Cat vision

Regular visitors to ryesoftheGeek might have read a previous post on cat intelligence. Like many cat owners, I am often intrigued by the behaviour of the animal. This post takes a cats eye view of the world, thanks to the work of artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm.

Artist Nickolay Lamm has produced the images below that show the difference between how a human’s view of the world differs to that of a cat’s. Nickolay’s fascinating website can be found here.

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The cat is able to see more details in the dark because the shape of their eye and their larger corneas. They also have extra rod cells which means they can sense motion in the dark better than humans.

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Cats don’t have it all their way though – they lack as many light receptors (cones) in their eyes, so they cannot discern colours as well as humans. This image also shows the wider field of view that cats have. Note that these are artists impressions based on real science – but scientists cannot agree on what colours a cat can see. Some think that they can only see in grey and blue.

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Another shot to demonstrate the cats superior night vision.

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We are able to see objects clearly at 30 to 60 meters away, but Cats lack the muscles necessary to change the shape of their eye lenses. They have to be much closer to an object for it to appear in focus.

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Life can go by in a blur…

Anyone who has owned a cat will notice that they sometimes ‘squint’ their eyes, my wife calls this the ‘shutty eye game’. As it turns out, this is likely to be a form of communication, where the cat is expressing affection or ease – at least according to Wikipedia. You may also notice that your cat doesn’t blink very often, they don’t need to blink like we do in order to keep their eyes lubricated. Cats have a third eyelid (or nictitating membrane) which moves horizontally across the eye from the inside to outside, which helps to keep the eye lubricated.

grumpy cat

Grumpy cat was not impressed with the poorly photo-shopped spectacles.

Before you go out any by your cat some prescription glasses, it is worth noting that their eyesight is augmented by a superb directional sense of hearing, and by their whiskers – which are tactile hairs.

Cats’ whiskers are extremely sensitive to minute air currents and should never be cut. This is because the whiskers primary role is to act like a ruler to help the cat determine if it can fit through a narrow opening.

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5 thoughts on “Cat vision

    • By tapping your finger, you are ‘helping the cat’ to see the object – they struggle to see objects close up. This brings me on to something else interesting about cats – their ability to detect motion…

      Humans have the ability to see very slowly moving objects at speeds 10 times slower than cats (that is to say that we can see very slow things move that would not appear to be moving to a cat). The increase in rods in a cats eye also enhances their “refresh rate”, so that they can pick up movements much faster (helpful when dealing with small animals that change direction very quickly during a chase).

      Obviously some cats see differently to others, which explains why some cats will react to the television and others wont. The ones that don’t respond probably see a flashing sequence of still pictures. Other cats will have a lower threshold for detecting motion and will react to the TV.

      • Very interesting. My cat Chris paws at my computer screen even though there is nothing moving on it. Is he seeing something that I can’t see or is he just trying to get my attention?

      • Not sure – maybe it’s his reflection? Older cats normally dont always respond much to a mirror, though some clever ones will walk around the back of the mirror sometimes.

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