Can cats see in the dark?

In a totally blacked-out room, a cat can see no better than you or I. What it can do, however, is magnify the faintest quantities of light in its surroundings, and it needs only one-sixth of the light we need. Its eyes possess a light-intensifying screen made up of 15 layers of cells containing glittering, iridescent crystals the tapetum lucidum, set behind the retina.

This screen reflects every speck of light after it has been processed by the retina, doubling the effect. It is this that makes cats’ eyes flash in the dark, and probably inspired Willliam Blake’s famous lines: ‘Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright, in the forest of the night.’ Though cats can’t see colour as well as we do, their black-and-white vision is better and they can distinguish up to 25 different shades of grey.

Translate »