Feline Anatomy 101: A Close Look at Cat Eyes

Reading Time: 3 minutes

big cat eyes with black background

Cat eyes are beautiful and unique. The coveted feature of your feline family member has become the desire of many humans. Women use eyeliner to give their eyes the inclined slant that cats have. And if you’re passionate about the cat-eye lift, then Canthoplasty is a surgical procedure that individuals can select to get the eye shape of their little lioness. While the shape might be meow-velous, there is more to this part of their anatomy than meets the eye.

Cat Eyes: How Does Your Cat with Big Eyes See?

Cats have these big eyes that seem to indicate wisdom beyond their years. They get that glint that suggests a hunting streak when they’re ready to attack your foot, or they have a sleepy gaze that almost hypnotizes you with its drowsy blink.

As with all creatures, the eye is an incredible organ that receives light and focuses on objects at varying distances. The brain translates the images, allowing your cat to understand what is before them.

Cat Eye Anatomy Explained

Your kitty eyeball is very similar to your eye’s structure. There are a few differences, though, and the slanted pupils are what give cats a superior vision. The vertical slits, rather than round pupils, allow a broader range of light to enter into the eye. The retina, at the back of the eye, contains photoreceptors called cone and rod cells that translate the light into a form that the brain can understand. The lens, behind the iris, allows your cat to focus on objects, near and far.

Care for your cat’s eyes, and if you think your furbaby has been in a fight, or if something looks unusual, call your veterinarian to check it out. Cats get eye infections too. They can suffer from cataracts, feline glaucoma, and other disorders. Symptoms to look out for include a leaky eye, discharge, and any sign of irritation. Protect your cat’s sight during playtime, and make sure you never shine a cat laser pointer into their eye. 

closeup cat eye image

When Do Kittens Open Their Eyes?

Kittens’ eyes are closed when they’re fresh from the womb. For the first few days after birth, all a kitten needs to do is eat, sleep, and cuddle. Their eyes continue to develop, and during the second week of life, the little blinkers will open. They continue to have blurry vision until about five weeks of life when their eyes have had plenty of practice processing the new sensory input.

Can Cats See in the Dark?

Cats are nocturnal and love to go out hunting at night. Because of this, many people have believed that cats can see in the dark. While their night vision is six times better than that of humans, they still need some light to be able to see what is happening around them. This ability to see in very dim light is because of the presence of numerous rod cells in their eyes.

Have you ever taken a photo of your cat and seen how their eyes seem to glow? This luminosity is thanks to a reflective layer in their eye structure called the tapetum lucidum. This layer magnifies and reflects light, allowing their eyes to use even the smallest glint of moonlight to help them catch a mouse (and hopefully not gift it to you).

Does a Cats Eye See Color?

Cone cells in our eyes enable us to see and differentiate colors. As hunters, these cone cells help cats to judge speed and distance. But their cone cells are less than that of humans, which has led researchers to believe that their ability to see color is limited. It is more critical for them to see contrast and light movement, which is why they have more rod cells than humans.

closeup image of a cat's eye

Can These Big Eyed Animals See What’s on a Screen?

YouTube videos don’t miss a beat, and you can now entertain your kitty with some videos. Cats and dogs can see what is on a screen, as long as it isn’t too close. Cats view less detail than we do, so choosing a video that includes general bird movement and lyrics will be enjoyable for your little one.

Four Other Fun Cats Eyes Facts

Who doesn’t love some fun facts? Here is some extra info to give you a glimpse into your furbaby’s eyes.

All kittens have blue eyes at first

All kittens are born with blue eyes. A lack of melanin in their iris causes this. Once the eye has opened, and their sight has developed, then the melanin will start to provide the range of colors that we see in adult cat eyes.

Purebred cats have more vivid eye colors

Russian Blue cats have bright ocean green eyes. Or you can get lost in the copper-golden trademark eye color of the Bombay cat. Do you love some deep sapphire? Then adopt a Balinese Cat breed for some blue eye-gazing. Bright, intense cat eyes are often preferred and therefore selected for the breed standard in purebred cats.  

Cats have a third eyelid

Cats have a third eyelid between their other eyelids and the cornea. The thin membrane contains an extra tear gland and provides added protection from debris for the eyeball. A raised or visible third eyelid (nictitating membrane), a condition called Haws Syndrome, is a sign of health problems. Torovirus, worms, or a side-effect of gastrointestinal disease causes this problem. Keep your eyes peeled for this symptom and take your kitty to the vet to get it checked out.

gray cat with green eyes

Blue eyes can indicate deafness in your kitty

This information is only accurate for white cats with blue eyes. The white marking that shows up because of white cats’ genetic makeup prevents melanin from developing. This lack of melanin causes blue eyes and also has an impact on their ears. While this sounds bizarre and disconnected, the melanin also affects the ionic balance in the ear’s cochlea. Hearing problems are a result of the degenerated cochlea. 

Cat owners can still shower their deaf cat with loads of love and cuddles. Don’t let this information deter you from adopting the beautiful, blue-eyed, white kitty at the local shelter. 

Common Questions on Cat Eyes

What causes a cat’s third eyelid to show?

Why do cats’ eyes glow when you take a photo?

Why does my cat’s eye have a discharge?

Why do cats have vertical pupils?

All product and Company names are Trademarks™ or Registered® trademarks of their respective holders.

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase CertaPet.com may earn a commission. Keep in mind that we link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission we receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.