Do cats see in black and white? What I found was amazing!

A photo of a cats eyes
Is this cat seeing in black and white or colour?

I am pretty sure you have heard the rumour before, cats and dogs only see in black and white? Well I really wanted to know the truth.

It was something that I was even taught about in school in the 90’s!  However I had heard little bits of information that said it had been proven to be false.

After hearing this I decided that I wanted to delve a bit deeper and what I found out was truly amazing. Not only did I uncover the truth about cats seeing colours I also found out many other facts about a cats vision.

Do cats see in black and white?

No, cats do not just see in black and white. What you learnt at school or heard in a rumour is not true. Scientists have now proved that both cats and dogs see in colour. However they only have two cone photoreceptors instead of three like humans. This essentially means that they are colour blind and cannot distinguish some colours due to missing the red cone photoreceptor. For full colour vision as we know it three cones are needed, red, green and blue.

So cats and dogs do have colour vision albeit slightly more limited than our own. I had always suspected the black and white rumour to be false.

The reason I though this is because our dog has a few different coloured tennis balls. Every single time it wanted the ball throwing it would always grab the same coloured ball. If all it saw was black and white each of these balls would have looked pretty much the same to it. So getting the same coloured ball each time would be of been impossible.

Can cats see in the dark?

A photo of a cat with dilated pupils
Cats pupils dilute to make the most of any available light.

Whilst I was researching about cats seeing in black and white I stumbled across some other articles. These articles were about cats and their vision and covered another rumour I had heard.

This rumour was that cats can actually see in the dark.

As it turns out this is not true, cats cannot see in the dark. However they can see very well in low light situations. Studies have found that cats have a very high abundance of rods.

These rods are the cells in the eye that are sensitive to light. In actual fact, cats have so many of them that they can normally see in light that is 15{fcfd0acd12322060b34d46992510b83e8fc1fe033e8dfcd7aa5d0cb23e0cf6d4} of what a human would need to be able to see.

This is the reason why cats make such good night time hunters and only need the light from the moons reflection to be successful.

Look at the size of a cats eye compared to its body and also the size of it’s pupils compared to the eye. They have large eyes with very large pupils that dilate to make use of any tiny amount of light.

Cats cannot see as far as a human.

A photo of a cat hunting a small target
Cats are nearsighted which is perfect for hunting small and close targets.

Another thing that I learned about a cats vision is that it cannot see at great distances. The design of its eyes means that a cat is what we would refer to as short sighted. They lack the tiny muscles needed to shape the lense to be able to see far.

An object that a human can see clearly at a distance of around 60m would be impossible for a cat to see. A cat would actually need to be around 20m away to be able to see the object clearly.

However cats make up for it with their nearsighted vision. The my can pick up even the tiniest of movements from close distances which is why they can hunt mice with such precision.

In conclusion…

Cats can see in colour although not these colours are not as bright and vibrant as we ourselves can see them.

They are short sighted but have a much better peripheral vision compared to our own. This paired up with their excellent vision in almost darkness means that they have the perfect eyes for what they are designed to do.

Our domestic cats are no different to their wild African ancestors. Their eyes are still set up in much the same way, with hunting in mind!

I hope you have enjoyed reading and have learnt something from this post. If you have any comments or questions I would love to hear them in the comments section.

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