how do cats see?

Of course, animals are not going to tell us what they see! Therefore, specialists use indirect methods to find out: they show cats different images, more or less surprising, and, depending on their reaction, find out if they see them and, possibly, distinguish them. There are also methods to visualize and record the electrical activity of the retina or brain to study what happens, for example, when a flash of light is emitted.

How does your cat perceive the world? Fanny Pilot-Stork, research teacher at the Alfort National Veterinary School, sheds light on this issue.

Do cats see colors like humans do?

It’s true that the cat sees colors are slightly different from U.S. In this, we primates are an exception among mammals. Actually we have three color systemwith photopigments and photoreceptors called cones divided into three populations: schematically some see redother green and last blue. And the combination of these three populations allows us to see large color palettewhile other mammals have only two photopigments.

The cat has there is no difference between red and green : he has a photopigment for increased yellow, one might say, and another for blue. A cat sees true reds or true greens in the same way, depending on whether dichromatic vision, and not tricolor like ours. In this, his vision is similar to the vision of colorblind people who lack one of the photopigments.

Another difference is that cats, like other mammals, cones are smaller than in humans. They have fewer photoreceptors for color perception compared to light intensity-only photoreceptors (rods). In general, cats rely less on color vision and distinguish less shades than we are, but they still see in color.

Visual acuity: does the cat see well both near and far?

In this regard, you should know that from the point of view, humans and closely related primate species are a really special case: we do have exceptional visual acuity, even if birds are even better than us. But among mammals, we are really isolated.

However, cats are among the mammals that have all good visual acuityespecially since they, like us, accommodatingthat is, they have the opportunity change image focus to get it on the retina. At rest, we see infinity very well – even if infinity stops quite quickly, after a few meters – and the image hits a very specific point on the retina. But from the moment we look at something closer, an image will form behind the retina, and it will be blurry unless we can adjust: in this case, we change the shape of our lens to re-form the image on the retina.

Cats don’t have an elastic lens like ours, so he won’t be able to change his shape, but he can move forwardto make the image clear. In this case, the cat has a limit of accommodation between about fifteen and fifty centimeters. What’s closer gets a little blurry, then he relies on scent to identify the object, and at that level he’s unbeatable!

Chiara Silvia Sturion / Pexels

cat’s field of view

This is a very important point when we think about seeing a cat. It should be remembered that evolutionarily, and even still in many cases, the cat is an excellent predator, capable of hunting especially agile small animals such as birds and rodents. To be successful in catching this prey, he must have very good distance estimatewhat is allowed binocular field.

In humans, this binocular field makes up half of our field of vision, and in cats it is about a third, which is already a lot compared to many animals. What makes it possible to have a good binocular field is the presence of relatively frontal eyes, as we have or nocturnal birds of prey and cats.

cat night vision

The cat’s eye has a so-called “glossy carpet”. It shares this “shiny carpet” with many nocturnal animals. Located behind the retina, in the upper part, it forms a kind of triangle that reflects photons that are not absorbed by the retina. In a sense, these photons “return” and can hit the retina again.

When darkness sets in, there comes a moment when the human eye judges that it is dark, but for a cat it is not yet so. Obviously, in complete darkness the cat does not see us anymore ; but for the whole period at dusk he can see thanks to this carpet, which offers him this excess of night vision. This carpet is very clearly visible if in the dark a flashlight is placed in front of the cat’s eye: green or yellow, depending on the color of the coat. It’s really impressive how reflective it is…

Does a cat see quickly after birth?

The cat is born quite immature, altricial, that is, the first few weeks he needs the protection of the nest and mother. At birth, the kitten’s eyes are closed, and gradually they will open, ten to fifteen days after. Watching this phenomenon is always very exciting, because you start by seeing a small black dot, and after a few days a split forms. Necessary several months for the full development of the eye. For example, the carpet we mentioned above is only fully functional at four months.

Does a cat experience vision degeneration with age?

This may be the case, especially in cases cataract. It is true that the eye generally does not like aging very much. But the cat still suffers less than, for example, the dog. These phenomena are also less noticeable than in humans.

Eye diseases in cats

The list of everything that can affect the eyes in cats is very long. It exists all kinds of infections which can affect the eyelids, conjunctiva, cornea‚Ķ Several virus especially aggressive to the cat’s eye, as are some bacteria and some parasites. Can we have tumor or inflammation different parts of the eye or eyelids …

Cats, unfortunately, often get sick. injuryoften associated with accidents on public roads, which can again affect vision … In these cases, it should be remembered thatneed to act very fast. An eye that seems to be sick, which swollen, red, or runnythe risk of creating consequences that could damage vision.

Does diet affect the quality of a cat’s vision?

It turns out it is. In general, we all need vitamin A to ensure our vision, because it is involved in the proper functioning of photoreceptors, but the cat has an additional specificity. There is an amino acid that it cannot synthesize on its own, taurine, which is important for the heart, but also for the proper functioning of the retina. This is one of the reasons why it is really necessary to give your cat the right diet; a dog, for example, would not have enough taurine to provide good vision.

The cat has a third eyelid

Is it the third eyelid, or nictitating membrane, orthogonal to the other two centuries. It starts from the inner corner of the eye and can cover up to two-thirds of the eyeball. It works a little differently because it is a neural defense mechanism that activates itlike many mammals.

cat pupil

The pupil is a black hole the shape depends on the contraction of the iris, colored part of the eye. In humans, the muscle fibers that cause the iris to contract are round in shape, while in cats, these fibers are distributed in spindles around the pupil, so when they contract they tighten it vertically. This allows you to have better visual acuitybecause it eliminates the optical aberrations that exist in the periphery of the eye.

How does a cat see its owner’s face?

It is clear that in order for our cat to see us, our face must be quite far away, approximately fifty centimeters from him, otherwise the sense of smell will take over by itself. Cat perceives us in colors (even if they are not the same as the ones we know), it succeeds determine where our eyes are to look into ourto create that strong eye contact that is so important, at least to humans.

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