MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Are kitten's or cat's color-blind?

Date: Fri Oct 26 08:51:57 2001
Posted By: Aydin Orstan, Staff, Office of Food Additive Safety, Food and Drug Administration
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 1003513486.Zo

Dear Jill,
Desmond Morris in his book Cat Watching (Crown Publishers, 1987) states 
that cats can distinguish between certain colors, for example between red 
& green, red & blue, etc., but that they may not be able to tell red from 
yellow. I don't know if any new research has been done on this subject 
since 1987.

Morris also points out something important: "Color is not important in the 
lives of cats as it is in our lives. Their eyes are much more attuned to 
seeing in dim light, where they need only one-sixth of the light we do to 
make out the same details of movement and shape."

The domesticated cat hunts primarily at night under the moonlight or at 
dusk or dawn. Have you ever noticed that it is very difficult to see 
colors in the moonlight? Evolution tends to eliminate functions that an 
animal has very little use for. So in this case, the cats have either 
never acquired full color vision or lost it after they became nocturnal 
hunters. If this is correct, then their distant cousins lions & cheetahs 
should have better color vision because they seem to hunt primarily during 
the day. I will leave it to you to find out if lions & cheetahs are better 
than the domesticated cat in distinguishing colors.

Aydin Orstan

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