Are cats farsighted or nearsighted?

This is a good question as the internet is confused about the answer! My personal experiences tell me that cats do not see close objects in good focus. This means that they are farsighted. ‘Farsighted’ means seeing distant objects clearly but close objects out of focus. ‘Nearsighted’ means the opposite: seeing close objects clearly and far objects out of focus.

Cat eyes
Cat eyes. Photo in public domain.
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It is said that cats have normal 20/100 vision compared to 20/20 normal human vision. What does 20/20 vision mean?

In an eye test for humans, 20/20 vision means that the person can see a letter clearly at 20 feet and the chart is 20 feet away. The first or top 20 refers to the distance between chart and person. Cats can see with the same acuity at 100 feet. This seems extraordinary to me but the source of the information is top quality: the veterinarians who wrote Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook.

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The reason why cats are farsighted and have difficulty focusing on close objects is because the muscles which alter the shape of the lens to allow it to focus close up are relatively weak. The lens in both human and cat eyes changes shape when focusing at different distances. Muscles achieve this.

They vets say that a domestic cat’s near vision is on a par with that of a middle-aged person who needs reading glasses, as most of us do. The difference though is that cats compensate with two other senses: smell which is better than ours and their whiskers which can feel like fingers. You’ll see cats smelling their food to check it out for palatability as it is too close to check out visually.

For humans, farsightedness is called hyperopia. The condition is normally inherited and it is easily corrected with glasses.

P.S. The Business Insider website takes the opposite viewpoint! That’s what I mean about a confused internet as their webpage features at the top of search result rankings. I disagree with them strongly.

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