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Cat senses – how does the world look like for a cat?

Cat senses – how does the world look like for a cat?

How animals see the world? It’s always been a mystery for us – especially cats’ eyes were a matter of interest. Green, blue or yellow irises attract attention and mesmerise, but our understanding of feline vision is still incomplete. How what they see is different from what we see? How do they see colours? Are they really able to see in the dark?

Let’s take a look at a cat’s eye

The main elements of the eye structure in cats are almost the same as in humans – their cornea, iris and lenses have the same functions as ours. However, the presence of some additional elements is what makes their sight different. One of the most “eye-catching” and characteristic features of a cat’s eye is their unique pupil. The main function of the pupil is to control the amount of light getting to the eye. A pupil constricts and dilates depending on the intensity of light, protecting the sensitive structures of a cat’s eye. The third eyelid, called nictitating membrane, provides additional protection against debris and dust – it also helps to moisten the cornea.

How do cats see colours?

The world our cats see is undoubtedly less colourful than ours. It is due to the difference in the number of photoreceptors – the cones – responsible for colour perception. Cats have far less cones than humans which means that the colours they see are not so intense. It’s been proven that cats can see the world mostly in blue, purple, yellow and green hues, while red is practically non-existent in their vision. However, their rods – the photoreceptors sensitive to shapes and movement – are what we should really focus on. A cat’s retina has much more rods than a human one. The large quantity of rods makes cat’s vision a perfect sense for hunting – they can instantly react when an object is moving while any trouble with colour perception is not an obstacle in catching their prey. According to the research, cats have wider visual field of view compared to humans – a feature further enhancing their predator skills.

Night vision – truth or myth?

It’s been a common belief that the unique structure of a cat’s eye enables them to see in the dark while their irises glow with a characteristic golden-green hue. However, the ability to move easily at night cats owe mostly to the right proportion of the receptors in retina and the presence of tapentum lucidum. This membrane responsible for “the effect of glowing eyes,” reflects the visible light back through the retina, increasing cats’ ability to see in poor lighting. Yet, to reflect on how cats see in the dark we need to understand that, in fact, they don’t see at all. They rely mostly on their superior hearing and unfailing vibrissae.

Take care of your cat’s eyes

Even though our cats seem to know what’s best for them when it comes to hygiene, it’s important to inspect their eyes from time to time. A good option is to gently cleanse the eye area using disposable, lint-free wipes and a mild, moistening product. It could help not only to remove dust and debris but also to reduce skin irritation. Natural, plant-based products should be the best choice. If you have a long-haired cat, you’ll also need to watch out for the irritation of the cornea caused by their fur.

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