Cats are fascinating, enigmatic animals. They share our homes, our lives and our daily routines, giving us comfort and friendship even while they maintain a certain independence. Their beautiful, graceful physiques and slightly aloof attitude make them agile, ruthless hunters and paradoxically calming companions. The eyes, they say, are windows to the soul. Yet cat eyes have been the source of much speculation, superstition and even fear throughout history.
Contrary to what some may believe, in fact cats cannot see in total darkness; they do see very well in low-light situations. A cats’ vision is blurrier than a human's, but cats can perceive a wider field -- 200 degrees of peripheral vision, compared to humans' 180 degrees. Another reason cat vision is so good in the dark is because of the “mirror layer” behind their retina, which reflects the light absorbed by the eye.
A cats’ eyesight is sharpest at a distance of two to three feet from its face, and its focus is at the center more so than on the entire background. That said, a fleeting motion across a cat’s field of vision is more detectable from the periphery than something coming straight towards it. They are superb at detecting subtle movements and changes in lighting, which is a helpful adaption to hone in on scurrying prey or small moving objects.
It is thought that a cat’s ability to see color is similar to that of a color-blind human. Their color recognition is limited to muted shades of blue, green and yellow, while reds and pinks are not readily discernible. Cat’s do not see the same hues and color saturations as we do, though they are very good at seeing different shades of gray.
Cats are nocturnal hunters; their vertical pupil allows them to fine-tune their night vision so they can see even the smallest movements and capture prey for survival. The pupil controls how much light passes through the eye, much like a camera. A cat’s pupil can dilate enough to cover almost the entire iris and may expand up to 135 times its size. The human eye is more limited; our pupils expand up to only about 15 times their size. Cats can absorb nine times more light than humans can, explaining why they see so much better in the dark.
Although cats have superb vision, their sense of hearing is even sharper and highly sophisticated. According to Animal Planet, "A cat can pinpoint a sound from up to three feet away to within a few inches -- in a mere six one-hundredths of a second. Cats also can hear sounds at great distances and also can detect the tiniest variances in sound, distinguishing differences of as little as one-tenth of a tone, which helps them identify the type and size of their prey just by sound alone."
In 2018, there was an estimated average of 1.8 cats per household in the United States. With so many cats in our lives, it's a good idea to ensure that their eyes (and ears) stay healthy. Here are some tips to help you check your cat's eyes, especially if you're new to caring for a cat:
- If your cat's eyes show an unusual discharge or pus, the discharge could be a sign of an upper respiratory infection. Frequent pawing around the eye means discomfort. A visit to the vet could be helpful if the condition persists more than a few days.
- Red and swollen eyes indicate pink eye, accompanied by pus discharge. Take your cat to the vet. Pink eye can be contagious, so best to nip it in the bud.
- If your cat prowls outdoors, it can get into cat fights and other critter attacks. A scratched cornea ignored for too long can lead to infection and, in extreme cases, could permanently damage your pet's eye.
- Cats also get allergies that affect their eyes, just like humans.
- FIV , FeLV, FIP, and even feline herpes can cause eye problems. Your vet may consider these possibilities if your cat’s eyes exhibit symptoms.
- A white cat with blue eyes is rare and although it may have perfect vision, there is a higher chance it could go deaf.
If you're a cat owner, you may want to learn more about the phenomenon of feline deafness - here's a great cat resource to read and follow at Pretty Litter's website: https://prettylitter.com/blogs/prettylitter-blog/understanding-cat-congenital-sensorineural-deafness
Consider giving your cat a treat during the hot summer months. Pawlieshop offers a treat called catnip candy that encourages it to drink more water, always a good idea to prevent potential dehydration and dry eyes.