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article imageCats-eyes — Do they see what we see? Pussy-cat vision explained Special

By Lesley Lanir     Oct 27, 2013 in World
Pittsburgh - Ever wondered what cats see when they are looking at us? Ever considered that cats may see the world through a different set of eyes? With the help of experts, Nickolay Lamm investigated cat vision.
The internet is full of cute photos of fluffy cats and to-die-for kittens and numerous videos of cat antics receive thousands of tweets, likes and shares. Although we spend a great deal of time looking at cats, what do we know about cat vision? What do our cats see that we don’t or what do we see that our cute pets cannot? For instance, have you ever tried putting your cats in front of a mirror and wondered why they don't see themselves immediately or at all?
Digital Journal contacted Nickolay Lamm a 25-year-old artist and researcher from
Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm
Nickolay Lamm
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania who has spent a considerable amount of time investigating what cats can see and comparing their visual perception to that of humans.
With the help of experts, Nickolay came up with some interesting facts and images.
Below are the results of his research. The images hypothesize what human’s perceive visually as compared to cats. Human vision images appear first, followed by Nickolay's hypothesised images of what our pet cats see. The blurriness on the images represents the extent of the visual field of both humans and cats respectively.
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Nickolay Lamm
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Nickolay Lamm
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Human vision compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Nickolay Lamm
Human vision as compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Human vision as compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Nickolay Lamm
Human vision as compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Human vision as compared to hypothesised cat vision.
Nickolay Lamm
How did you create these cat vision images?
I went back and forth with Kerry L. Ketring, DVM, DACVO of All Animal Eye Clinic, Dr DJ Haeussler of The Animal Eye Institute, and the Ophthalmology group at Penn Vet. There were many revisions that had to be made to the cat vision illustrations before they approved them. Eventually, after collecting all the information, I put the visuals together using Photoshop.
Do you think these images reflect accurately what cats can see?
I think it's important to note that these are a hypothesis, because of course, we can't talk to them and know for sure how they see the world.
What prompted you to investigate cat vision?
We love looking at cat videos, cat GIFs, cat photos, but we never think about what the cat looks at when it sees us and how it sees the world around.
Following are some of the cat vision features that Nickolay used to create his images.
• Cats have a visual field of 200 degrees compared to humans 180 degrees.
• Peripheral vision for humans is 20 degrees each side.
• Peripheral vision for cats is 30 degrees each side.
• According to the All Animal Eye Clinic, cats can see 6-8 times better in dim light than humans due the high number of rods and because of their elliptical pupil, large cornea and tapetum.
• From the All Animal Eye Clinic, Nickolay also discovered that what a normal human can see as sharp and without blurriness at 100-200 feet, a cat would have to view from 20 feet since a cat's visual acuity is between 20/100 to 20/200.
Can cats see in colour?
Cats were originally thought to be dichromats like dogs and protanopic humans.
I found out through Penn Vet that cats have been found to have peaks at 450-454 nm and 550-561 nm - blue-violet and green-yellow, essentially. However, there is some research suggesting that cats may also have a third cone type that peaks at 500-520 nm - green area.
This would indicate that cats are trichromats, but not in the human sense - the cones aren’t as spread out and all fall in the violet-yellow range. Protanopic humans really only see blues and yellows, so cats are probably like that, but with some green thrown in from that third cone type.
How does the physiology of human eyes and cats eyes differ?
Again with help from Penn Vet I discovered that our retinas have many more cones than cats, especially in the area of the fovea (which is all cones and no rods). This gives humans fantastic day vision with lots of vibrant colors and excellent, detailed resolution.
Dogs and cats have many more rods, which enhances their ability to see in dim light and during the night. They have no fovea, but an “area centralis” that, though has more cones than other areas of the retina, still has more rods than cones.
The increase in rods also enhances their “refresh rate”, so that they can pick up movements much faster than us.
These differences also help cats to have great night vision, an excellent ability to pick up and follow quick movements, but at the cost of less vibrant color, with less detailed resolution. I also learned through Penn vet that interestingly, this also means that humans have the ability to see very slowly moving objects at speeds 10 times slower than cats - that is to say that we can see very slow things move that would not appear to be moving to a cat.
When you put your cute cats in front of a mirror so they can admire themselves - now you know why they usually just walk away with disinterest. Don't assume what you see is the same as what your kitty-cat sees.
More about cat vision, Nickolay Lamm, pet cats, Eyesight
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