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Do Cats See Color? Vet Approved Feline Vision Guide

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat looking at the window

Do Cats See Color? Vet Approved Feline Vision Guide


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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It was said for a long time that dogs only see black and white, though this is actually incorrect. The answer lies within the photoreceptors, the light sensitive cells in the retina. The type of photoreceptors that are responsible for color vision are the cones. Dogs have dichromatic vision, which means they only possess two types of cones in their eyes. So, dogs can only make out blues and yellows. But cats and humans have trichromatic vision, though the way we see is vastly different from each other.

Cats can see colors, but for a feline, color vision is limited and they are thought to see blues and greens just fine, though shades of red and pink can be a bit harder to discern. Let’s take a closer look at cat vision and see if we can view the world through their lens for a moment.

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Can Cats See Colors Like Humans

Even though people and cats are both considered to be trichromats, we don’t see them in quite the same manner. Humans can clearly differentiate blues, greens, and reds. Cats are thought to easily tell the difference between green and blue; reds are a different story. It is important to note that cats have far fewer cones than humans so color vision in them might not be as rich as it is in humans. But it’s not just colors that appear different to a cat.

White cat with green eyes
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Cat Sight Distance

Humans with “perfect” vision have 20/20 vision, while a cat’s visual acuity is 20/150. But what does this mean in the real world? Essentially, it means that cats need to be more than seven times closer to an object to see it as sharply as we do. In short, cats can’t see very far. They’re often considered nearsighted, so they can’t see far-off objects in great detail as we can.

For a cat with 20/150 vision, they must be 20 feet from an object to see it as clearly, as a human with perfect vision could see the same object from 150 feet away. Only being able to clearly see close objects can help cats when hunting, allowing them to more easily distinguish their prey from anything else.

Cat Sight Field of View

A cat’s visual field is wider than ours. Humans have approximately a 180-degree visual field, allowing us to see directly in front of us with some lateral vision. Cats have a wider visual field of about 200 degrees, meaning that they can see things slightly behind them.

Cat Sight Night Vision

Ever notice how a cat’s eyes seem to glow at night? Well, their eyes are far better at detecting light due to the higher number of rods in their retinas, the second type of photoreceptors. They only need one-sixth as much light to see as a human does.

That glowing is caused by the tapetum, a structure that’s located behind the retina. It acts like a mirror, reflecting light back to stimulate photoreceptors in the retina, essentially magnifying the amount of light available.

tabby cat at night
Image Credit: Mookmixsth, Shutterstock

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Can Cats See Red?

Even though cats are trichromats, they can’t make out reds, pinks, or purples. It is thought that pinks and reds will appear more like green to a cat, while purple colors will appear as different shades of blue.

What Colors Do Cats See?

The cones in a cat’s eyes allow them to detect particular wavelengths of light, including the blue-violet and yellow-green wavelengths, though their ability to detect the red-orange wavelength is lacking. They can see yellows, gray, blue, and even greens, but there are far fewer shades of each color through a cat’s eyes.

cat paw divider


Cats were long believed to be dichromats, similar to canines. We know now that this isn’t the case. They’re trichromats like us, but that doesn’t mean that cats see like us. They still have all three types of cones, but their ability to see the red-orange wavelength is significantly impaired. Cats also don’t see as many hues as we do, and the shades they do see are muted, so their world appears far less vibrant than it looks to us.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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