Short answer: It’s likely blue, green, or maybe even purple, but not white or red!
Research shows that cats are ‘colorblind‘ adventurers. Cat eyes are biologically different from ours, and their worlds are hues of blues and greens with a greyish tint.
You may have noticed that your kitten is drawn to specific colors. Perhaps they can’t resist batting at a vivid yellow catnip cuddler or a blue toy mouse.
In short, if we had to create an Instagram caption to answer how cats see color, it would read: ‘Cat-Color-Vision: Like Colorblind Humans with a Splash of Muted Blues and Greens!’
This article aims to explain the science behind what our cats see. It could help you to understand your kitty better. I looked with new eyes at Apollo, my black and white tuxedo cat that rules our household.
IN THIS ARTICLE
What Colors Can Cats See
We know what we see, but cats see their surroundings as part of a much more limited spectrum. Cats see mainly hues of blue and green – the ‘cooler’ colors on the color spectrum.
The makeup of a cat’s eyes
Colorblind cats? It sounds sad, but it is anything but.
Although they can’t distinguish between colors that well, cat retinas are superior, it is packed with photoreceptor cells called ‘rods.’
The function of these rods is to give cats expert vision in low light. Rod cells help cats sense motion, and they are masters at it. If you’ve ever watched your cat staring intently at a wall or something behind the couch, you’ll know what I am talking about.
So, colors take a back seat in the feline world, but not by choice. By design, cat eyes have fewer color receptors (known as ‘cones') in their eyes than humans. As a result, cats don’t see vibrant colors.
This is alright! Biologically, Cats have traded color for superior night vision.
Red is not ‘red’ to your cat
To a cat, yellows and reds are alien colors. To them, these colors may appear as shades of blue or grey. It is like cats seeing the world through a filter of monochrome with pops of blues and greens.
Purple is an interesting example. When your cat sees something purple, it will transform in his eyes to something blue. It is because purple is a mix of red and blue, and as cats don’t see the red, only the blueish tint is left.
Green, of course, is a mix of blue and yellow. When you take away the yellow, the cat should see blue, so what is ‘green’ to us is probably something different to a cat. For them, their ‘green’ could be a shade of blue that we humans cannot visualize.
I found that Apollo is particularly attracted to any green toy rather than anything else. I’ve often wished that I could see what he sees!
So, what is your cat’s preferred color? It is likely a hue of blue or green.
Remarkable night vision
Do you still feel blue that your cat can’t see colors like ours?
Please don’t, because if your cat could speak, it would tell you that having exceptional night vision is far better.
Cat eyes were created to expertly hunt their prey in low light conditions and detect even the slightest movements.
Apollo is an expert at night vision, as he loves to creep into our garden at dusk. He then often disappears, only to reappear the following day. What a life!
When cats get old
However, we must remember that not all cats see color similarly.
How a cat sees color can also be influenced by age and health – just like human eyesight deteriorates. Our furry friends might find it harder to discern colors as they age. Like us, cats can also get cataracts, influencing how they see the world.
Cat Vision Vs. Human Vision
Here are some other differences between human and cat vision:
- Cats are nearsighted. Because their eyes are so large, cats can’t focus on anything less than 20 feet away. Any further than that, the object will appear blurry to your cat. Luckily, their whiskers compensate – they can ‘feel’ what they can’t see.
- A wide field of vision. Cats’ eyes are set on the side of their heads. This clever placement grants them an expansive image area, perfect for their dual role as predator and potential prey. But here’s the twist: this broader peripheral vision is priced. Cats sacrifice a bit of their depth perception. While they can see a mouse scurrying in the distance, judging the exact distance might be a tad tricky.
- A cat’s world is less vibrant than ours as they are less sensitive to changes in brightness.
What Color Cat Would My Cat Like
Now that we know how cats perceive the world around them, we can love them better!
Cats prefer colors similar to their fur
Researchers found that cats are likelier to choose food bowls that match their fur color. (There could be a clue if you want to identify your cat’s favorite color.) I have yet to try this with Apollo, but it could be interesting.
Cat Zen: Stress-Reducing Colors
Heather E. Lewis is an expert on small pets and their psychological makeup. She regularly writes for Fear Free, a company whose mission is to prevent anxiety and stress in pets.
Heather suggests the following (color-wise) if you want to reduce overall stress for your feline friends:
- Cats see into the ultraviolet range, so certain materials ‘glow’ for them. White is a particularly sharp color and might be overwhelming for cats. (This might be why my Apollo doesn’t like our vet much!) Heather, therefore, suggests that veterinary clinics use softer pastel colors (such as green or blue) in scrubs or lab coats.
- A visit to the vet might be less stressful if a veterinary clinic understands how cat vision works. Cats will feel less stressed in medical wards painted light blue.
- Think ‘spa.‘ If you are a cat lover looking to re-paint your home, stick to relaxing colors. Natural blues and greens can work wonders for an anxious cat.
How To Choose Toys Color For Cats
When you are next at the pet superstore, here is how to pick out your cat’s following toy:
Ignore red or yellow toys. The manufacturer of that particular brand might have yet to do his homework. Cats are less likely to see these colors well.
Instead, choose a pet toy in green, purple, or blue. Apollo favors green, so seeing how he will react to a new little something is always fun.
Interestingly, research also suggests that cats like colors that match how they feel at the time. If they feel ready to play, they will choose toys that look ‘brighter’ to them, but when they are lazier, they prefer more subdued colors.
And here is a remarkable fact!
Cats live in a vastly different world than us. It may be hard to envision, but your kitty sees the world in a fascinating blend of blues and greens.
Perhaps there are even color hues only they can see – we will never know.
Cats’ unique vision helps them to be what they were created to be: exceptional hunters.
So, the question should not be ‘What is a cat’s favorite color’ but rather ‘How can we embrace what we now know and level up our cat parenting game?’
We can be kinder to our cats by choosing toned-down colors when arranging their environment or deciding on new accessories or toys.
Article Sources  https://askabiologist.asu.edu/colors-animals-see  https://fearfreepets.com/color-me-fear-free/  https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-cats https://www.21cats.org/whats-a-cats-favorite-color/  https://fearfreepets.com/about/what-is-fear-free/
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