Categories: cat eyes

Do cats see ultraviolet light?

The question in the title is probably meant to mean: do cats see objects under ultraviolet light only? For humans, ultraviolet light is beyond the visible spectrum and so we can’t see it. However, fundamentally, the anatomy of the cat’s eye is very similar to ours. Although they do see the world differently it is not a huge difference. Because of this it would be unlikely that they can see ultraviolet light (UV light).

However, the leader of a study, Ron Douglas, a biologist at City University London, in England, said:

Nobody ever thought these animals could see in ultraviolet, but in fact, they do..

He believes that many animals including cats and dogs see under UV light. In fact the author of a article says that it is known that many animals can see UV light.

The website even produced an example of how a cat might see the world at night. I DON’T THINK THAT THIS IS A VALID IMAGE because cats can see better at night because they have more rods than humans (rods are light sensitive cells in the eye’s retina). This would affect their vision because a cat would never see objects that are only illuminated by UV light.

The argument is that whereas the lens of the human eye blocks UV light, animals can have ‘UV-transparent lenses’. It is claimed the people who’ve had a cataracts operation, which can entail removing and replacing the lens, report being able to see under UV light only.

Douglas speculates that the reason why the human lens blocks UV light is to protect the retina. Another theory is that by blocking UV light visual acuity is improved. Animals who block UV have the best visual acuity.

This does fit in with cat vision which is slightly less sharp or softer than the vision of humans. The livescience article concludes that cats MAY see under UV light. Please note the word ‘may’. It seems that more work in needed on this.

Below is my assessment of how cats see things at night:

Image by Michael at PoC.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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