What Colors Do Cats Like or Are They in Fact Color Blind?

Closeup of gray cat on a yellow background with yellow eyes

Have you ever thought about what colors your cat actually sees? Or have you ever wondered if they have a favorite color? Maybe you have found yourself in the pet isle at your favorite store, staring at all of the cat toys, wondering which color they would like the most. They might enjoy the bright red mouse, or they might want something in blue. Possibly the yellow fuzzy ball with silver strands in it would be best.

Understanding exactly what colors a cats sees and how their vision works can help you solve this dilemma. In fact, a little knowledge on how they perceive colors can make it easier for you to keep your kitty calm and happy.

What Colors Do Cats See?

Science used to tell us that our cats were dichromatic. In other words, we believed they could only see two colors. This is not exactly true. They can see blue-violet shades as well as greenish yellow colors. Most felines tend to like blue the best. This is due to the fact that this is the color they see most clearly. The rest of the world has a dull gray tint to it. Think of what a colorized picture looks like when they use a pop of color in a black and white photo for dramatic effect.

Illustration of color vision in humans and cats

This doesn’t mean that all your cat can identify are blue and yellow colors. Some other colors are distinguishable as being different, but those colors simply look like off shades. When they look at something colorful, their eyes can pick up on the colors they do see, which can be hidden to the rest of us. For example, what we see as purple will appear blue to them.

To understand this, think about how the color purple is made. Purple is created by mixing equal parts red and blue. Since cats can’t see red, their eyes will tune in on the blue portion. When a cat sees yellow, it would appear more greenish to them. Again, this is due to how yellow is created. On the other hand, red doesn’t contain blue or green, so cats will see this color as gray. In general, the colors cats do see are less vibrant than what humans see.

Are Cats Color Blind?

Portrait of a gray cat with green eyes

Cats are primarily red-green color blind. This is called deuteranomaly or protanomaly. With these types of color blindness, your cat will have trouble telling the difference between red, brown, orange and purple.

Cats photoreceptors are the most sensitive to wavelengths that fall between the blue-violet and green-yellow ranges. They may be able to see some green too, but this doesn’t mean their vision is inadequate when compared to ours. In fact, quite the opposite is true. What they lack in recognizing colors, they make up for in many other ways. For starters, they have a much broader visual field than humans. They have a 200 degree visual range when ours is only 180 degrees.

Another perk to feline vision is their ability to see in the dark. They have excellent night vision when compared to ours. They require 20% less light than we do to see. This is due to the photoreceptors found in their retina.

We have cone cells. Cone cells allow us to see detail and many vibrant colors. Cats have rod cells. These cells let them see quite well in dim lighting. They allow their vision to refresh quicker than ours too. These specialized cells also give them the added benefit of being able to pick up on rapid movements. These perks come in handy when they are in the wild, chasing their prey.

What Colors Do Cats Like the Most?

A cat likes to climb stairs on a blue colored street in Chefchaouen, Morocco

Since cats see blues and yellows most clearly, you could consider these to be their favorite colors. Toys and other items in these colors will pop out at them first, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t distinguish other colors. Much like a person that is color blind, most colors appear to them as shades of gray.

The fact that cats can’t see a wide range of colors doesn’t really bother them. They aren’t particularly interested in colors. In the wild, they rely on prey for survival. Color doesn’t help them hunt as much as being able to spot movement or seeing in the dark. Cats are naturally more attracted to movement than any one particular color. Felines will perk up at something that moves before they will be drawn to a bright color. Being able to detect even the slightest movement makes them the great mousers that they are.

Calming Colors for Cats

Cat in studio experiencing calming blue and violet colors

Blue and violet are the most calming colors to cats. These colors can actually help reduce stress in your cat. They are the preferred shades in veterinary offices because of how cats react to them. If the walls were painted in a stark white or bland gray, the room would seem abrasive to your feline friend.

Doctor Marty Becker is the Chief of Veterinary Correspondent for the American Humane Association. Dr. Becker recommends using an Easter palette when looking for colors that calm cats. Pastel hues, such as green and purple, are perfect for vets to wear. If your kitty is the type that experiences anxiety every time you head to your vet, consider bringing along a pastel green or purple blanket to help calm it.

What Colors Do Cats Hate?

Golden cat in the sun squints from the bright light

Knowing which colors your cat hates could be helpful, but there is no proof that felines hate any certain color. This could be due in part to the limited amount of colors they can see. Since most of their world is blue, yellow, and gray, there aren’t any colors in there that stand out as irritating.

That being said, white can be bothersome to some cats. A cats vision, when it comes to color, falls under the ultraviolet end of the spectrum. Because of that amazing night vision they have, more light is able to reach their retina than with our own eyes. While ideal for nighttime hunting, this causes them to see white as though it were under a black light. White appears to glow for cats. Don’t be surprised if your cat gets upset when someone like the vet comes toward them in a white lab coat.

To make things worse, there is man-made brightness added to many whites in order to make them look more attractive to us humans. These brighteners allow items to soak in more light from the UV spectrum. This only increases the glowing effect for cats. When buying items for your kitty such as a pet carrier, avoid white all together. The glow will only add to their anxiety when it comes to a car ride or a trip to the vet or kennel.

Portrait of cute gray and white striped kitten sitting on a blue background and playing

So, the next time you are shopping for a present for your feline buddy, you will know which colors to avoid and which they can actually see and enjoy. Stick to blues and yellows if you want them to perceive the colors in a similar way to what you see. Avoid white when picking out the necessities. Look for softer pastels that will calm them, and generally avoid white as a rule of thumb.

If you want to purchase a toy they will love, don’t get hung up on the color. Instead, choose whichever one has the most movement. You will be tapping into their natural instincts, and they will appreciate that the most.