Cats are some of the most popular pets that can be found out there. As a result, it is no wonder that humans have put a fair amount of effort into understanding cats, as shown by the recent research into cats’ eyesight. Something that has produced interesting insights that fit well with the rest of what we know about our feline companions.
For starters, humans are diurnal animals, meaning that we are active during the day and sleep during the night. In contrast, cats are either nocturnal animals or crepuscular animals, meaning that they are either active at night or active at twilight. Due to this, it should come as no surprise to learn that cat eyes are adapted for those conditions, thus resulting in numerous differences from human eyes.
One excellent example is how cat eyes have more rod cells compared to human eyes, which provides them with a couple of important benefits. First, more rod cells means a better ability to see in the dark, thus making cats much more capable of operating in the darkness when compared to diurnal animals. Second, more rod cells means a better ability to pick up on fast movement, which is useful for not just predators looking to catch their next meal but also for smaller predators who have to watch out for bigger predators that might want to make them into their next meal. Considering how useful these benefits are to cats, it is no wonder that cats have developed such good night vision, so much so that they can see clearly even when they have no more than 15 percent of the light that a human would need to do the same.
With that said, while cat eyes might have more rod cells compared to human eyes, they have fewer cone cells as well. This is interesting because cone cells is what enables eyes to distinguish between colors. Previously, it was believed that cat eyes were so bad at distinguish between colors that they saw the world in nothing but black and white. More recent research has proven that this is not the case. Instead, cats are capable of seeing blues and greens, but they struggle when it comes to red, with the result that they often struggle to distinguish red from green.
Speaking of which, the positioning of a cat’s eyes has consequences for its eyesight as well. First, a cat is similar to other predators in that it has its eyes positioned at the front of its face, which is important because that enables said animals to see depth. Something that can be very useful when it comes to hunting down prey. This is in contrast to something like a cow, which has its eyes mounted on the sides of its head in an arrangement that sacrifices the ability to see depth in exchange for a wider range of view than otherwise possible. Suffice to say that a wide range of view enables animals to monitor a wider range of potential threats simultaneously, which would have been a great help to their chances of survival. Having said this, a cat’s field of vision is actually slightly bigger than a human’s field of vision at 200 degrees compared to 180 degrees, meaning that they are better at monitoring their surroundings than we are.
Curiously, there is one other significant difference between cat eyes and human eyes. In short, cats are good at seeing objects that are situated close to them but not so good at seeing objects that are situated further from them. In fact, cats struggle to see beyond 20 feet, so much so that their vision at that distance is comparable to what we can see at 100 feet. Once again, the nearsightedness of cats is believed to be beneficial for their predatory behavior, which tends to be focused on prey animals that are close to them.
Summed up, there are actually significant differences between how cats and humans see the world, which can make fascinating reading material in their own right. However, there is a practical value to this as well because by better understanding our feline companions, we can improve our ability to interact with them in an efficient and effective manner that will serve to make both of us happy.