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C2010-29

Dear Christopher Cat

Can cats see color?

Christopher Responds

We cats see blue, and some of us can see green, but none of us can see red or the other colors you humans recognize. Instead, we see those colors as various shades of gray.

Not only do we miss many of the colors you humans see, but our retinas have fewer “cones,” the receptors that perceive color, so hues seem duller to us.

But color is much less important to our survival than the ability to recognize subtle movement and see well at night, when prey animals are out and about. In outdoor cats, these skills translate to catching dinner.

Our feline night vision surpasses yours in three ways: we have very large pupils that let more light enter the eye; we have more “rods,” the photoreceptors that help us see in dim light; and we have a tapetum lucidum, a specialized structure in the back of the eye that reflects light onto the retina.

So while our color vision isn’t good, we make up for it with our exceptional abilities to recognize movement and see at night.


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