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How Does My Cat See the World? - A Cat's Point of View

Donna has been a cat parent and writer for many years and her passion is to share her love for cats with others.

Cat's eyes are full of mystery and beauty...

Cat's eyes are full of mystery and beauty...

How Do Cat's View the World?

There is nothing more beautiful than the sparkling eyes of a cat. They're big, bold, and vibrant! Some women try to emulate them with smokey eyes with perfect black eyeliner and there are even stones named after them! Cat eyes are mysterious and lovely and people all over the world are fascinated by them!

But what makes cat eyes so beautiful and how do they see the world through those captivating eyes? What does a cat really see?

In This Article:

  • How Do Cats View the World?
  • What Colors Does My Cat See?
  • An Artist Rendition of a Cat's Vision
  • How Does the Eyes of a Cat Compare to the Human Eye?
  • The Amazing Structure of Cat Eyes
  • Cats Have Excellent Night Vision
  • "Mirrored Layer" or Eye Shine
  • Cats See Less Color Than Humans
  • Toys with Texture
  • Cats are Crepuscular

The Color Wheel

An artist color wheel.

An artist color wheel.

What Colors Does My Cat See?

Cats can see green, blue, and yellow; however, they don't have the ability to see bright colors. For instance, if you were to look at a bright blue color, you would see bright, vibrant blue, cats, on the other hand, see muted blue. A cat's vision doesn't detect vibrant colors as humans do but they are better at following fast-moving objects with colors that are less vibrant.

Scientists suspect that a cat's vision is one that would be comparable to that of a color-blind human. Just because a cat can see color doesn't mean they see colors the way humans do. A cat's site is different, different hues, not as bright and with limitations.

An Artist Rendition of a Cat's Vision

Nickolay Lamm, is a graphic artist and researcher, he had consulted with three different experts on how cats view the world around them compared to humans.

The following pictures are what they produced:

Top picture- as seen by humans Bottom picture - as seen by cats

Top picture- as seen by humans Bottom picture - as seen by cats

How Does the Eyes of a Cat Compare to the Human Eye?

Cats can't see the finest details or rich vibrant colors; however, they have superior ability to see in the dark because they have what are called rods in their retina that are sensitive to low light.

The light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye contains rods and cones which respond to light and color. Cats have 6-8 more rod cells than cones, which gives them excellent night vision, but they still can't see colors as well as humans do.

Both cats and dogs have more rods than cones. Humans have three types of cones in their eyes to help them see reds, greens, and blues. Cats have two cones, green and blue, resulting in cats not being able to see colors as humans do.

The Amazing Structure of Cat Eyes

  • Pupil – The black opening at the center of the iris controls how much light is let into the eye.
  • Iris – A thin, annular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the diameter and size of the pupil, thus the amount of light reaching the retina
  • Third eyelid (haw) – Also known as the nictitating membrane, transparent or translucent third eyelid present in some animals that can be drawn across the eye to protect and moisten it while maintaining vision
  • Cornea – The transparent lining that covers the external front of the eyeball that contains the iris, pupil, lens, retina, and optic nerve, and is continuous with the sclera, the white part of the eye.
  • Tapetum Lucidum – A layer of flattened cells located at the rear of the eye reflects light onto the cornea, increasing light for night vision.
  • Eyelid – The upper and lower folds of skin that cover the eye when it's closed.

Information: Wikipedia

Cats Have Excellent Night Vision

Humans are blind in the dark and have a challenging time seeing anything far away. Cats, on the other hand, can see in the dark, however, they are nearsighted; they only see twenty feet in front of them resulting in the ability to see their prey up close. Thus, they hunt close, watching and stalking their prey.

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Objects over the Distance:

  • Humans can clearly see 100 to 200 feet.
  • Cats can only see twenty feet in front of them.

Cats have 6 to 8 times as many cells for seeing objects in dim light as humans do and they see more in dark settings whereas humans are completely blind in the dark.

Top picture- as seen by humans Bottom picture - as seen by cats

Top picture- as seen by humans Bottom picture - as seen by cats

"Mirrored Layer" or Eye Shine

Tapetum lucidum is a specialized layer of flat cells found beneath the retina. These mirror-like cells allow light to bounce off them and back onto the retina. When a bright light is shone into a cat’s eyes, you will see the familiar glow of the light bouncing off the back of the eyes.

