Can Cats See Color? Which Ones?

Written by Angie Menjivar
Published: April 25, 2022
Image Credit Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/Shutterstock.com
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Can cats see color? Can they make out the bright redness of an apple? Just like you get lost in the eyes of a person you love, it’s easy to lose time looking into the eyes of your beloved kitty—especially when you get the slow blink. Slow blinks melt hearts. But have you wondered what they see when they look at you? Do they perceive your accent wall the same way you do? What about their toys? Are they visually stimulating for them based on color or are cats more inclined to perceive motion? Many cat parents don’t realize that cats have different eyesight than them. You probably know how great their night vision is—especially when they’re hiding behind a corner as you make your way to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night. They sure know how to give you a good scare!

Although curiosity is attributed to cats, it’s also a thing for humans. Learning more about your cat’s vision can help you select visually stimulating toys to enhance their enjoyment. You may even notice that certain colors you wear affect how your cat engages with you. Below, we explain the difference between human vision and cat vision, cover what colorblindness is, and explain how we know cats aren’t colorblind. We help you understand the colors cats can see and itemize a few perfectly-colored toys to add to your kitty’s entertainment arsenal. We also give you some insight into how well cats see at night and just how far their vision spans.

Human Vision vs. Cat Vision: Can Cats See Color?

There’s one primary difference between human vision and cat vision. This difference relates to the retina, which is the tissue in the back of your eye that houses photoreceptors. Photoreceptors are the cells that respond to light. These photoreceptors then transform rays of light into electrical signals. Those electrical impulses are then processed by nerve cells and those signals inform the brain what images are being viewed.

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It’s a bit technical, but it’s important you understand some basics before we can answer the question “can cats see color?” There are two types of these photoreceptor cells. For one, there are rods, which are used for both night vision and peripheral vision. These rods help with identifying the different shades of gray and brightness. Cones are the second type of photoreceptor cells. These, on the other hand, are specifically for detecting color and for use during the day.

We bet you can guess which ones you have more of. Since you’re better able to perceive color during the day and you can be quite blind at night, you have more cone receptors than you do rod receptors. With cats, it’s the opposite. They can see better at night than they can during the day, meaning they have more rod receptors than they do cone receptors.

One of the other primary differences between human vision and cat vision is the visual field. You know how adept cats are at detecting even the slightest movements, so it makes sense that they have a wider visual field than humans. Your cat can see something out of the corner of her eye better than you would be able to. The difference isn’t substantial, but it is enough for cats to have an advantage. Typically, the human visual field is about 180 degrees while cats’ visual field is about 200 degrees.

Although cats have a wider visual field, their visual acuity is far less than that of humans. For example, you may be standing 100 feet from an object that you can see clearly if you have 20/20 vision. Your cat is unable to see the same object as you at that range. Your cat needs to be significantly closer to the object to make it out. That means your cat has significantly more blurry vision than you do when it comes to identifying objects from a long distance.

Okay, so can cats see color? Although your cat has more rod receptors than cone receptors, that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate color. She doesn’t live in a world of just the shades of gray. In fact, cats’ vision can be compared to the vision of a color blind person. Reds and pinks don’t really register for cats but shades of blue and green do. Even purple may appear more like a blue hue for cats. While cats can detect colors like blue, green, and yellow, they don’t experience these colors with the same richness that humans do.

Although cats don’t experience the vibrancy of colors in the way humans do, their eyes are perfectly suited for their hunting instincts. Their eyes are set on the sides of their heads, which means they have a broader range of peripheral vision. Human eyes are in the center of the head, which allows for greater far-reaching vision. Cats may not have the same depth perception as humans, but this wider range of peripheral vision gives them an advantage for detecting movement when hunting, especially at night.

What is Colorblindness?

In humans, color blindness refers to an often inherited condition that limits the perception of colors. Sometimes, color blindness is due to medication or eye diseases. When colorblind, the person is unable to distinguish between different shades of colors like red and green. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for inherited color blindness; however, if the color blindness has been caused by some other health issue, by treating the health issue, the ability to perceive all colors may return.

There are three different types of color blindness. There is the color blindness which refers to the inability to distinguish between red and green and there is a second type which is the inability to distinguish between blue and yellow. However, there is a third type of color blindness which is significantly rarer. This type of color blindness is complete color blindness, meaning the person is unable to perceive any color at all.

How We Know Cats Aren’t Colorblind

Ultimately, we know cats aren’t colorblind because of their eye structure. Just like we discussed before, the cones and rod receptors are what help us determine what cats can see. Since cats have fewer cones than humans, we know their ability to perceive the spectrum of colors is limited. You know cats have more rod receptors in their eye structure, which is what makes them such skillful hunters at night. You know how your cat’s eyes light up at night with that unmistakable glow? That’s because they have a layer of tissue behind the retina that reflects light back. This is all part of the structure that helps them detect motion and see in the dark.

