Can Cats See in the Dark?

 Cats are pretty much four-legged super heroes, so it’s no wonder they have a whole load of myths and superstitions surrounding them. Some are pretty easy to spot as being fake news, like having nine lives and always landing on their feet. However, others are somewhat more believable, like being able to see in the dark. Sadly, the truth is that they can’t see in total darkness. However, in comparison to the other tales, this one actually has some substance to it. Here’s the truth behind the question…

The truth behind cats being able to see in the dark

Whilst not being able to see in total darkness, cats do have pretty impressive vision. This great eyesight really all stems from their wild ancestors, who as crepuscular creatures, would go out hunting in the early or late hours. It was therefore a great advantage to be able to see in low lit conditions, hence their eyes have some funky adaptations to cope.

Cats eyes

Cats have much larger corneas and pupils, than us mere muggles, allowing roughly 50% more light into their eyes. They’re also able to expand their pupils wider than we can, perfect for those moonlit nights. It’s not just the size that counts, but the shape. You might have noticed your kitty has vertically slit pupils. A feature they have in common with other smaller ambush predators. This is believed to help them judge the distance between their prey, and actually alter the intensity of light falling onto their retina. Finally, cats have more receptors (rods) in their eyes than we do, making them more sensitive to light.

All of these combined mean your kitty can see up to eight times better than you can!

It's never really pitch black

The second reason we might think they can see in the dark is because it’s never really properly dark in the modern world. Whether they’re in your house or out prowling the street, there’s practically always a light on somewhere. So, whilst you might think it looks pitch black, their eyes are just able to make the most of what light is there.

can cats see in the dark

Are cats scared of the dark?

Some are fearless felines and others get freaked by a gust of wind (we love you Boo Boo!) but how do cats get on in the dark. Now that we’ve uncovered our kitty’s don’t have the super power of night vision, are they afraid of the dark?

Just like humans, it’s hard to give a hard no or hard yes to this question, as all kitty’s are unique and have had different experiences. If they’ve experienced something nasty at night in the dark, this could form a negative connection with darkness. 

Other factors could cause your kitty to fear the dark include moving to a new house, if there are aggressive dogs (or worse) outside or loud noises.

Signs that your kitty is scared include crying, dilated pupils, sweaty paws, and an increased heart beat. So if you notice any of these around “lights off” time, it would be a good idea to keep a night light on.

Five fun facts to finish

  • Cats can’t see the colours red or green, seeing these colours as grey instead. 
  • Cats can see objects moving at four mm per second - all the better for catching that mousey with!
  • Cats have better peripheral vision than we do, and can see about 200 degrees (compared to our mere 180 degrees)
  • Cats have not one, not two, but THREE eye lids 
  • You can communicate with your cat via slow blinking. Have a go now and see what your kitty does! 


You might be interested in reading:

  1. Why does my cat snore?
  2. The truth about high protein cat food
  3. Can cats eat dog food?

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