Cats are well-known for the prowess of their reflexes, night vision and hearing, but how good are they really? How do they compare to human abilities? To find out, this newsletter will explore how cats perceive the world, and we’ll start by examining their eyesight.
In order to help them survive, cats have eyes which are very well-adapted to their environment and lifestyle as a solitary hunter. Cats tend to hunt the most at dawn and dusk, when there is less light. This is also the time when most of their prey is active.
In the absence of adequate light, they don’t really need to see much color, but they do perceive more than just black and white. For many years, it was thought that cats could only see shades of grey, but it turns out that their vision is comparable to that of a colorblind person. They can see mainly colors in the blue and green spectrum, but not with the same intensity that we do. Just like dogs, cats have difficulty seeing colors in the red spectrum, and these colors may actually appear as a shade of green instead.
In order to better detect prey and potential dangers, cats have a larger field of vision than humans. “Field of vision” is defined as the area that can be seen to the side, above and below when the eye is focused straight ahead. Humans typically have a field of vision of 180o, while cats have a field of vision of 200o.
As another adaption for their lifestyle, domestic cats are nearsighted, and their vision is attuned to movement. This makes sense for spotting the small prey that they hunt, which typically likes to hide and dart away quickly. By comparison, the average person has 20/20 vision (sometimes with the assistance of glasses or contact lenses), and this means you can clearly see something 20 feet away when you are standing 20 feet from it. Cats, however, have vision that ranges from 20/100 to 20/200. This means that when a cat can see an object clearly at 20 feet, a person could clearly see that same object at 100 or even 200 feet. In fact, a cat’s best vision is actually about 3 feet away–just the right distance to pounce on prey. Additionally, cats have a limited ability to focus the lenses of their eyes, which is part of what makes them nearsighted, but the tradeoff is better night vision.
Unquestionably, cats have better night vision than humans, and cats have two adaptations that help them achieve this. The first adaptation is a large number of “rods” in the back of their eyes, and rods are receptors which detect brightness and shades of grey. The second adaptation is a special layer of tissue called the “tapetum.” Like a mirror, the tapetum bounces light back onto the rods for more exposure. In the end, cats only need 17% of the light humans need to see in the dark, but there is a bit of a catch: the bounce-back of light off the tapetum makes images somewhat blurry. (Also, the tapetum makes a cat’s eyes “glow” when a light is shined on them at night.)
Adding it all up, humans generally perceive a clearer, more colorful world and can see farther. Comparatively, cats have stronger vision in darkness and a slightly wider field of view. We hope you’ve found this information to be interesting and educational! If you’d like to see more about cats’ vision, here’s a great article which includes representative pictures of how cats see the world: www.businessinsider.com/pictures-of-how-cats-see-the-world-2013-10. Feel free to check it out! =^_^=