Cat Eyes - Fascinating Facts

picture of black cat with shining gold cat eyes

There's no doubt that cat eyes are really beautiful. But have you ever wondered how they work? What does your cat see exactly? How does cat vision differ from that of a human? Here are some interesting questions and answers about cat eyes:

1) What do cats see?

It's believed cats have binocular vision, like humans (in other words, the images from each eye overlap), and that they are capable of seeing in three dimensions, also like humans.

Cats' sight is also extremely precise - think of a cat looking jumping up or down a distance 10 times bigger than himself and landing in precisely the right spot. To do this requires amazing balance, but also amazing eyesight.

2) Can cats see better than humans in the dark?

Yes. Cats, like humans, have both rods and cones in the back of their eyes. Cones are used for daytime vision and rods for night vision. Cats have a much higher ratio of rods to cones than humans, so their night vision is better.

Cats also have a mirror-like membrane on the back of their eyes, which gives their eyes that amazing glow in the dark look. This membrane reflects any light passing through the cat's eye and sends it back in the opposite direction. The result of this is that the cat gets twice the light exposure, which allows him to see much better in the dark than we can.

3) Do cats see in color?

picture of white cat with blue eyes

There is some controversy about this in the scientific world. Some studies have shown that cats react to colors in the blue, green, purple and yellow ranges, suggesting that they do actually see these colors "in color." They don't appear to respond to colors in the red, brown and orange ranges, and it's thought they see these colors as varying shades of gray.

It's thought that cats don't see colors as intensely as we do.

4) What are the differences between a human pupil and cat pupil?

A human pupil is round in shape and a cat's is elliptical. An elliptical pupil opens and closes much faster than a round pupil, meaning cats' eyes can adjust to light changes much faster than ours. Also, their pupils are much bigger than ours, allowing more light to enter in poor lighting conditions, again improving their night vision.

5) How is eye color determined in cats?

Eye color is genetically inherited. All kittens are born with blue eyes. This changes to their "adult" color when they are a few weeks old.

Most cat eyes are amber or green. Blue eyes are usually only found in white cats and Siamese cats. White cats with blue eyes are usually deaf. This is because a gene which causes deafness is linked to the blue eyes and white fur genes. White cats with odd-colored eyes (e.g. one blue, one amber) are only usually deaf in the ear on the same side as the blue eye.

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