What Colors Do Cats See?

Yes, cats are color blind in that they can only see certain colors, and these shades appear very muted, but they don't see the world in black and white.

Updated April 1, 2023
Cat's Eye Closeup Green Eyes Cat

When dangling your cat's favorite rainbow toy in front of them, you might wonder if they can see all the colors. Cats are color blind, but not in the way you might think. It's a common myth that pets can only see in black and white. However, cats can see some colors, but color vision isn't as important to them as it is to us.

Do Cats See Colors?

Yes, cats can see some colors, but not in the same way we do. New research suggests cats experience the equivalent of red-green colorblindness in humans, which means they see only shades of blue, gray, and yellow. But these colors are not nearly as vibrant as they appear to our eyes. Cats see everything in muted shades. This is due to their eye anatomy.

Instead of prioritizing color vision, a feline's eye anatomy is designed to help them hunt. They respond strongly to movement in their environment, as well. Cats just don't need to rely on color vision in the same way humans do to be successful in their environment.

Need to Know

Can cats only see in black and white? Nope, that myth is false. Cats are color blind but can see shades of blue, yellow, and gray.

Feline Eye Anatomy

There are two types of photoreceptors that contribute to vision: rods and cones. Rods are more sensitive to light, whereas cones are sensitive to color and detail. Humans have 10 times more cones than cats do, which is why we see the entire color spectrum in detail and cats cannot. Instead, cats adapted to have far more rods than cones; their rods outnumber cones by a ratio of 25 to 1.

Cat Vision Is Optimized for Low Light

Why do cats need so many rods in their eyes? Felines are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk when the light is very dim. Because they are predators, cats need the ability to see their prey very well in low light and detect small movements from far away. In the dark, a cat's pupil can expand to an area three times larger than a human's dilated pupil.

Fast Fact

Experts believe your cat's vision is six to eight times better in the dark than yours.

Cats Thrive on Movement, Not Color

Realizing that your cat can't see the color of their favorite toy or red laser pointer might be a little disheartening. But don't worry, your feline friend can still appreciate play even if they are color blind. Use quick movements when you're playing together to grab your cat's attention and encourage their wild instincts.

Cats See Some Color, But Not Like Us

Yes, your cat can see yellow, blue, and gray colors, but color vision isn't as important to them as it is to us. We rely on color vision to figure out all sorts of information about our environment - such as what plants might be ripe or which animals are dangerous - that cats don't need as much. They are technically "color blind" in that they don't see red or green, but they don't see the world only in black and white, either. Night vision and movement are far more important to your cat's eyes, which is why they respond so strongly to fast movements and bright light, so take advantage and flick some cat toys their way.

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What Colors Do Cats See?