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Can Cats See in the Dark? Let’s Shed Some Light

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Key Takeaways

  • Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk.
  • Domestic cats have much better vision in the dark than humans do.
  • Cats have vertical eye slits or pupils because they need to see in the darkness better than humans.
  • Leaving a light on for your cat is not necessary.
  • Cats prefer the dark because it helps them hunt and catch prey.

Has this ever happened, that when you are in your deep sleep and suddenly something jumps on you? You wake up to find this cute little creature above staring and meowing, asking for food or pets…

I know, it happens with me too, and it is pretty normal for a cat to do that. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen with you, it does not mean that something is wrong with your cat, it is just that he is a bit different than others, just like all humans are different.

Can Cats See in the Dark

Question is, Can this little creature see in the dark?

Let me shed some light on this topic.

Can Cats See in the Dark?

The answer will be yes, cats can see in the dark, however, they can’t see in utter darkness. You must have heard everywhere that cats are nocturnal, which is not true, they are crepuscular, which means that they are more active at dusk and dawn. Hence their eyes have evolved to adapt under low light conditions.

Cats have rod cells in their eyes which gives them the ability to see clearly in dark, hence your cat roams freely in the house without tripping or bumping into anything at night, We, on the other hand, might not, so to try to avoid this situation, it is recommended to turn on the lights before moving around in dark.

Science Behind Cats Being Crepuscular

Many of us must have experienced cats trying to wake us up for food. This is because cat ancestors were also crepuscular in nature. They used to hunt during dusk and dawn, animal activities are at their peak during that time. Similarly, our domestic cats have been genetically programmed to crave food at dusk and dawn.

You must be wondering how do cats see in the dark.

We all have noticed our cats have vertical slit pupils, usually, in the daytime, they remain vertical slits but as soon as it is dark, they change their shape to round. The reason behind this is, that our cat’s pupils expand and contract based on the intensity of light in their current environment.

Science Behind Cats Being  Crepuscular

Less light means their eyes need to provide more exposure needed to them so they can see better, hence their pupils will dilate (expand). On contrary to this when light is intense, pupils will contract to lower the exposure in their eyes so that their eyes get the right amount of light it needs.

In a research, scientists gave a possible explanation for “Why do some animals have vertical slit pupils?“, they conducted a survey in which it was noticed that creatures who are close to the ground had vertical eye slits. These animals are mostly “ambush predators”.

Yes, you heard it right, your cat is an ambush predator.

Beware of your cat, being an ambush predator he is going to hunt your sleep for some cat food…!!

Can Cats See Color in Dark?

Yes, cats can see color in dark, your kitten eyes contain a higher number of rod cells than cone cells, which give them the ability to see in the dark, these cells are also responsible to detect different shades of grey color.

Can Cats See Color in Dark

Apart from rod cells, there are cone cells that can detect different colors. However, there are more cone cells for green and blue colors in their eyes than for red colors, which makes them not able to perceive red colors properly.

Although cats don’t have night vision, they can see much better in the dark than other animals do.

Domestic Cat vs Human

Have you ever wondered what kind of vision cats have, or How do cats see the world?

Cat eyes are very powerful when compared to human eyes, your cat eye pupil can expand or contract more than our human eyes do. It gives them an advantage over us when it comes to dark environments. So when it is dark, it is more likely that you’ll bump into something but your cat might not.

Your cat’s eyes are built to see in the dark and to analyze the depth of what they see, which helps them ambush their prey or jump behind your back when you are cooking food. Human eyes, on the other hand, are built to perceive more colors and see things more clearly.

Another difference between the cat eye and the human eye is that cats can distinguish the shape and detail of any object at around 20 feet away while humans can see at around 100-200 feet. In simple words, everything starts to blur out after 20 feet for our cats.

Although they got blurry vision kittens can see wider than we humans can. Our field of vision is limited to 180° whereas cats have a view of 200°. They can spot us way before we spot them because of their peripheral vision.

Sorry, but you can never win if your cat played hide and seek with you!!!


Should I leave the light on for my cat?

Your cat might not need the lights on, cat eyes are evolved to adjust under low light conditions. They can see better than humans do in the dark. If there is even a small hint of street light focused near a window, it should be fine.

However, the fact is cats cannot see in absolute darkness, if that is the situation, yes, you should turn the lights on.

Do cats prefer the dark?

The answer would be Yes, cats do prefer in dark. They would sleep most of the time during the day, as soon as it is dark, they come to us to get some pets or do their cat business.

Why do cats have vertical eye slits or pupils?

Only domestic cats have vertical eye slits, as their ancestors were also ambushed predators who used to hunt for food, they developed this feature to judge the distance between themselves and their prey.

Any ambush predator, close to the ground, is most likely to have a vertical eye pupil.


Now, when your cat is staring at you in the middle of the night or in the early morning or trying to
bap-bap(slap) you on your face, you know that they can’t help it.

That’s what makes them kittens!!!


  1. The Cat’s Vision — citl.illinois
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  3. How cat’s eyes work — texvetpets

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