Night Vision In Cats

Night Vision In Cats, Can Cats Really See In The Dark? Leave a comment

Do cats have night vision? This is one of the confusing questions that every cat owner wants to know.  To put everything into a nutshell, yes, cats can see at night but they feel trouble while seeing in the absolute darkness.  Well, you will find various opinions on the internet about this subject matter.  However, we have summarized some interesting facts ahead which can help you in understanding the vision phenomenon in cats in a better way.

In this article, we are going to discuss “night vision in cats” and all related facts under the light of scientific literature and general field experience.

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Do Cats Have Night Vision?

For a better understanding, let’s understand the basic mechanism of vision in cats. Just like humans, cats have a retina (a structure at the back of the eye). It plays an important role in the vision process. This structure receives the light rays; converts them into electrical signals. These electrical signals are brought to the brain via nerves for further processing. In the brain, the interpretation of these electrical signals takes place and finally, these signals are translated to the image.

There are specialized receptors which are termed “photoreceptors” present in the retina. Basically, the photoreceptors are of two types viz cones and rods.

ConesThese receptors help in color perception and day vision.         

Rods:  These receptors help in night vision, brightness, and the detection of shades of grey.

Note: Experts say that cats have larger corneas and pupils that allow a greater amount of light to enter the eyes. This enables the cat to see in low light. However, cats can’t see in absolute darkness.

Do Cats Have Higher Rod Receptors Than Humans?

Yes, cats have higher numbers of rods receptors as compared to human beings. This is why; they can see a bit clearer at night as compared to human beings.


Here, we are going to explain a few important terms which will help the readers to understand the cat’s vision in a better way.

Visual acuity ( it refers to the clarity of the vision)20/2020/100 to 20/200
Visual field (It is an area that can be clearly seen when the eye is focused on a single point)100 degree200 degree

Can Cats See Details Of Objects At Night?

Just because of the presence of a higher number of rode receptors, cats can see in the dark. However, they can’t see the details of the objects. All along with that, they can’t differentiate in rich colors as well.

What Is Tapetum Lucidum (Bright Tapestry)?

This is a specialized structure that is present in the cat’s eye. This specialized layer is present behind the retina. It basically supports the functioning of the retina and absorbs a greater amount of light. All along with that, this reflective structure makes the cat’s eyes glow at night. Last but not least, this structure is also termed as a “Vision enhancing instrument”.

How Tapetum Lucidum Works In Cats?

As discussed earlier, this is a reflective structure that acts as a mirror. If the light fails to fall at the photoreceptors, the tapetum lucidum gives it another chance and sends the light rays back to the photoreceptors. This is how tapetum lucidum works and supports the functioning of the retina.

Do Kittens Have Tapetum Lucidum?

Yes, tapetum lucidum is present at birth in the kittens. However, the kittens have blue-grey tapetum lucidum.  As the age of a kitten progresses, the color of tapetum lucidum changes from blue to mature orange green or yellow. Over and above, the adult cat has multicolored tapetum lucidum (often bluish/reddish).

What Does A Cat’s Pupil Look Like?

The unique shape of the cat’s pupils helps them to see well during darkness as compared to human beings. Most animals including humans have circular pupils. However, cats contain slit-shaped elliptical pupils. So, elliptical pupils push more light into the cat’s eyes as compared to circular pupils. This is why cats can see better under dim/low light as compared to human beings.

All along with that, cats have the natural ability to expand their pupils nearly 135 folds more than human beings. This expansion allows a great number of light rays to enter the eyes and also helps in better night vision.

Do Cats Have Larger Cornea?

Yes, cats have incredibly larger cornea as compared to human beings. The feline cornea has a greater surface area that helps in capturing a greater amount of light. Due to larger corneas, more light enters in the cat’s eyes and enables them to focus and see well at night.

How Do Cat Whiskers Help Them To See Well At Night?