"Cats and dogs with a blue eye color may display both eyeshine and red-eye effect. Both species have a tapetum lucidum, so their pupils may display eyeshine. In flash color photographs, however, individuals with blue eyes may also display a distinctive red eyeshine. Individuals with heterochromia may display red eyeshine in the blue eye and normal yellow/green/blue/white eyeshine in the other eye. These include odd-eyed cats and bi-eyed dogs. The red-eye effect is independent of the eyeshine: in some photographs of individuals with a tapetum lucidum and heterochromia, the eyeshine is dim, yet the pupil of the blue eye still appears red. This is most apparent when the individual is not looking into the camera because the tapetum lucidum is far less extensive than the retina." -Wikipedia

In cats, however, "if the light has not hit a rod, it will reflect off the mirror layer and be bounced. The light now has a second chance to hit a rod, resulting in the cat's ability to see in the dark.

Cat's eyes glowing in the dark.

Cat's eyes glowing in the dark.

Cat's See Less Colors than Humans

Cats see muted colors, in fact, they see less color than humans do. Let's examine the color wheel for clarity, blue is a primary color and if you combine blue with red you get purple. Now, remember that cats only have green, blue, and yellow cones although cats won't see purple, they only see the blue hue of the object.

Assorted colors of cat toys:

If cats don't see all the colors of their toys, why do manufacturers make them so colorful? Because of YOU and ME! We like vibrant colors, so instead of buying colorful cat toys that are appealing to human eyes, buy toys in colors that your cat can see; blues, greens, yellows, including any combination of the three.

Colorful toys your cat can't see!

Colorful toys your cat can't see!

Toys with Texture

"But she loves the pink stuffed mouse I bought her."

She doesn't see pink, she loves the texture, she can't see any hue of red it would give your cat more pleasure if they could see what they are playing with. So why do cats play with the colorful toys we buy anyways? Texture, it feels good to their paws, etc.

So, the next time you purchase toys for your feline, make sure to get colors they can see, the texture they can feel, this enables them to have more fun playing with their toys.

Cats Are Crepuscular

Cats are active in the twilight.

This is called crepuscular, meaning they are more active at dawn or dusk and their eyesight reflects that, we know this as Twilight!

"The word crepuscular derives from the Latin crepusculum ("twilight"). Its sense accordingly differs from diurnal and nocturnal behavior, which respectively peak during hours of daylight and darkness. The distinction is not absolute however, because crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright moonlit night or on a dull day. Some animals casually described as nocturnal are in fact crepuscular.

Special classes of crepuscular behaviour include matutinal (or "matinal", animals active only in the dawn) and vespertine (only in the dusk). Those active during both times are said to have a bimodal activity pattern." - Wikipedia


Always remember what colors your cat can see when you buy their toys, bedding and cat trees or scratching posts. They are more likely to be drawn to them if they can see them. Buy toys that have texture, soft or fuzzy, this delights their paws, and they are more than likely to play with them.

It's amazing how the cats view the world and how objects appear in their vision. Cats are definitely mysterious creatures, they captivate the world. They definitely make our world bright and colorful!

How Cats See The World - ZoneA

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2019 Donna Rayne


Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on July 12, 2020:

Yes, cats are amazing! Thank you for reading my article.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on June 14, 2020:

This is intriguing. Cats are truly fascinating creatures. Thanks.

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on June 02, 2020:

Thank you, Marcy!

Marcy Bialeschki from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 08, 2020:

Now that you mention it, the colors thing makes total sense. Interesting.

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on April 30, 2020:

Oh, Demas, that is so sweet!

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on April 16, 2020:

Our cat co-exists easily with "our" wild quail that live beneath large boxberry bushes at the side of our driveway. I mentioned in one of my Hubs having seen quail chicks sitting on our cat Mau-Mau's side while he rested! He is definitely not a terrorist to them.

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on December 02, 2019:

Thank you JC, cats tend to see more clearly about 20ft in front of them, so they need to be real close. Your cat probably sees you but is acting aloof as not to truly notice just so he can be a cool cat :)

JC Scull on December 02, 2019:

Very interesting article. My cat at times does not recognize me, especially when he is far away. I guess it's because of the way he sees. Thanks for sharing.

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