Can Cats See in the Dark?
Can cats see in the dark? We all know that cats have better vision than us humans in the dark, however, they cannot see in total darkness.
In semi-darkness their eyes have evolved to be very efficient with the available light, giving them far greater night vision than most animals.
As predominantly nocturnal hunters, this trait has helped cats for millennia.
Understanding How Cats See in the Dark
A cat is able to open the iris part of the eye very wide, this allows as much available light into the eye as possible, (very useful in low light situations).
The retina, which is the back of the eye is composed of light sensitive cells called rods and cones.
The rods magnify incoming light impulses. In a cat’s eye the amount of rods undertaking the magnifying process is far greater than that of a human eye.
In terms of number, humans only have 4 of every 5 light-sensitive cells acting as rods. A cat meanwhile has 25 out of 26 cells acting as light magnifying rods.
Where we would stumble about the dark feeling our way around with our hands, a cat is able to use their superior vision to see the world in far greater detail.
If this wasn’t enough, cats also have a reflective area in the back of their eyes called the ‘tapetum lucidum.’ (The famous inspiration for the cats eye that can be found imbedded in most asphalt roads across the western world).
This mirrored layer behind the retina gives incoming light two chances to hit the light sensitive rods. If you have been keeping count, that’s 25 out of 26 cells acting as rods, each with being bombarded by light entering the front of the eye and bouncing off the back – no small wonder a cats vision is so good in the dark.
Finally, a cats eye (in a healthy feline) is very strong. The eyeball is constructed from several layers of tissue, the white part being made from a tough fibrous tissue that is very rich in blood cells.
This network of cells brings in much needed oxygen and nutrients into the inner workings of the eye.
The cornea, which is the clear outer portion that covers the eye, has thin layers constructed in a way that is completely unique to cats. Light is able to pass through these cells, totally unaffected before hitting the retina.
Can Cats See in the Dark – Bottom Line
Clearly they can see in the dark, and they can see very well. However, there does need to be a at least a little light for their superior vision to work.
Ultimately, a cat’s eye is one of the complex miracles of nature and evolution. Placing all these physical attributes together and you have one highly developed, efficient seeing mechanism, allowing cats to have wonderful night vision with which to bring home the odd rodent for you to be greeted with in the morning.
A cats Vision demonstrated
Below are some images taken by Nickolay Lamm, that attempt to portray how a cat sees the world in both day and night, compared to us humans. Very fascinating indeed.
The top image is the way we see things in daylight. A Cat’s vision can be seen below. Note that their abundance in light sensitive rods means that their daytime eyesight is akin to an over exposed photograph. There is too much light for a cat’s eyes to handle.
At night on the other hand, and the cats vision comes into its own, (bottom). The low light is magnified to give a clear image of the surroundings. For humans, (top) very little detail can be seen in these conditions.