With many thanks to our special guest author, Amber Kingsley!
Cats have been our companions for many thousands of years, dating back to the days of ancient Egypt where they were worshiped and given elaborate burials. Soon they spread throughout Europe, first to Italy and later to England. In this distant past, they were always appreciated for their keen ability to keep the rodent population under control.
We’ve all heard those common expressions about cats that are pretty far-fetched: for example, that they have nine lives, or that black cats are bad luck. One of the most popular old wives tales is that cats always land on their feet. While felines have an uncanny ability to right themselves during a fall, they can only do so if they have enough time and distance to orient themselves.
In this light, here are some common as well as lesser-known facts and myths about our beloved feline companions when it comes to their eyesight:
MYTH: Blind cats are helpless and should be euthanized.
FACT: The truth is, cats with weak vision or no eyesight whatsoever, are perfectly capable of leading normal lives, and sometimes they are unnecessarily put to sleep. Those born without sight don’t even realize they are blind, they just know they are a cat and do everything that normal felines do, including climbing trees and using litter boxes.
Even those who develop blindness due to a medical condition, such as cataracts, they will learn to adapt. For example, they can differentiate between carpeted and smooth surfaces and will quickly learn where their food is located. Many cats develop blindness from completely preventable conditions. Even a simple eye infection can result in loss of vision—a condition that could have easily be remedied with a trip to the vet.
MYTH: Cats can see in the dark.
FACT: While cats see much better in low light compared to humans, they cannot see in complete and total darkness. A feline’s pupils grow much larger in dim light than people’s eyes do, which gives them the ability to see much better in darker circumstances. They also have a special area in the back of the eye called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back to the retina. This is why cats’ (and other animals’) eyes shine when headlights catch them.
MYTH: Cats are colorblind.
FACT: This one may be partially true. Some experts suggest that a feline’s vision is limited to blues and grays, while others think their eyesight is closer that of dogs, who see less richness of hues and saturation of the colors. The reason for this is that the human retina has about 10 times more cones, the light receptors that function best in bright light, so cats likely have decreased ability to recognize different colors.
MYTH: Cats vision is much sharper than humans.
FACT: Another myth relating to fewer cones in the feline retina. While humans with normal vision can see things clearly at a distance of 100 feet or more, felines can only see sharply to about 20 feet. Cats also lack the muscles necessary for changing the shape of their lenses, which also decreases the sharpness of their vision. On the other hand, cats are well-equipped to pick up the quick motions of their prey, like mice and other rodents, while some slow moving items may seem stationary to them.
What cats can see, regardless of their vision, is how much their humans care about them. Keeping your cat healthy with top-notch nutrition and appropriate veterinary care will help to ensure their vision remains intact throughout their lives.