The surprising way cats see the world is not what you expected

Cats are perfect in every way.

Just ask any cat lover and they will count how cats rule us. But here’s a surprise.

For all their ability to overthrow a lizard or fluttering butterfly, cats don’t have the eagle eye sharpness we might have thought.

Human and feline eyes are constructed differently, and the result of these differences gives us some strengths in seeing compared to cats. But these differences also give them a paw above our eyes in other ways. And it all comes down to differences in the human and feline retinas.

The retinal tissue that lines the back of the eye contains photoreceptor cells that transmit light to the brain. These photoreceptors are what we know as rods and cones. Cones are responsible for daytime vision and the way we perceive colors. Rods sends signals from peripheral vision, detects brightness, detects gray levels and enables night vision.

While both humans and cats have chopsticks and cones, their distribution differs in cats with more chopsticks than cones. The distribution is reflected in the human eye. This difference in photoreceptors means that cats see the world very differently than we do.

Artist illustrates how cats see the world

Graphic artist Nickolay Lamm wanted to illustrate how cats saw the world, so consulted veterinary experts about seeing cats. Using the facts he learned, Lamm created a series of photos that show how cats see and how we see when it comes to peripheral vision, distance, color perception, and night vision.

As you look at these comparisons, keep in mind that human vision is shown above and the cat version in the same scene is shown below.

Field of view

Cats have a wider field of view of 200 degrees compared to our 180 degrees, which allows them to take a larger picture. Do you see the darkened sides in the picture above? This is where our view stops and we can see that the cat view occupies a little more.

Cat sight
Image courtesy Nickolay Lamm


During your annual eye exam, you and your ophthalmologist will endeavor to bring your eyesight to 20/20 with the help of glasses and contacts. The best a cat can hope for when reading the eye chart is 20/100 or 20/200. What does that mean?

Imagine a bowl of cat nibbling stuff sitting 100 feet away. Most likely, you can see it clearly from this distance. For a cat to see the same bowl clearly, it must be 20 feet away from it. By our standards, cats need glasses to see long distances!

Cat eyes
Image courtesy Nickolay Lamm


Contrary to what many believe, cats see in color. Cats are trichromats like humans, which means we all see red, green, and blue thanks to three different types of cones. But the cat cone, which is responsible for seeing green, doesn’t see that color very brightly because they are far apart in a cat’s eye. Cats approach seeing green like dogs and color-blind people. And if you look at the full spectrum of colors, since cats have fewer cones than humans, they cannot see colors in the same bold hues as we do.

how cats see
Image courtesy Nickolay Lamm

Day and night

Cats beat us when it comes to the dark. They may not have the sharpness we have for distance and color, but dim light makes us stumble around while cats nimbly navigate the darkness. While we have more cones for vision during the day, cats have an abundance of rods that enable them to see better in the dark.

Thanks to the tapetum lucidum, the cat area is also suitable for night vision. As a reflective layer behind the retina, the cells of the tapetum can be compared to mirrors that allow light to bounce back between cones and rods. By the way, the tapetum is what makes cat eyes glow in the dark.

Image courtesy Nickolay Lamm

how cats see
Image courtesy Nickolay Lamm

While their eyes may not be the sharpest feature, cats have highly developed olfactory and hearing senses that work with their vision to create an accurate picture of the world. Also, whiskers contain sensory receptor cells that make them in a way like other eyes. While they may not see the best, cats are highly developed predators who have no problem snapping something that piques their interest!

Please SHARE to pass this story on to a friend or family member.

H / T:


Related Articles