Can Cats See In The Dark?

Cats are very independent creatures and if you own a cat or cats, you’ll probably have noticed that your furry  feline friends like to get up and do things at nighttime more than in the day! 

Due to their nocturnal activities and the way their eyes are, some of us might be curious to know if cats can see in the dark – and if so, can they see well?

In this guide, we look at if cats can see in the dark, how well they can see and other handy kitty information for you to know!

So, let’s prowl into the details!

So, Is It True That Cats See Better At Night?

Well, not really. Although evolution has allowed our cat at night to see better when they’re out and about, they don’t see better at nighttime as opposed to daytime. 

Cat vision is very advanced when compared with ours and although our furry friend likes to go on nocturnal outings and play around after hours, they still see better, as we do, in the day. 

People often fall into the trap and think cats can see better in the dark because their eyes glow when light is shined on them in dark areas and shows a vertical pupil. This is simply due to a thin reflective layer that can assist in magnifying light in dark conditions. Cool right?

How Do We Differ Visually Then?

The largest difference between human vision and cats vision is in the retina. You see, the human retina is where the photoreceptors are – the cells that dictate to us day, night and peripheral vision respectively. 

These are divided by rods (for nighttime and peripherals) and cones (for daytime and colors). Our favorite kitty companions have many rod receptors but lack the same level of cones that we do.

This gives the cat an advantage of seeing things in the dark, but it can’t differentiate between colors as well as us, whereas we are the other way around! Most of us can understand and note colors, but we can’t see particularly well in the dark.

 It’s important that we note though that cats won’t be able to see anything when light has completely been removed from a room, so we are the same in that respect and the same applies to blindness – in that if a cat is blind or has visual impairment – they will struggle to see as we would. 

How Do Cats Perceive Things?

As we mentioned, cats don’t see colors as we do and are in fact color-blind to red and green which means they’ll likely see gray when these colors are available.

Even with this though, their eyes are excellent helpers to them. They can easily detect movement and can pounce on something instantly (or when they can get around to it!). 

This makes them ideal hunters in the world as they can see speeds of up to 4 mm per second! So, this will explain if you’ve ever played with your cat and moved one of their toys around – they’ll pounce on it!

Although, having said   are actually mid-sighted. In other words, they’re not purrfect at seeing things from too close or too far away.

This is part of the reason they have evolved to have whiskers, so they can detect something that is close by.

They’re also a way for a cat to know if they’ll be able to fit into small spaces or not, and they’re very sensitive!

Cats’ sight is best off when an item is less than 200 feet away but more than 20 feet away, although their peripherals are better than ours, and they can detect things 30 degrees on each side of them, whereas humans are around 20 degrees. 

Are There Other Ways That A Cat Can Sense Things Better?

Most of us will know that our senses work together for us to fully comprehend and understand our surroundings. 

Cats are no exception to this rule. Their sense of smell is said to be around 15 times stronger than ours and likely to be stronger than your favorite pups’ sense of smell too!

In fact, cats have a special organ in their mouths that allows them to smell and taste at the same time much better than we can.

We can actually see them using this organ sometimes. Ever noticed your cat (or a big cat on a documentary!) opening their mouths and moving their tongue around? This is them absorbing all the power from this sense.

Kitties also have a phenomenal sense of hearing too and can detect pitches that are way beyond us. This helps them detect their prey in the wild and listen out for potential dangers. At home, we hope this will help us out! 

With all of these sensory boosts, there’s no wonder why cats are considered one of the best hunters and survival experts in the world, along with being the most adorable!

So, Why Do Cats Go Out More At Night?

This is less to do with their vision and more to do with their habits. They are crepuscular creatures which means they are far more active at nighttime or at dawn. 

However, it’s been theorized that cats also learn the patterns of their owners. So, if you’re at work all day and come home at the evening time or at night, they’ll likely be active when you return (probably for food!). 

Additionally though, there are some animals that cats consider easy prey, and they are more active at night – and with fewer cars out and less human activity, they can hunt much easier. 


Cats can certainly see in the dark, but they cannot see better in the dark than they can in the day. They are usually more active at night or in dark times, but that’s not really connected to their visionary capabilities!

Courtney Trent
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