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    Can Cats See In The Dark?

    Can Cats See In The Dark?

    by Behavior / 3 min read

    Can Cats See In The Dark?


    Estimated Read Time:  3 ½ minutes


    Summary: In this blog, we explore and explain whether cats can see in the dark! We’ll establish if they can or not, whether they can see better in the dark or light, and how well they see in the dark too. Read on to discover more about cats and their vision’s ability in the dark…


    Can cats see in the dark?

    It may surprise you to find out that cats cannot see in absolute darkness. Due to the mythological nature of their history and the superstitious energy that we apply to our cats, it’s often assumed that cats can see in the dark, but actually, they’re just far better at it than humans!

    Why can cats see in the dark better than humans?

    Cats can see in the dark to a degree, but cannot see when it’s pitch black. However, when compared to their human owners, cats have a more advanced system for managing to see in very low light.

    A cat’s eye can let in much more light than us, for example. The cat’s eye is also more equipped for transferring streams of light into electric signals for their brain. They also have an additional layer at the back of their retina that acts similarly to a mirror, which means that light has a higher chance of being transmitted to an electric signal too.

    When you shine a light into a human eye, you don’t see this back layer behind the retina because it’s black - instead, you’ll see a light reddish color because of the vast amounts of blood vessels the retina has. However, when you shine a light into a cat’s eye, you will see a reflection of the light you’re shining! This is because they have that extra reflective layer behind their retinas - this is how Percy Shaw discovered reflective road studs more commonly known as “cats eyes” in 1937, which are still used on roads today!

    A cat’s slit-shaped pupil can also expand to allow maximum light in when it’s dark, which also allows them to see in much lower light than us. However, yes a cat can adapt to a much wider range of light levels than humans can, but the more their pupil dilates, the blurrier their vision becomes. 

    What’s most remarkable about their slit-shaped pupil, is that it can be small horizontally and tall vertically, enabling them to have both the benefits of a large pupil and a small pupil at the same time!

    So, do cats need a light on at night?

    Not necessarily, because their eyes are so advance they may be picking up on light you can’t determine. But, it’s obviously nicer for a pet parent to be sure they can see!

    grey cat in darkness

    What else should I know about a cat’s sight? 

    Cats are also near-sighted and have more difficulty seeing things far away. Humans can see things up to fives time further away than a cat can, in the same detail a cat would be able to see close up. However, our kitties are better at seeing subtle movement and changes of light - which is very useful when it comes to hunting scurrying prey!

    Cats also have better peripheral vision than us. They can see up to a 200-degree radius, whereas we can only see up to 180. 

    However, we get a more advanced color palette than cats. Cats, whilst not totally color blind, mostly see the world in various shades of yellow, gray, blue, and some green. The colors they experience are less saturated and less rich than ours too.

    How else do cats see better in the dark?

    In addition to their remarkable sight, their hearing and smell is much more advanced too and as we know, our senses often work simultaneously together. 

    A cat’s sense of smell is up to 15 times stronger than a humans, and is thought to be stronger than a dog’s too. This is because they have an extra organ in their mouths called the vomeronasal organ which lets them taste and smell at the same time. This helps them gain more information about their surroundings and environment. 

    Their hearing is also super sensitive, and they are able to find where a sound that’s loud, quiet, low or high, far away is coming from.

    So, whilst a cat’s eyes aren’t as magical as these popular myths would have us believe - they are very sophisticated and allow them to hunt so successfully. We’re sure you agree –our feline friends have some very impressive peepers!

    Related Read

    12 Fun Facts About Cats

    Cat Behavior… Explained!


    ABC Science


    Reader’s Digest

    Cat Behavior Associates 

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