Have you ever wondered what the world looks like to your cat?
Veterinarians, animal ophthalmologists and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s ophthalmology group provided insight for this article and the accompanying images, which show how scenes look to us humans and to our feline friends.
The images are striking and show the relative strengths and weaknesses of feline vision. While cats see the world in muted colors and in less acuity than typical humans, they make up for it with their astounding night vision and their ability to instantly detect motion within their visual fields.
This image shows feline night vision at work thanks to the tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue that acts as a retroreflector, increasing the amount of light that makes it to the photoreceptors in cats’ eyes. The tapetum lucidum is best known as the reflective “lens” that makes cat eyes appear to glow in the dark:
This image shows the trade-off compared to human vision. Cat eyes have a wider field of view, seen below, but they don’t pick up reds or greens, and their overall vision is blurry compared to average human eyesight, represented in the top image:
Night vision and extreme visual sensitivity to movement are important to cats as crepuscular hunters, allowing them to spot prey in low light conditions and to negate advantages from natural camouflage, as motion gives away the presence of prey animals.
Cats have a slightly wider visual field than people do, at approximately 200 degrees compared to the human 180 degrees, while most cats have between 20/100 and 20/200 vision. (That’s much better than Big Buddy sans glasses, whose 20/600 vision enables him to see blurry, colorful shapes and not much else. No wonder Little Buddy likes to torture his human by swiping his glasses.)
Of course, these images do not entirely account for how cats see the world, which is why I’ve created my own image. Behold a Buddy’s Eye View, showing how the world — and humans — look to him: