists to speculate on how cats see the environment in comparison to humans.

Cats (and dogs) have a large number of rod receptors and a low number of cone receptors. Humans, on the other hand, have the reverse, which explains why we can’t see as well at night but can distinguish colors better.

Field of vision– Cats have a somewhat broader vision field (200 degrees) than the typical human (180 degrees).

Human have normal range vision field
Cats have wide range vision field

Acuity of vision– This relates to the clarity of one’s eyesight. The typical person has 20/20 vision acuity. A cat’s visual acuity ranges from 20/100 to 20/200, implying that a cat must be at 20 feet to see what an ordinary person can see at 100 or 200 feet.

humans can see far distant objects pretty easily
Cats can’t see distant objects clearly

Color perception– It’s a popular misunderstanding that cats can only perceive hues of gray. Humans are trichromats, which means that they have three types of cones that allow them to see red, green, and blue. Cats are trichromats as well, although not in the same manner that humans are. A cat’s eyesight is comparable to that of a colorblind person. They can detect blue and green hues, but reds and pinks might be perplexing. These may appear greener, whilst purple may appear to be a different shade of blue.

Humans are trichromatic, thus can see different colors clearly
Cats can’t always distinguish among varieties of colors

Cats, like us, cannot perceive the same richness of colors and saturation of colors that we do.

Proximity– Cats appear to be nearsighted, which means they cannot see distant objects as well as humans. The capacity to perceive close things is ideal for hunting and capturing animals.

Humans can see distant objects clearly
Cats are nearsighted

The ability to see at night– Cats cannot see fine detail or rich color, but they have a greater capacity to see in the dark due to a large number of rods in their retina that are sensitive to dim light. As a result, cats can see with about one-sixth the amount of light that humans require.

Humans have limited eyesight at dark
Cats have very good eyesight at dark

Cats also have a structure called the tapetum behind the retina that is considered to assist night vision. The tapetum cells function as a mirror, reflecting light that passes between the rods and cones back to the photoreceptors and providing them with another opportunity to take up the little quantity of light available at night. This is what causes the eyes of cats to shine in the dark.

The tapetum makes the eye of a cat to glow in dark

For this research, Nickolay Lamm collaborated with Kerry L. Ketring, DVM, DACVO of All Animal Eye Clinic, Dr. DJ Haeussler of The Animal Eye Institute, and the Penn Vet Ophthalmology department.

If you have a cat as a pet and went on camping with him/her with a backpack, at night, you might see your cat’s eyes are glowing. Now you know that cats can’t see in absolute dark, but they have very good eyesight in near proximity.

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