All along with the larger cornea, tapetum lucidum, and pupils, the whiskers also help cats to see well at night. These unique structures act as “touch receptors”. So, these receptors help the cats to sense their environment in a better way and detect the obstacles. Additionally, the sharp hearing potential of cats enables them to perceive high-frequency sounds as compared to human beings. These things help cats to navigate better in the darkness.

Do Blue-Eyed Cats Have Tapetum Lucidum?

Usually, blue-eyed tapetum lucidum doesn’t have tapetum lucidum. They have the same mechanism of light reflection, just like human beings.

What Colors Do Cats See?

Unlike humans, the cats can only see grey shades, tinges of yellowish blue, and a bit of green. They are also trichromatic but see colors as a color-blind human. Over and above, the cat can’t see far objects clearly. They are nearsighted creatures.

How Do Cats Spot Their Prey In The Dark?

As discussed earlier, cats have a better peripheral vision as compared to human beings. This ability to see under the low light helps in spotting the movement of prey in the darkness or dim light,

What Does Crepuscular Mean?

Cats are crepuscular creatures. Because they stay active from dawn to dusk. This is why they have better night vision.

Are Cats Nocturnal Creatures?

This is a common misconception that cats are nocturnal creatures. The reality is different; they are crepuscular animals that hunt at dusk and dawn.

Can Cats See UV Light?

Yes, unlike human beings, cats have the ability to see UV light. This UV light vision enables them to see the flower patterns and urine trails. All along with that, UV light vision also helps the cat in hunting.

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Cats are lovable creatures. They have the ability to see well in the dark as compared to human beings. However, they can’t see minor details of an object in the darkness. Their other senses like ears, whiskers also help them in navigating the objects/prey at the night. The night vision in cats is due to the presence of a high number of rods in the retina.

These rods help the cat in night vision. All along with that, cats also have a thick layer behind the retina which is called “tapetum lucidum”. This specialized structure acts as a mirror and focuses maximum light. Over and above, cats have a larger cornea, elliptical pupils which allow maximum light rays to enter the eyes. These things collectively help a cat to see well at night.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do humans have tapetum lucidum as cats?

No, human eyes don’t contain this reflective structure. This is only present in cats and other animals.

Do dogs have greater peripheral vision than cats?

Yes, dogs have a greater peripheral vision as compared to cats. The reason is the anatomical location of their eyes. The visual field of the cat is 200 degrees, on the other hand, the visual field of a dog’s eye is 240 degrees.

Do cats lose vision as they get older?

Yes, just like humans, cats also experience vision loss as they get older.  The eyes of older cats become hazy, cloudy with bluish tinges. All along with that, they can also get cataracts just like human beings.

Are cats trichromatic?

Yes, just like humans, cats are also called “Trichromatic”. But they can see different colors than humans. For the basic understanding, a cat can be called a “Colorblind human”.

Do kittens have tapetum lucidum?

Yes, kittens have tapetum lucidum present at birth.


Coles, J.A., 1971. Some reflective properties of the tapetum lucidum of the cat’s eye. The Journal of physiology212(2), pp.393-409.

Alina, D., Muste, A., Beteg, F. and Briciu, R., 2008. Morphological aspect of tapetum lucidum at some domestic animals. Bulletin UASVM Veterinary Medicine65, p.2.

Chijiiwa, T., Ishibashi, T. and Inomata, H., 1990. Histological study of choroidal melanocytes in animals with tapetum lucidum cellulosum. Graefe’s archive for clinical and experimental ophthalmology228(2), pp.161-168.

Bernstein, M.H. and Pease, D.C., 1959. Electron microscopy of the tapetum lucidum of the cat. The Journal of biophysical and biochemical cytology5(1), pp.35-39.

Ringo, J., Wolbarsht, M.L., Wagner, H.G., Crocker, R. and Amthor, F., 1977. Trichromatic vision in the cat. Science198(4318), pp.753-755.

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