Anyone who has ever had a pet and most of those who haven’t have wondered how other creatures see the world. Both in a physical and in a metaphysical way. Today, we’ll be focusing on the physical side of things. Of course there’s no way to be 100% certain what it is to be a cat but damn it we’ll imagine. Just look at Delilah’s gorgeous eyes, how could we resist?
Firstly, let’s take a look at how a human eye works. If you’re reading this then you’re using yours right now. We’re about to go into a mini science lesson so sorry if this gives anyone flashbacks to high school. The eye is a complex organ with many parts making it up. Its entire goal is to take in light and pressure and convert them into signals that your brain can understand.
Firstly the cornea of the eye bends the light from the world in such a way that it can pass through the iris freely. As I’m sure you’ve noticed and probably already know, the iris works as a sort of shutter, moderating the amount of light that is taken in. In darker situations the eye needs more light to make a clear image and the opposite is true in bright environments, the iris and pupil are able to accomodate for this by letting more or less light in. Behind the pupil there is a crystalline lens, this further focuses the light so it can be seen clearly. The light’s journey comes to its thrilling conclusion when it comes to sharp point upon the retina, a wall of cells that processes the light into impulses that your nerves can read.
This processing is done by photoreceptors which are cells that can be divided into two categories. There are rods that are used to absorb light in low light situations, these are monochromatic meaning they only see in grey-scale which is why at night, when there is low light and we are using the rods primarily to see we see mostly in grey-scale. Then there are cones which work in brighter situations, see the world in a much clearer fashion and are also used to view colour.
So now that we have a basic understanding of the human eye, let’s take a look at how a cats eye differs. The biggest difference between a cat and a human’s eyes is the amount of cones and rods they have in their retinas. Cats have much more rods and fewer cones than we do. Now remember, the cones are used to create sharper images, that means that cats cannot see as far as clearly. It is estimated that they can see clearly up to about 75cm in front of them, from there it’s blur-town. However there is a trade-off. Due to the higher density of rods, they have much more powerful night vision than we have. These rods also refresh faster than cones meaning they can pick up on faster movements than we can. These traits serve them well as felines often hunt at night. That’s right, these guys are natural hunters, it might be difficult to remember that when you have Salem chilling out on a couch in front of you.
The final difference we’ll be talking about today is the field of vision. A human can see up to 180 degrees in front of them, however a cat can see up to a whopping 200 degrees meaning they can take in more of their surroundings.
Photographer Nickolay Lamm captured some excellent images simulating how we believe cats to see. The human version is on the top with the cat version being on the bottom. Note that the in brighter landscape shot the human sees farther and clearer and with much more vibrance in their colour.
Whereas in this nighttime shot the cat trumps the human with its night-vision.
If you are interested in seeing more of the pictures Lamm took as part of this series than you can visit his site here.
Well there you have it, hopefully you’ve learned something new about your fur baby, if you haven’t then maybe leave a comment about a topic you’d like to learn about! Regardless, have a great day guys.