What Colors Do Cats See?

There is still some debate between veterinarians and scientists when it comes to understanding specifically what colors cats can see. In one school of thought, it’s believed that cats’ vision is limited to colors like blue and gray. However, many other scientists and veterinarians believe that a cat’s vision is quite like the vision of dogs, meaning they can perceive yellow. Therefore, it’s commonly believed that cats can perceive blue and yellow along with different shades of gray.

Best Cat Toys for Your Cat

You may be looking around your home wondering what your cat sees. Take a look at her toys and consider what you may add to better stimulate her vision. Below, we share some bright yellow and blue toys that not are not only visually appealing, but that offer a mix of entertainment and comfort.

FiGoal Shake and Turntable Cat Toy with Plush Moving Fish

This bright yellow toy is equipped with three balls that run across a tumbler double track. It also comes with an automatic moving fish toy as a fun extra your cat can enjoy. The top of this toy has a bouncy wand and a yellow ball your cat can play with. You can also switch the ball out for a soft feather toy, depending on what your kitty prefers. The toy itself is designed to be alluring to your cat and the yellow color makes it even more attractive to your kitty.

On the double tracks, there are several balls, each designed uniquely to keep your cat intrigued. There is a glowing ball, a catnip ball, and a table tennis ball—all of which are sure to keep your kitty’s interest. The product is weighted at the bottom to keep from toppling over. Just let your kitty enjoy it whenever she needs a little extra stimulation. It’ll bring forth your kitty’s senses and hunting instincts (and will help keep her little claws from damaging your furniture or other human items!). Overall, this is a great toy that gives your cat an emotional boost, improves her intelligence, and is literally eye-catching to draw her in.

Best Overall
FiGoal Shake and Turntable Cat Toy
  • This set includes three balls that run on a tumbler double track
  • Also includes a moving fish toy
  • Features a bouncy wand with a yellow ball on top
  • The color yellow is attractive to cats
  • Will engage your cat's natural hunting instinct
Check Amazon

Cat Tunnel with Central Mat for Cat

This yellow cat tunnel with a central mat is absolutely purrfect for your cat. The tunnel measures 98” in length and has a 9.8” diameter. Soft and durable, it has a circular window with a hanging toy where your cat can enjoy the view from inside the tunnel. Connect it on either end and your cat has a round tunnel and a comfy place to lounge right in the center.  

If you have a multi-cat home, this is a large enough design that allows ample space for them to cuddle and play together. We tested this product and couldn’t even get it zipped up all the way before our fluffy friend was all in. She explored thoroughly and spent some time in the tunnel, hiding out and looking out at us from the circular window. Overall, it’s well-made, appeals to cats with a bright yellow design, and the versatility makes it feel like we got a two-for-one deal.

Best Cat Tunnel
Cat Tunnel with Central Mat
  • The yellow color will appeal to your cat
  • Soft and durable
  • Features a circular window with a hanging toy
  • Large enough to accommodate multiple cats
  • The ends can be connect to make the tunnel circular
Check Amazon

AUOON Cat Scratcher Toy

Cats love to scratch and as a cat owner, you know how important it is to provide plenty of scratching toys—before your kitty sharpens her claws on all your furniture! This blue scratcher toy has a textured scratchpad in the center that lasts a long time and that can be replaced when it’s worn out. Around the textured scratchpad is a circular track that holds a small ball. When your cat paws at it, the ball moves around the track, increasing your cat’s interest in the moving object.

Aside from the scratchpad and the rolling ball, there’s a mouse swatter attached to this toy that allows your kitty to swat at an interactive toy that bounces back with each little kitty punch. This toy is designed to stimulate your kitty’s dexterity, stamina, intelligence, and skills. By nature, cats love to pounce and catch their prey—in this case, the small ball and mouse toy mimic their prey. They can enjoy hours of playtime on this toy! Plus, since it’s blue, they’re more drawn to it than if it were any other color they don’t see as well.

Best Scratcher Cat Toy
AUOON Cat Scratcher Toy
  • Has a textured scratchpad
  • The scratchpad is replaceable
  • A track with a ball encircles the scratchpad
  • Cats are able to see the color blue, so they will be even more attracted to the toy
  • Will engage your cat's hunting instinct
Check Amazon

Kittio Wild Tumbler – 4X Replacement Feather Attachments Included – Fun Interactive Cat Toy

You know cats love a good feather toy but sometimes you’re in the middle of juggling all your responsibilities and you can’t dedicate the time your kitty needs to engage with a handheld feather wand. While this toy can’t replace the human-to-cat interaction, it does offer your kitty an automated, interactive way to play. This toy is designed with a weighted base that has a feather toy protruding from the center. The feather moves about unpredictably in a random and enticing way to keep your kitty guessing and pouncing.

