Can cats see in the dark? Can we see red? Are we colorblind? Not really. But we do see colors differently than you do. And about seeing in the dark… it depends on how dark it is.
Can cats see in the dark, Thomasina? I want to move my cat’s litter box to the basement. Will he be able to find it?
— Just Wondering
Hi Just Wondering…
Oh, no! Please don’t move your cat’s litter box to the basement. He’ll hate that!
Can cats see in the dark? That depends on how dark it is. While we see better than you do in dim light, we can’t see in total darkness.
If you move your cat’s litter box to the basement, he’ll probably be able to find it. But it could be so difficult, he might decide it’s just not worth the effort.
How Cats See In The Dark
Something else that helps cats see in the dark is our tapetum lucidum (Our what??? My human typist is writing this, and I have no idea what she’s talking about!), a “mirror” layer behind the retina. If light coming into our eyes misses the rods, it gets a second chance when it bounces off that mirror layer.
It’s the tapetum lucidum that makes our eyes glow in the dark!
Cats see in the dark for one more reason, too. While you can’t see ultraviolet or black light, we can. That helps a lot when we’re hunting before the sun comes up.
Cats “See” With More Than Their Eyes
But we have some other things going for us when it’s dark, too. Our whiskers are like little antennae that help us feel our way. And our sense of smell tells us where we are.
Your cat’s whiskers and sense of smell would help him find his litter box in the basement if it’s totally dark. But that sounds like so much work!
Another Myth: Cats Are Colorblind
Have you heard that cats are colorblind? That’s not true!
We can also see white, although it sort of glows for us. And it can feel aggressive. So if you want to hold your cat, don’t wear a white shirt. And ask the vet to take that white jacket off!
Calming colors for us are pastel purple, green and blue.
Oh, and one more thing you should know: We’re nearsighted. Objects more than 20 feet away look blurry to us. But things that are too close look blurry, too. So if you dangle the feathers on a wand or fishing pole toy right in front of your cat’s face, he won’t see them. Try to hold the toy a couple of inches away.
I hope this answers your question, Just Wondering. And if you’d like to read more about cat eyes, check out these posts.
Do Cats See Red?
Do Cats Speak With Their Eyes