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Five facts about cats' eyes

Cats are known for their super senses, able to sniff out their favourite catnip toy from 20 paces and hear the cat food cupboard opening from streets away. But when it comes to eyesight, who comes out on top, humans or cats? Here are some fascinating facts about cats’ eyes…

1. Cats have good low-light vision

black cat with yellow eyes on black background

Like us, cats can’t see in the dark when there is absolutely no light available, so they don’t have true night vision. However, they do have better vision than we do in low-light conditions, such as on a moonlit night. In fact, cats can see six to eight times better than we can in the dark. This is because:

A cat’s good eyesight at night leads many people to believe they are nocturnal, but they are actually crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Their eyes help them to see at these low-light times of day so they can hunt prey, zoom around the house or wake you up for some breakfast. 

2. Cats are red/green colour blind

grey cat playing with yellow ball

Human eyes have three types of colour receptors called cones, which allow us to see the whole rainbow of colours. Cats have fewer cones, and only have two types, which means that the colours red and green appear to them as shades of grey. They are much better at seeing blue and yellow shades, but rely more on brightness than colour when viewing the world. Find out more about how cats see colour.

3. Cats’ eyes are very sensitive to movement 

black and white kitten in grass

One of the reasons cats are such good hunters is because their eyes are much more sensitive to movement than our own. They can detect objects moving at very fast speeds, helping them to locate and pounce on quick-moving toys with ease.

4. Cats are mid-sighted

ginger cat face close up

Cats lack the muscles needed to change the shape of their eyes, which means they struggle to focus on objects that are close to them. Therefore, if you place a toy right in front of your cat’s nose, they won’t be able to see it clearly and will instead use their sensitive whiskers to detect it. They’re not particularly good at seeing things far away either though. Our vision is sharpest when viewing objects that are between 100 to 200 feet (30 to 60 metres) away, but cats need to be no more than 20 feet (six metres) away to see an object clearly. They only have a very small range of sharp middle vision. Find out more about cat whiskers. 

5. Cats have great peripheral vision

tabby cat's green eyes close up

Cats have a wider field of view than we do, helping them to spot any threats or objects of interest approaching from the side. They can see 200 degrees (30 degrees on each side) compared to our 180 degrees (20 degrees on each side).

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