Can cats see in the dark?

A few weeks ago when I was studying cat whiskers, I found that a cat's whiskers work like radar to help them find their place in space so they contribute to a cat's famous ability to get around in the dark. And that got me thinking - can cats see in the dark? 

The answer is yes! Cats can see in the dark  - as long as it's not too dark! So I guess the right way to say it is that cats can see in low light much better than people can!

If you remember back to school, a person's eye contains 2 cells to help them see - rods and cones. Well, according to DailyPaws, cats eyes also contain rods and cones, but they have lots of rods and not as many cones. The rods are for night vision and peripheral vision, so that makes a cat's eye well suited for low light. (The cones help us see shades of colors, and cats' eyes have fewer of those, so if you are wondering - can cats see colors? DailyPaws says that cats can't see the array of colors we do so, what colors do cats see in? They say cats mostly see in gray, with tinges of yellow and blue and maybe some green.)

Another feature of cat eyes that help them see in the dark is that they have something called a tapetum lucidum. DailyPaws says this is a reflective layer at the back of the eye that helps to magnify light. Dogs also share this feature and is the reason why it looks like dogs' or cats' eyes are shining when you see them in the dark. 

But remember I said cats can see in the dark - as long as it's not too dark? National Geographic says that cats cannot see in total darkness - they need some light - but on average they can see up to 6 times better than people can in low light. So, should you leave a light on for your cat? Unless you have your windows completely covered, you'll probably get enough moonlight or streetlight inside for your cat to see by, even at night. However, you might want to leave a light on for you - this could help you from tripping over your cat who's coming to greet you at the door or joining you in the bathroom at 2:00 AM (and probably wondering why you're so clumsy!)

Besides lots of rods and a tapetum, cat's eyes have one more feature that helps them see in the dark, and that is their vertical pupil. Reader's Digest says that vertical pupil can expand 135 - 300 times in low light (as compared to only 15 times for people), so that lets in more of the limited light. They say that a slit shaped pupil helps cats have both a small pupil and a large pupil at the same time - it's small horizontally which helps with getting a sharper image and helps with judging distance, but large vertically to help let in light. They also say that a cat's pupil expands when they are feeling playful, so don't be surprised to see your cat's eyes get big when you give them some toys! 

So, after studying up on cats, I think it's safe to say that with their special eyes and their whiskers, cat's are purrfect at getting around in low light!

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