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Are Cats Color Blind? What Colors Do They See?

Are cats able to see in color? Owners often wonder if their cats can see colors, and what specific colors they can see. Read on to find the answer to the question, "Are cats color blind?"

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: October 5, 2023 | 6 min read

Kitten painting colors on a canvas

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The question often arises among cat owners, “Are cats color blind?” There is much more to the subject than a simple yes or no. Feline eyes are not built the same way as humans and do not work identically. The colors that cats can see are the subject of much misconception and myth.

It is essential to separate fact from fiction when it comes to subjects like animal care. Cat owners may think their pet prefers a particular tone, may be concerned about their pet’s vision, or simply may be curious about what the world looks like through their feline family member’s eyes.

Do cats see in color? If so, what colors do cats see? We’ve researched to get answers to these questions and more. Let’s jump in and find out if cats can have color blindness.

Are Cats Color Blind?

In comparison to what humans see, cats are considered color blind, but in reality, they are color-limited. They do not discern full tints in the same way the human eye does. The feline perception of colors is different, muted, and less vibrant. This muted tone perception is equivalent to what we call color blindness in the human eye. Being color blind does not mean a lack of all color perception. It means a limited perception of color. The idea that this term means a person or animal picks up no colorations at all is a misconception. Only a few animals, including the Skate (a fish), bats, whales, sea lions, and seals, are truly 100% unable to distinguish colorings. Many lack the right cone cells in their eyes.

The human eye has three cones that work in perceiving colors: blue, red, and green. Felines only have blue and green cones, meaning they cannot take in a good majority of the tones we can. Humans have many more cones in their eyes than a feline, which also impacts the shades and depths of tone we can perceive vs. what they can.

Felines have different sensitivities to light than humans, impacting their ability to distinguish color. Because they do not pick up red tones and don’t have any sensitivity to red light, they cannot discern or distinguish between some shades as well. Additionally, due to their eye structure, some tones will look different through a kitty’s eyes.

Types of Color Blindness

The term color blindness refers to an inability to pick out or discern some colors from others. Contrary to popular belief, it does not mean that a person or cat, in this case, sees simply in black or white or only perceives shades of gray.

In humans, something called red-green color blindness is the most prevalent. It is also referred to as dichromatic vision. Red-green impacts men more than women. Red-green blindness is the kind 99% of all color blind people have. A second type of dichromatic vision, yellow-blue, is much rarer, affecting less than 1 in 10,000 people worldwide. A third, much rarer type, monochromatism, causes people to see simply shades of gray, black, and white. Monochromatism is quite rare, occurring in roughly 1 in 33,000 people worldwide.

Color Blindness In Cats

Adorable orange ginger tabby baby kitten sitting in a basket of various colors of yarn on wood floor with purple background

Because felines cannot discern the complete same spectrum of colors as humans, they are considered color blind. In truth, they are more color-limited or muted. Kitties cannot discern shades of orange, brown, red, pink, or other warm hues. If we compare a kitty’s vision and tone perception to a human’s, it would be most similar to that of a person with red-green blindness. Things will not look exactly the same as humans pick up more tones, and feline’s sight is much blurrier and less acute than the human eye.

What Cats See

Although kitties have a reputation for having stellar eyesight, especially in dim or dark places, the truth is they have different eyesight than humans. For starters, they do not generally see as clearly as humans do. Felines are what is called crepuscular. They are often described as nocturnal, but they are not. Crepuscular means that they are highly active during the hours of dusk and dawn and then sleep most of the daylight hours. Crepuscular behavior is part of what gives kitties the reputation for being lazy, but it is genuinely simply in their nature to be more active during these dimly lit hours.

Felines have excellent vision in low and dim light but do not in complete darkness. Their eye anatomy is different, and they have a broader field of vision than humans. They also have greater peripheral vision and more rod cells, which are sensitive to low and dim light. These cells increase their ability to see in dim light, but a feline cannot see as well as a person in bright light. This also affects how they perceive colors. Felines are near-sighted, meaning they must be physically closer to things to make them out clearly. They can pick up on some muted tones but cannot discern details or the identical coloring spectrum as humans and some other animals.

