Can Cats See Well In The Dark?

Considering how effortless they make navigating the house at the night seem, most people tend to assume that cats can see clearly in the dark. However, this really is just a myth.

Still, our feline friends have extraordinary vision, which allows them to be very active during the evening or very early in the morning.

You see, humans share a few vision characteristics with cats. We both have binocular and peripheral vision and can see color.

Neither cats nor ​humans can see in pitch black darkness.

Nonetheless, cats can see better in the dark with little light as opposed to people, thanks to the few cones and numerous rods in their eyes.

Cones are retinal cells that make it possible to see in bright light while rods allow you to see in dim light. The abundance of rods in cats’ eyes is what makes them able to see better during the night with little light.

Not to mention, they have a reflective layer called Tapetum lucidum, which gives their eyes a reflective flash when struck by light.

Here are some other reasons why cats have better night vision.

1. Creatures of the Night

As mentioned earlier, cats are most active at dusk or dawn. While humans only get a 180-degree view, cats have a field of view of up to 200 degrees. Add this to the fact that they have more rods and their greater peripheral vision range and you will understand why they spot a mouse through the corner of their eye without even looking at the creature.

Cats also have larger corneas, and the tapetum mentioned earlier not only helps them reflect light back to their retinas but also helps in gathering it in abundance.

As a result, cats get clearer images in the dark as opposed to humans who are almost entirely blinded by bright light in the dark. 

This feature also helps outline the shape of objects and prey during the night making them more visible to the cat. While humans cannot detect motion in the dark, cats can sense it and identify the moving object faster thanks to extra rod cells in their eyes.

2. Color Vision

While they might store more light and see better in dim conditions than most animals and humans, cats do not see everything in color at night. The reason for this is the limited count of cones in their eyes.

Seeing that bright light is a cone function, humans have better motion detection in bright conditions than their feline friends.

This feature explains why it is so easy for a cat to hunt at night but can’t catch a mouse during the day. The cones are not only limited but also not properly distributed. 

Cats do not see all colors in full range as humans do.

While a human beings spectrum of colors is highest in the colors green, red, and blue, a cat is only limited to two colors, blue and gray.

3. Nearsightedness

While cats have exceptional vision in dimly lit areas, it is limited to short range. While humans can see objects and notice all the vibrant colors from over 50 meters away, a cat’s range is limited to about six feet.

However, there range at night is far greater than that of a human being. Cats lack the muscle required to change their eye lenses.

As a result, they cannot see objects and need to creep up or move very close to have a clear image. Even during the night in dimly lit conditions, cats need to get close enough to any object to see it clearly.


Then what makes them such good hunters during the night 


Well, they do not rely on only their eyesight only to hunt, they are susceptible to sound, and their ears can pick up sounds that are further or quieter than the human ear can catch.

4. Visual Augmentation

Cats can be in a dimly lit hallway thinking that we see them as clearly as they see us. Similarly, we can be in a bright room thinking that cats can see us and other objects clearly.

The truth is, cats do not see that clearly, even in dimly lit rooms.

Their whiskers, which are found on their feet and face, are what help them sense movement and gather information about objects around them without seeing looking.

In the end, no cat can see in pitch black darkness.

However, they can make use of any little light during the night to get a better view of the objects around. They take advantage of this light to move around at night and hunt.

About the author 

Erick Dimalanta

I'm just a regular awesome guy that loves everything about Bengal Cats. I have two Bengal sisters that keep my wife and I busy all day. One of our Bengals named Xena eventually went blind at a young age. Which inspired me to create this blog. :-)


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