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Sunset Veterinary Clinic

Ask the Vet: Can Cats Really See in the Dark?

Fluffy orange cat sitting on some rocks at the ocean.

You’ve probably heard the rumor that cats can see in the dark, but is it really true?

Below, we explore this question and turn up some nocturnal facts about our feline friends that may surprise you.

First Thing’s First: Are Cats Considered Nocturnal Animals?

Any cat parent knows that a lounging, sleepy daytime cat can turn wild and crazy when the sun goes down. Therefore, it’s natural to wonder if cats are nocturnal.

The truth is, however, that while cats do display nocturnal behaviors, they are actually better described as crepuscular animals. This means that the times when they’re most active are during twilight hours (dusk and dawn).

Does This Mean Cats Can’t See in the Dark?

No, cats can see quite well at night.

At the same time, they’re not quite as good as some other animals, such as tarsiers, which live in the trees of South East Asia. Compared to humans, however, cats can definitely see better at night.


The main reason is that cats’ retinas have a higher concentration of rods versus cones. Rods are responsible for scotopic vision (vision when lighting is low). Cones, on the other hand, help with daytime vision and also influence how well color is perceived. In this way, cats can’t see color as well as humans, but they do see at night better.

Cats’ vision is also better at night because the tapetums in cats’ eyes helps reflect light to their retinas. This causes their eyes to glow or shine in the dark.

Finally, cats have large lenses and curved corneas. When light is low, this allows a huge amount of light to still be let into their fully dilated pupils.

It’s Important to Take You Cat to See the Vet

Has it been a while since your cat’s last checkup? Schedule your cat’s next appointment at Sunset Veterinary Clinic today by giving us a call at (405) 844-2888.