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When cats look at the world around them, what colours can they see? Find out how a cat’s eyesight works.

As your cat explores the garden or stares at you from across the room in anticipation of a tasty treat, you might wonder, what colours can cats see? Do they see the world in black-and-white or is their vision in glorious technicolour like ours? Understanding how your cat’s vision works will help you see the world through their eyes. 

white cat with brown tabby patch on head and yellow eyes

What colours can cats see?

Cats can see colours, but they don’t see quite as many different shades as humans can. Due to the construction of their eyes, it’s thought that the colours cats can see best are blue and yellow, while red and green appear to them as shades of grey, similar to people who are red-green colourblind. Because they can’t quite see the full spectrum of colours, cats rely much more on brightness and movement when viewing the world around them. 

How do cats see colour? 

Just like human eyes, cats’ eyes contain a retina (the light-sensitive part at the back of the eye) which has cells called rods that are used for seeing in low light, and cells called cones that are used for detecting colour. However, cats only have two types of cone cells compared to the three types found in human eyes, and we have 10 times more cone cells overall, allowing us to see a wider range of colours. Cats do have many more rod cells than we do though, meaning their night-vision is far superior to ours. 

What does a cat’s vision look like?

photo of a building with cars in front that has been edited to look like a cat's vision. The colours are dull and the edges of the frame are blurryAn impression of what a cat's vision might look like 

If you could see the world through your cat’s eyes, it would probably look quite dull and blurry. As well as colours not appearing as vivid and bright, anything further than six metres (20 feet) away would look out of focus. This is because cats have a very small range of sharp vision compared to us. Our vision is sharpest when viewing objects that are 30 to 60 metres (100 to 200 feet) away, but cats need to be much closer to objects to see them clearly. However, cats do have a much wider field of view than we do, a bit like looking through a fish-eye lens, and they can see better in low light. Their pupils can expand much wider than ours allowing more light into their eyes, so they only need one sixth of the amount of light that we do to see. 

How do dogs see colour differently to cats? 

A dog’s vision is very similar to a cat’s as they also only have two types of colour-sensitive cone cells in their eyes, making any colours other than blue and yellow appear grey. They also have more rod cells than humans do, helping them to see better at night. Dogs have a wider field of vision too, spanning 240 degrees compared to 200 degrees for cats and 180 degrees for humans.

Discover more facts about your cat’s eyesight.

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