Unlike a human, your cat perceives colors in muted tones rather than the vivid colors you can see. Cats evolved to hunt in low-light conditions, primarily at dawn or dusk, and tend to react more to sudden movement than the select colors they can discern. To engage your kitty's attention, present her with toys on a string or mechanical toys that move, rather than brightly colored stationary ones that won't interest her.
Cats and Colors
While scientists once thought that our feline friends couldn't distinguish colors at all -- simply seeing the world in shades of black and white -- this has proven not to be the case. Cats have cells in their eyes called cones, which contain pigments that help them perceive colors. While people have three types of cones in their eyes to see shades of red, blue and green, cats only have two that allow them to only discern shades of blue and green, according to the Cornell Center for Materials Research. Your kitty tends to perceive the colors she can make out as more muted or pastel-like than you do.
Evolving as a hunter, seeing in color wasn't imperative for a kitty's survival. Instead, felines developed enhanced vision in low-light conditions and an ability to discern the small movements of their potential prey. Our feline friends are especially sensitive to even slight movements because of the special nerve cells they have in their brains to detect them, according to Catster. Your cat has the ability to dilate her eyes fully, allowing her to see up to six times better in low light conditions than you can. She also has a layer of reflective cells, called the tapetum lucidum, in her eyes that helps to reflect light through her retinas, letting her see with just a small amount of light.
Cats don't just rely on sight; they also rely on their superior hearing and sense of touch from their whiskers and paws when getting around and determining what interests them. Our feline friends have a range of hearing that's much larger than that of humans. While humans can hear sounds ranging from 64 to 23,000 Hz, felines can hear sounds ranging from 45 to 64,000 Hz, according to Louisiana State University. While kitties aren't really attracted to colors because they don't perceive them as well as humans do, they are attracted to interesting sounds and vibrations, which they can perceive better than we can.
If you're looking to garner your cat's interest, bright colors typically won't do it, especially colors that fall into the red spectrum such as bright red, orange or yellow, which your kitty can't see. To her, colors other than green and blue all look grey. Instead, engage her with a toy on a string that you can dangle in front of her. Her hunting prowess and ability to discern small movements will quickly have her batting the toy around. Other options include toys that emit interesting sounds like chirps or squeaks or that you can move around with a remote control. Keep those toys several feet away from your kitty to catch his interest because cats are farsighted and can only focus clearly on objects about six feet in front of them.
- Catster: A Guide to Your Kitten's Senses: Vision
- The International Cat Association -- TICA World Blog: Can Cats See Color?
- American Animal Hospital Association: Can Dogs and Cats See Colors?
- Cornell Center for Materials Research: Cats, Dogs can See Some Color
- Veterinary Vision: What Do Dogs and Cats See?
- The Merck Manual for Pet Health: Description and Physical Characteristics of Cats
- Louisiana State University: How Well Do Dogs and Other Animals Hear?
- Friskies: The Invisible World of Cats
- Photo Credit Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images