Can Cats See Color? A Peek Into Feline Vision

Published December 23, 2020
Closeup of the green eye of a cat

Pet parents want to know, can cats see color? Cats are known for their super senses, but their range of color is limited. The rods and cones in the eye's retina are responsible for how cats see the world.

Can Cats See Color?

Cats see color, but it is not as crucial as their night vision. Their forward-facing eyes and overall vision detect motion better than many predators.

Cats See Some Colors

They see blues and yellows, but reds and greens probably appear as grays. They do not see the same colors as humans. For example, your our feline friends do not see brown and orange. With that in mind, pet parents need to choose appropriate colors for bowls and puzzle toys.

Cones and Rods

The retina consists of five nervous tissue layers, including the photoreceptor layer. There are two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. Rods are more sensitive to light and produce a coarse image in shades of gray. The cones are more sensitive to color and detail.

Are Cats Color Blind?

Most animals are thought to be color blind because they have many rods and few cones. Cats are partially color blind, but they don't see in only black and white. Felines are mostly red-green color blind, and a small range of green creeps in, but it is nothing compared to the palette a human eye detects. In daylight, the cat's pupils shrink to vertical slits to protect eyes from glare.

Felines Versus Humans

Humans have more cones and can see much better during the day than cats.

  • Humans have 10 times more cones than cats.
  • Cats are nearsighted.
  • Felines do not perceive details as sharply.
  • Cats see faded objects.

Felines Are Nocturnal Hunters

Cats see well in dim light. In the dark, a cat's pupil expands to an area three times larger than a human's dilated pupil. Rods outnumber cones in the cat's retina by a 25:1 ratio.

Cat in dark night

Visual Field

A cat's visual field covers about 200 degrees, and 90 degrees of this field is binocular. Cats' eyes are more responsive to fast movement.

Short-Range Vision

Items that are up-close are fuzzy, but their optimal focal distance is between two and six meters.


All indoor cats are nearsighted and outdoor felines are typically farsighted as their hunting during the night.

Cat's Eyes at Night

A cat's eye works similarly to humans, but there are some key differences.

  • A reflective layer behind the retina called the tapetum lucidum enhances a cat's night vision and makes their eyes glow.
  • Any light entering the eye that is not caught by the retina bounces off the tapetum and travels back through the retina.
  • This reflective layer increases a cat eye's sensitivity up to 40%.
    Anatomy of the cat's eye

Predators Share Similar Senses

Most animals need good vision to survive, but this does not mean they need excellent color vision. The eyes of prey animals are on the side of their heads to help them escape. All predators need good eyesight to catch prey. A cat's eyes are near the front of their heads, which helps with binocular vision.

Felines Have Super Senses

Cat vision is not sharp during the day. Felines are nocturnal hunters, and they catch their prey at night. Cats do have color vision, but the range is limited and they see blues and yellows much better than reds and greens. Pet parents need to buy toys and bowls in these two colors to set their kitty up for success.

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Can Cats See Color? A Peek Into Feline Vision