|MadSci Network: Zoology|
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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