Eyes and Vision
Did you know that the volume and weight of a cat’s eye in relation to that of its body is greater than that of any other mammal?
The eye of the cat is situated at the front of the head, as with humans, which means that they have to turn around to see behind them. The total vision of the cat is 280 degrees, wider than that of humans (220 degrees), and is even wider than that of dogs. Another characteristic of the cat eye is that the iris, the coloured part of the eye, presents a great variety of colours – shades of green, yellow, mauve and orange. The pupil of the cat also varies dramatically in shape and size according to the intensity of light. In bright light it shrinks to become a mere slit. The cat’s eye also has exceptional sensitivity to light and, therefore, cats enjoy good twilight vision. Contrary to popular belief, cats cannot see in total darkness. In fact, if it can move in the dark, it is thanks to its “radar” whiskers.
When it comes to detecting movement, the vision of the cat is extremely acute. The eye reacts almost instantaneously, immediately focusing on the moving object, prey, evaluating size, distance and any obstacles in the cat’s path to it. The merest quiver, suggesting the presence of possible prey, registers on the eye and this is the cat’s chief hunting tool. The prey has only one means of escape from the constant vigilance – to freeze completely (“play dead”).
Do Cats Have Color Vision?
This is a commonly asked question. Cats cannot see as many colours as humans can. They can distinguish between certain colours, including different shades of blue and greenish yellow. Cats cannot see orange and red; these colours appear white to the cat.
When kittens are born, they are blind. They do not open their eyes until they are seven to ten days old. For the first three months, their vision is significantly weaker than that of humans; however, it develops and is refined as they age.
The cat’s vision usually remains excellent well into old age. Some cats do go blind, usually as a result of illness or injury.
The eye of the cat is often an indicator of its emotions. If angry or sexually aroused, its pupils often dilate; whilst being stroked, it may blink with pleasure.
Caring for Your Cat’s Eyes
As with any animal, the eye is a very delicate organ and should be treated with the utmost care. Minor irritations should never be ignored as these can deteriorate rapidly and may result in irreversible damage. You should never leave any eye problem untreated for longer than 24 hours. If treatment has been commenced, your veterinarian should be consulted if the eye does not begin to improve within 24 hours.
Cats sometimes acquire a foreign body in their eye, for example, a small splinter. It is important to take great care when trying to remove any foreign body from the eye. First, place the cat under a good light. Roll the eyelid away from the eyeball with both thumbs. Most cats will not allow you look under their third eyelid (this is the small flap in the corner of the eye) but you should be able to see if there is anything protruding from the under its edge. It may be possible to remove a large foreign body with your fingers; small foreign bodies may be removed by flushing the eye or gently wiping with a dampened swab. If you cannot remove the foreign body, consult your veterinarian immediately.