The product comes with four real feather replacements because cats can get feisty! Even if you’re pulled away during playtime, you can still give your kitty the physical exercise and mental stimulation she needs. With the ability to catch the feather toy, this toy satisfies your kitty’s natural hunting instincts. Let this run on its own or use the remote control to engage with your kitty and add another level of unpredictability and fun to it. The base is a dark blue and the feather is light blue, which means it’s sure to catch your kitty’s eye.  

Best Interactive Cat Toy
Kittio Wild Tumbler
  • This automated toy will engage your cat when you're unable to play
  • Comes with four real feather replacements
  • Satisfies your cat's hunting instincts
  • Includes remote control to add another level of unpredictability to the fun
  • Blue is a color that your cat can see, so it will engage them visually
Check Amazon

Pet Food Treat Dispenser

For good measure, we had to throw in a green cat toy, considering your kitty may be able to perceive blue, yellow, and green. This treat dispenser toy offers a slow feeding mechanism that can keep your kitty entertained and rewarded. It has a helicopter design, and it rolls around on wheels. To use, just unscrew the top cover of the feeder, fill it with whatever snacks you choose, secure it closed, and let your cat at it! Your cat can start off by pawing and nudging the toy until she discovers that treats are dispensed. It’ll soon become your cat’s favorite pastime activity. It’s designed to improve your cat’s intelligence while also reducing obesity because it requires that she interact with the toy before getting treats or kibbles.

This dispenser toy is made with high-quality, food-grade ABS material. It’s non-toxic and doesn’t have any taste. Bite-resistant and wear-resistant, your kitty can enjoy this for a long time to come. It’s equipped with a self-balancing system, which allows it to be shaken up but never knocked over. One of our testers tried this with four recently adopted kittens that need toys to keep them busy. The helicopter moves around the room on wheels and the kittens go crazy tapping at it to get the treats to dispense. She tried several gadgets at once and this one quickly became her favorite, seeing how entertained her new kittens are.

Best Food Dispenser Toy
66% Cat Pet Food Treat Dispenser Toy
  • This treat dispenser features a slow-feeding mechanism
  • Helicopter design rolls around
  • Your cat will receive treats for interacting with the feeder/toy
  • Made of durable, high-quality, food-grade ABS material
  • Bite-resistantand wear-resistant
Check Amazon

can cats see in the dark
The eyes of cats differ from that of humans in the number of rod receptors cats have. They have many rods, which explains why they can see at night but are not good at distinguishing colors.
Kuttelvaserova Stuchelova/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

Angie is a writer with over 10 years of experience developing content for product and brand reviews, focusing much of her time on animals of all types. A cat owner herself, she enjoys writing articles on beloved pets that both inform and entertain her audience.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What colors do cats see best?

Cats have the cone receptors that allow them to perceive blue-violet and yellow-green colors. Your cat mainly sees three colors including yellow, gray, and blue. Some variations of these colors may be perceived, though they are usually overpowered by one of these three tinges. For example, if your cat’s toy is purple, she may perceive that as more of a bluish tone. Some researchers also believe that cats can perceive shades of green. However, these green colors may lean more toward yellowish hues.

What colors can cats not see?

Your cat is unable to perceive red-orange wavelengths of light. That means the red juicy apple you’re eating looks grayer to your cat unless it has some yellow mixed in. Then, your cat may be able to perceive the yellow along with some shades of gray. Your cat is also unable to see pink or orange.

Do cats see us as cats?

Cats definitely treat their human counterparts as if they were other cats. You’ve probably had your cat lick you, rub their head up against you, and make biscuits on your belly. Cats may look at their humans as simply bigger cats (that’s incredibly adorable). It’s unknown if they understand the differentiation between species or it could be that they recognize the difference and don’t care (that would be so typical of a cat!). Either way, they treat us the way they do other cats.

Why does my cat stare at me?

You are your cat’s family. Whether it’s just the two of you or you have a fuller house, cats depend on you for comfort, security, and of course, food. When a cat stares at you, she’s just affirming her bond with you. If you display calm energy, your cat feels calm as well. There are other occasions when a cat stares that may be more indicative of preying behavior. However, if your cat notices potential prey, she will also change her posture. So, if your cat is staring at you with a calm posture, she’s just admiring her favorite human.

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