Cat’s Vision: Seeing Things in a Different Light

cat's vision

Have you ever wondered how cats see the world? I mean, literally see the world?  As your cat goes bonkers for those laser pointers and shiny objects, what exactly is she seeing? Sure, they love to pounce on their feet and charge after feathery toys – all related to their innate hunting prowess – but it also has a great deal to do with cat’s vision, which, as it turns out, is quite unique.

How Cat’s Vision Is Better Than Ours

While you can see vibrant colors throughout the day, suggests you are outperformed by your cat when it comes to superior peripheral vision and night vision. Why is this so?

Well, for starters cats have a much wider field of view – about 200 degrees.  Humans? Well, we have a 180-degree view. And a cat’s range of peripheral vision allows him to detect that small mouse moving in the corner that we would otherwise miss.

Because cats are typically active at dawn and dusk, excellent night vision is an integral part of their genetic make-up. Their eyes boast six to eight times more rod cells than humans, and these rod cells are far more sensitive to low light. These additional rod cells allow them to detect motion in the dark in a far superior way to humans, too.

Then there is a cat’s elliptical eye shape and large corneas, as well as the tapetum, which is a layer of tissue that reflects light back to the retina, allowing their eyes to gather more light.  This tapetum can shift the wavelengths of light that a cat will see, which can further illuminate prey or other objects against a night sky, making them more prominent than what we would ever see.

How Our Vision Is Better Than Cat’s Vision

But don’t think your cat has you totally beat with his sense of sight.  Humans are about 12 times better at detecting motion in bright light, as bright-light vision is a cone function. While cats may have three types of cones, as do humans, the number and distribution of each type varies. It has been studied through behavioral tests that cats cannot see the full range of colors that we do.

Humans can also see objects clearly at about 100 to 200 feet, but for a cat to see the same object just as clearly, he needs to be no more than 20 feet away. Additionally, cats cannot see as clearly up close as we can.  And interestingly enough, slow-moving objects that we can easily see can appear stationery to cats.

What have you noticed about your cat’s vision that seems unique?


Written by Ann Butenas

Ann Butenas

An internationally-recognized author and writer, Ann began her professional writing career at age 12 and began speaking while in college. She has been published thousands of times over the past three decades in all media forms, was former editor and publisher of KC Metro Woman magazine, and has also hosted three talk radio shows in the Kansas City area.