Do cats see better in the dark?

Cats cannot see in total darkness but compared to us humans, these feline friends can see much better in semi darkness.

Cats are often viewed as mysterious animals. Cats are claimed to have 9 lives. Cats are as well believed to have the ability to see in total darkness. It is commonly believed that the eerie glow in the dark eyes of cats is the very reason why they can see in the dark. Studies have proven that this is not true. Just as with humans, cats too will be incapacitated by total darkness. People that have noticed the cats’ nimble movements even in very low light would argue. Why do cats unerringly find their prey even in almost total darkness? Cats do not go bumping in the night when they chase their prey. Remember the amazing cat whiskers? Cats have an incredible ability to navigate in the dark because the whiskers serve as a highly efficient radar system. Airflow will vary if there is an obstruction in the cat’s path. Cats do not have the ability to see in total darkness and they do not have an extraordinary daytime vision either. Cats are nocturnal animals. A cat that has been sleeping all day would be very active at night to catch a prey. Nature has gifted cats with the kind of eyesight that will be most useful when they hunt at night. Compared to human vision, cats’ eyesight can be considered amazing in a lot of ways.

Cats need only about 1/6 of the illumination humans need to be able to see. This means that cats can see in very low levels of light. Why? Cats’ eyes have a rather unique structure. Have you noticed how the iris of the cat would narrow and then widen again at different times of the day? At noon, the pupils would be one narrow vertical slit. This is the cats’ way of filtering bright light. At night time or in the dark, the pupils would widen to let in more light. The eye has two types of cells – rods and cones. We humans have lots of cones but few rods. The opposite is true with cats. Cones are cells that function better in bright light. Rods, on the other hand, are retinal cells that are designed to work best in dim lights. As cats have more rods and fewer cones, these animals can see much better in the dark. Another reason why cat can see better in semi darkness is because they have a reflective layer behind the retina called tapetum lucidum. This reflective layers that is made up of 15 types of cells is the reason why cats’ eyes can at times take on a silvery-green color and glow in the dark. There is nothing magical if the eyes of the cat on the wayside suddenly become shiny green orbs. It is possible that the headlight of the car has entered the eyes and reflected by the tapetum lucidum. Cats would benefit even from the smallest ray of light. When light enters the cat’s eyes, it can either hit or miss a rod. In humans, if the light did not hit a rod it will be absorbed by the black layer at the back of the retina. This is not so with cats as light that did not hit a rod, it will be reflected by the tapetum lucidum and bounced to hit a rod. Because cats have more rods, the chance that the light will hit one is great.

The captivating eyes of cats have fascinated lovers and non-lovers of these animals. Science have managed to explain why cats have better night vision. Nothing is mystical in the cat’s eyes after all.