How do cats see us? I’m referring to domestic and community cats. There are two aspects to the question. Firstly, how do cats see us in respect of their vision and secondly how do they see us with respect to their relationship with us.
The best way to try and get into the head of a domestic cat with respect to how they see us visually is to provide some examples. I have a full page on the subject but in summary the domestic cat’s eyes are similar to ours in many respects but they see us in a slightly less sharp way together with a lower sensitivity to red light, lower contrast and wider vision. At night time their vision is almost black-and-white and once again less sharp with less red sensitivity. The images below illustrate these differences.
Therefore, when our cat looks at us they see us in a slightly modified color, width of vision and sharpness to what we are used to. But all in all what the cat sees when they look at us is quite similar to what we see.
Comparison in a table:
|Color||Weaker colour than human||Good colour – better than cat|
|Peripheral||Very good 200º||Less good than cat at 120-180º|
|Sharpness||Average – worse than human||Good – better than cat|
|Night vision||Excellent – much better than human||Much worse than cat|
In respect of our relationship
I believe the assessment of Dr Desmond Morris that domestic cats look upon us as mothers which keeps them in a mental state akin to that of kittenhood. It’s a permanent state whereby our domestic cats are constantly dependent upon us as their provider and protector. The unknown is whether they see us as cats or another species. There may be a third way: cats don’t have the concept of different ‘species of animal’. They just see us as we are which is a nice non-judgemental way to view the world.
Click on this link if you’d like to read the story of the calico kitten and man in the picture above.
Although, we must remind ourselves that the ‘permanent kittenhood theory’ is simply an assessment, based upon excellent observation and knowledge, by a very fine zoologist. There are people who would disagree with him. And there are individual cats who may also disagree with him! Domestic cats are individuals at various states of domestication while their wild character is just below the surface. For the very highly socialized and domesticated cats they may see us more as equal adults and they may indeed see us not as cats but as another species with whom they are very friendly.
Cats also see us as companions just as we see them as companions. It is a myth that domestic cats are loners and unsocial. They are quite social creatures and depend on their human caregiver often for that needed companionship.
One final point: when cats bring in prey animals there is a reveral of roles. In that context they are mother providers to their kittens (the humans in the home)! Domestic cats can get a bit confused.