Eye of the [tiny] Tiger

The true mysteries of those glowing, spooky, amazing eyes!

Why do cats’ eyes glow at night? Why don’t ours? And do they see as well as we do during the day?

Ever notice how your cat spots something from across the room that you were not expecting him or her to detect? For example, that shine off your cell phone, pointing in a completely different direction? You aren’t wrong for noticing! Your cat can actually see a wider field of view than you can! That peripheral vision-all the better to catch you with, little mousey in the corner, my dear!

Cats are Crepuscular! Maybe you have never heard that word before but I am sure you have heard (or know from being personally woken up at 2 am) that cats are active at dawn and dusk! Their night vision comes in quite handy for the 2 am crazies, running rampant down the long halls while us humans try to snooze. They actually have more rod cells in their eyes, allowing them to be more keen to dim light and to sense motion more readily in the dark. Fascinating!

Although your feline friend has an elliptical eye shape with larger corneas allowing them to see objects in the night super well, we have one up on them when it comes to those colors of the rainbow. You and I (sorry if you are color-blind, this won’t quite be the same for you) can see many more colors than our feline friends.

Time for a quick science lesson for some background! I suppose you can skip this section if you are a rod and cone and retina and pupil and eye expert! (Although is anyone an expert in all of those things for both humans AND cats?)
1. The reason we can see more colors of the rainbow compared to our kitties is that our detail vision is better than theirs. We have an area in our eyes dedicated solely to cones, while cats do not, giving us about 10 times the amount of cones as cats. This makes it possible for us to see better in bright lights and detect more light than cats. The multiple types of cones allow us to see a plethora of colors. Although not entirely colorblind, most people believe cats can see tones of reds and greens.

2. Light enters through our pupils, which may allow more or less light in by changing size. Our cats have a pupil that can get much larger in size than ours, letting in more light. However, because of this intriguing feature of the cat eye, we have a much better depth perception than our kitty friends. The vertical slit their eyes can maneuver themselves into is advantageous for day and night but does not allow purrfect focus.
Through the pupil, to the lens! Light is assembled and focused by the lens of our eyes. Cats have a larger lens than humans, allowing more light to be gathered. Because our lens is smaller, we (humans) can focus on close objects easily while cats have more difficulty in this sense. I suppose cats and humans’ eyes become more alike in this department when we reach our mid-40s or so (you know the age you or your parents probably started to need reading glasses).
4. The retina, a light-sensitive layer of tissue, which lines the back of the eye, is like the film of the camera but of our eyes. In this case, light striking the retina –> chemical and electrical interactions –> nerve impulses –> sent to the brain –> we see stuff. Cats’ retinas are larger than ours (in body size comparison). Cats aren’t nearsighted or farsighted. Both, us human folks and our feline friends, have two different types of receptors in our retinas. These differences allow for variance in sampling grain. Cats have highly reflective cells in their eyes making it appear as if they glow in the dark, although this is technically not the case. [It sure seems like it though!] Most cats’ eyes will glow a greenish tint, with the exception of some breeds.

Aren’t animals such fascinating creatures? All of these characteristics God gave them are truly amazing.

As you have learned, we do share some similar features of our eyes with those of our kitties! However, our eyes are also quite different and play a huge role in both of our lives. Remember not to get upset next time your cat is sprinting the halls at 2 am. After all, this is his or her prime time of day!


Maybe soon we can discuss that sense of smell! I don’t know about your cat or cats you know, but Captain can smell popcorn from 5 bajillion feet away. Here he is after finding the source of the scrumptious smell:


Much of the information for this particular post comes from a combination of personal knowledge and research. Much of the information used here is backed by Live Science, so be sure to visit their website to learn more!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a cat-tastic week!


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