How can Cats see in the dark

How can Cats see in the Dark | Amazing Ability of Cats

Cats are carnivores and usually prefer to hunt at night due to their capability to see during the night hour. Do you want to find out how your cat creeps out of bedtime? Do cats have special night sight ability? Well, the thing is they possess an adaptation for night preying and hunting.

They are naturally nocturnal animals, which means that they see during the day and are also active at night. Cats can see well even with less amount of light.

However, cats cannot see in total darkness. They can see in dim light environments. While cats cannot see divergent objects in the dark, the photoreceptors coming from their eyes become activated by the light reflecting from the objects. This is why most animals cannot see in total darkness.

Cats possess some features that enable their sensitivity to a small amount of light at night. To learn about how your cat has the potential ability to see at night, scroll through this article to acquire this vital knowledge!

How can Cats see in the dark

How Does a Cat's Eye Work?

A cat’s eye function is similar to those of humans. When bright light tries to enter the eye, the pupil located at the middle part of the eye seems to get smaller to help reduce the amount of light trying to pass into the eye, reversely, the pupil appears to expand in the dark to increase the amount of light going into the eye.

Once the light enters the eye, it moves in the back of the eye to stimulate the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that is more sensitive to light and is located at the back lining-layer of the eye.

The pupil is found in the iris, the cat’s pupil is vertical and slits shaped, a slit-shaped pupil has more flexibility over its pupil size, which allows the eyes to see at bright daylight and night time.

The Iris/ Pupil Mechanism

The iris is the part of the cat’s eye, which is colored, which can open up very wide to welcome in a lot of light. A cat’s eye has a thin pupil that is vertical and has high light conditions.

This mechanism is why if dim light enters a cat’s eye, the eyes are not affected or harmed. The pupils quickly turn round in the dark. The pupil, however, covers almost 90% of each eye.

Studies and experts say that the round pupils don’t change shape as fast as the vertical pupils. Wild animals like lions, leopards, and tigers have round pupils while home cats have vertical pupils.

Features of the Cat's Eye- Retina in Cats

The retina is the light-sensitive part of the eye, made up of neurons with several functions. One of these neurons is a light-sensitive photoreceptor cell that converts light into signals.

The two types of photoreceptors include

  • The Rod Cells
  • The Cone Cells

The Rod Cells

The Rod Cells are stimulated during low light conditions and provide objects shape perception and while and black vision.

The Cone Cells

The Con Cells, however, are stimulated during high light conditions and also can provide color vision.

A cat’s retina possesses rods six or eight times more than the Rod Cells in a human’s retina. It is the reason why a cat’s eye is more sensitive to low light conditions.

Three Adaptive Functions of the Cat's Eye (Vision)

  1. Particular retina 
  2. Tapetum lucidum
  3. Vertical pupil

An advanced adaptive feature of the cat’s eye is the tapetum lucidum located behind the retina and forms the flat cells’ linings. The flattened cells contain zinc- proteins that are composed of a cluster of crystals. The tapetum lucidum reflects and directs light to the retina, enabling limited light to enter the retina after reflection. 

Mechanism of Tapetum Lucidum

Generally, the eyes are built to take in light. The cat’s eye is, of course, no exception. The shape of the cornea is rounded, which helps to focus and capture light rays, just as the eye is fixed in the face, it permits a 200 degrees field view. Cats don’t blink to lubricate their eyes.

A cat’s eye is built to collect light. The cornea’s rounded shape helps capture and focus light, eye placement on the face allows for a 200° field of view, and cats don’t have to blink to lubricate their eyes. However, the two factors giving cats the advantage at night are the tapetum lucidum and light receptors’ composition on the retina.

In summary, the tapetum lucidum is a reflecting layer that covers the retina; it acts as a small mirror that reflects the light in the retina to another spot when the cat eyes are full with much light.

A can see in the dark because of the light reflection with tapetum lucidum, don’t think your cat has some powers that make them see in low light conditions, it is merely due to their sight mechanism.

Few vertebrates such as birds and fishes possess the tapetum lucidum. Although it is not present in humans, that is why humans can’t see in the dark like cats and other vertebrates would. While you are sleeping, your cat would be out of bed hunting and playing in the night. This is normal for them.

