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Can Cats See in the Dark?
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Can Cats See in the Dark?

Ben, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jul 13, 2020

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Our furry feline friends are capable of many things. They’re more than just a hit on the Internet. Cats are good for our hearts and our minds, says science, and we’re inclined to believe it. Petting a cat has proven to have a calming effect on our sometimes far-too-busy lives and can lower our stress levels. But is there anything that cats can’t do? Are they colorblind as dogs are purported to be? Can they learn tricks? Can cats see in the dark? There are answers to all of these, and they’re more surprising than you’d think.

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1

Is Cat Vision Different to Human Vision?

cute tabby kitten amandafoundation.org / Getty Images

Cat vision and human vision differs in a variety of ways. Evolutionarily, we need different things from our eyesight. Most of us don’t need to see in the dark, no matter how much we’re told that eating carrots will help that. Cats, on the other hand, do need to somewhat be able to see in the dark. Their vision allows them to be able to see in a sixth of the amount of light that humans can. In fact, they excel in low light. For us humans, we’ve probably got a few more walls to walk into yet.

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2

Is Cat Vision Good?

suspicious cat SensorSpot / Getty Images

In some ways, cat vision is excellent. Being able to see in such low light allows them to hunt like their big cat cousins in the Serengeti. Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning they’re most active in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Because of this, their eyesight has evolved to allow them to make the most out of their active hours. Having good night vision is also what enables them to run up and down the hallway in the middle of the night.

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3

Can Cats Really See in the Dark?

black and white tuxedo kitten amandafoundation.org / Getty Images

Yes and no. Nocturnal animals are much more capable of seeing in the dark. They’ve adapted that way. While cats do have night vision, they also need at least a little bit of light to see where they’re going and what they’re doing. Cats, like humans, can't see in complete darkness. Our cats actually have no better idea of what to do in the middle of the night than we do.

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4

Do Their Whiskers Help Them to See in the Dark?

cat on a laptop efenzi / Getty Images

Whiskers are strange things. They help cats to sense things, and when they brush against us, they're really ticklish. Whiskers are also highly-sensitive, and cats use them to detect changes in their surroundings. Their whiskers are far more than just cute. They can pick up changes in weather, help them to steer clear of threats, and let them know which small spaces they can fit into. Yes, that includes boxes! Because they work as antennas, whiskers also come in very handy in the dark.

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5

Are Cats Colorblind?

kittens profile shot loops7 / Getty Images

Although cats can see color, it's suggested that they don't quite see it the way humans do. Humans have the luxury of seeing bright colors such as neons. Cats, however, see less saturated hues. This is actually one area where cat vision is lesser to human vision. The colors they see best are blues and yellows, but both are still much less vibrant than our blues and yellows. But then cats probably don't need to buy jeans.

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6

Why Are Some Cats Cross-Eyed?

cat playing lying down lying with crossed eyes

While there are breeds of cat that have a higher chance of being born cross-eyed, their vision isn't really affected. Breeds such as Siamese and Himalayan see more instances of cross-eyed kittens. However, since they were born that way, they're just as good hunters as if they weren't cross-eyed. In other words, if a laser point competition came down to you and a Siamese, the Siamese would win easily.

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7

Why Do Cats’ Pupils Change Shape?

black cat nosy oksy001 / Getty Images

You might have noticed that, sometimes, cats’ pupils look sharper and more feline. Then, when they’re trying to suck up to you, their pupils become so big they seemingly take over their eyes. There’s a reason for that. It all depends on the light. The slit-shaped pupil has light control. It's what helps cats to hunt in low light and in the middle of the day. When your cat's pupils expand and dilate, they're either excited, happy, or afraid.

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8

Are Cats Nearsighted?

burmese kitten licking screen Seregraff / Getty Images

Yes, cats are nearsighted. They can't see objects in the distance as well as humans can. Mostly, it's because they've never really needed to. When it comes to catching prey, it's much better for them to be able to see objects that are close to them. This also might be the reason that a cat looks at you oddly from a distance if you're trying to call it over. You're probably a blur!

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9

Do Cats Have Good Peripheral Vision?

cat in eyemask AnnaRise / Getty Images

Cats have much better peripheral vision than we humans do. They have a wider field of vision, at roughly 200 degrees to our 180. This is yet another thing that comes in handy for them when it comes to hunting. Additionally, their eyes can detect fast movement. So, those pesky mice that come into your apartment during the winter? They have no chance against your cat.

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10

Can I Get Glasses for My Cat?

sleepy cat PeachLoveU / Getty Images

In an attempt to avoid any cat-to-eyesight related puns, let's look at this question seriously. Can you get glasses for your cat that will help them see in the dark? No. However, you can get glasses that will make for plenty of fantastic photo ops. From sunglasses to eyeglasses, there are pet companies out there with accessories for every kind of feline.

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