What Colors Do Cats See?

Kitties do make out some colors, but they don’t look like they do when viewed through the human eye. There has been research on the subject, and most schools of thought agree that felines can easily pick out and discern blue tones and hues. The blue-violet range is the easiest for them to pick out. A feline can also detect hues on the yellow-green spectrum but cannot perceive any red or orange hues. This impacts the depth of blue and other tones they can pick out. The hues kitties distinguish are much dimmer than what we see. Often, when responding to a favorite toy, item, or place, they respond to the shape and change in light rather than the shade or tone.

Defining what colors a kitty can discern is tricky, but we know that their vision and tone perception are limited to blue, gray, green, and yellow tones. Research has also been done on whether they can see ultraviolet light. UV vision helps their eyesight in the dim light and may make some things that are less obvious to us more visible to them. Despite their limited tone perception, kitties can often perceive things that we cannot.

Are Cats Color Blind Like Dogs?

Cats and dogs have similar perception of colors, and both have dichromatic vision. Dogs have a similar situation to people with red-green color blindness, which means they can discern limited tones. Canines can make out hues of brown, gray, yellow, and blue. Like kitties, they will not perceive vibrant tones or deeply different hues. Dogs, however, have a much wider field of vision than felines and humans. Canines have better eyesight than felines and better eyesight in lower light. Dogs have better eyesight during daylight hours than kitties, and both notice moving objects better than people.

Effects Of Color Limited Vision

Knowing that felines cannot identify red, brown, and orange tones and that most of what they distinguish is a shade of blue or gray should not have much impact on how owners care for them. Understanding that felines cannot perceive coloration the identical way people do is helpful, especially for owners who may have trouble getting kitties to like new toys, blankets, or specific areas of the home. While that cute red chew toy or stuffed animal is fun and adorable to your cat, it is simply another object and does not stand out for its vibrant hues the way it does to us.

However, a cat seeing in limited tones, or having color blindness as some would describe it, does not require special care. Perceiving tones and tints differently than us does not impact their vision, and kitties use all of their tools, including hearing, an incredible sense of smell, and very observant personalities, to navigate the world. Their vision works well for them and does not need special treatment or modifications made to their care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats have a favorite color?

It is hard to say if kitties have a favorite tone, but likely they don’t. Because they do not discern hues the same as us and cannot perceive things the same way the human mind does, the concept of a favorite tone or shade is not something the feline mind has. If something is more visible to them, they may be more drawn to that object or area than another.

Are cats naturally color blind?

Cats are not truly blind to colors. Felines can distinguish limited hues and tones. This narrow spectrum is perfectly normal for felines due to the anatomy and function of their eyes. It is a natural occurrence and not something owners should worry about.

What colors do cats see humans as?

It is hard to tell, but humans are likely some shade of blue-violet to gray. The shades may fluctuate depending on the shades of the clothing humans wear, the lighting, and the time of day or evening.

What colors are cats attracted to?

Because felines can distinguish blue tones the best, they are likely more attracted to blue than any other shade.

Final Thoughts

The feline eye has fewer cone cells than humans. Therefore, they do not perceive as many shades or as strong a depth of tone as humans do. A more accurate description is to say that felines are color-limited or muted. They can discern some shades, mainly blue and blue-violet tones. Felines also notice greens and yellows, but due to the different ways their eyes reflect and use light, these shades do not look the same to them as they do to us. The feline perception of coloration is often described as muted or pastel. That is relatively accurate, but kitties will not discern red, brown, or orange tones. The perception of muted coloration does not impact vision.

All cats see the same way, so no special care or precaution needs to be taken for the way a feline perceives colors. However, kitties can still develop eye problems. If you are concerned that your cat has a health condition affecting their vision, it is best to have that checked out by your veterinarian.

Sad cat looking out the window while person holds them

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