Cats Eye Structure

Cats have similar eye structures like humans, but some structural differences make a cat’s eye different.

In both humans and cats, light passes into the cornea. The pupil is refracted and focuses on the retina. Therefore the structure of the cat eye is almost the same as humans. In this way, cats have a clearer vision at night than humans.

Cats also have other light-sensitive structures in the makeup of their eyes; cats have a unique mirror-like layer in the back of their eyes.

When there is not much light in the room, this mirror reflects any available light towards the front of the cat’s eyes, which makes the cats see more than twice the reflected light.

A cat’s eye is significant compared to the size of their head. The white part of their eye is not visible because their iris covers it. They can see clearly in low light because they can extend their pupils much more than us.

What Type of Color can Cats see?

The rods cells in cats have made their eyes sensitive to light; they don’t have enough cons cell receptors.

Cones are commonly known as eye color receptors; some studies and scientists believe cats have a similar number of cones like humans.

Cats can see colors, but their colors are not bright or as varied as the type of colors humans see.

They see colors such as yellow and blue, while the green color seems to be grey in their eyes. Their ability to see different colors are limited.

Cats Amazing Vision

Cats can see at exactly 300 degrees around their heads. Each cat’s eye sees about 160 to 300 degrees, with almost 130 degrees overlap. Cats can also detect swift movements that make them catch mice easily.

All you need to know about your Cat's Vision

  • Cats don’t see in the dark, but they can see a seven times dimmer light than the type of low light humans can understand.
  • Humans can’t detect ultraviolet range because they appear dark, unlike cats, they can catch ultraviolet rays.
  • For cats to see a dim light, they have more rods then the cones.

What other ways do Cats see in the Dark?


Cats possess a helping aid to their ability to see well in the dark, and guess what? It’s their whiskers. The whiskers are interlocked to the nerves, which are quite sensitive to movement or any ray of light reflected by a cat. Whiskers can detect even the slightest breeze.

Cats have their whiskers protruding forward when the whiskers come in contact with an object; the cat already knows it’s there and avoids it. This enables cats to walk through bushes, grasses, and rooms during the nights’ darkest hours; they run through objects they don’t see.

Aside from the photoreceptors and cats adaptation for keen eyesight, a cat has other senses that aid its view during the dark; it is termed ‘bat echolocation.’

There is an absence of muscles that change the shape of the eye’s lens in cats. However, they do not see as clear as you can; they depend on the whiskers that detect the slightest vibrations in its surroundings.

In the dark, when a cat’s toy or prey is close, it may be so close that the cat may not be able to see; with the cat’s whiskers, it pulls forward, forming a web-like structure to track the toy or prey’s movement.

Hearing Aid

Cats use the ability to hear to understand their surroundings. The comparison between a cat and a human’s hearing ability is ‘fair.’ However, cats hear pitches as high as 67GHz, which is five or more times higher than a dog’s ability to understand. Cats protrude their ears to find out the exact origin of sounds that they come across.

Sensing Smell

Cats also use the sense of smell to study and understand their environment. The feline olfactory epithelium (nose) has several receptors than humans as many receptors as that of a human.

Ultimately, everything about a cat’s sensitivity supports the capability to see at dawn and dusk, although they come close to having a better view during the dark.

Cats cannot see any better in a room than we can in a dark place. Still, they can see more clearly than we can at light levels when our eyes become useless. Their eyes have a reflective layer of cells below the right receptors; a particle of light called a proton misses a light receptor on it’s in the eye.

It is reflected through the light receptor cells and gets the second chance to register. This reflective layer of compartments makes it look like your cat’s eyes are glowing in the dark. The excellent variety and ability of sight that we find in creatures perfectly fit each of the lifestyles it needs.


Cats are predators, and they see clearly at dusk, dawn, or night; their ability to see at night is an adaptation to their survival in the wild.

Most cat owners keep the question going, Can cats see in the dark? Your questions and thoughts have been pulled up here. Cats don’t see in total darkness, but they need some light for them to know. They see the light six times as low as the type of light humans can dictate.

The tapetum is a typical reason why a cat’s eye will color green when you flash a light on its eyes or take a photo of it with the flashlight.

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