One of the most common adjectives thrown around when referencing cats—specifically Ragdolls, in this case—is that they are nocturnal creatures who hunt their prey in the dark. There’s no doubt that cats are apex predators at their level on the food chain, but can they see in the dark?
Ragdolls can’t see in the dark, at least not in the way we assume, with everything lit up in bright green or white, like night vision goggles. Instead, cats have a short-sighted vision that is very effective. However, it isn’t any better in the darkness, and Ragdolls can see better in the daylight.
Of course, that’s the most straightforward answer, and there is a lot more going on inside your Ragdoll’s eyes than you think. For example, movement at short range—within a few feet of your Ragdoll—is easily detectable by your Ragdoll far more efficiently than you would.
Outside of the short-sighted advantages that Ragdolls/cats have, what makes their eyesight so much different from ours, and can they see better in the darkness than we can?
How Do a Ragdoll’s Eyes Work?
Both humans and cats have rods and cones. However, a cat has more rods than humans and an additional “mirror” that reflects light across those rods, light that may have missed the rods on its first pass. This “mirror” is called a tapetum lucidum.
Rods are designed for low-light environments, while cones are primarily for lighted environments and the perception of colors.
You would think that having many more rods than us would help Ragdolls see in the dark. However, a cat’s short-sight vision is still short-sight vision at night time.
So even though Ragdolls can detect movement better in the darkness, their sight is still so limited that they can still see, as a whole, better in the daylight.
Their advantage in the dark comes from the fact that their rods are working overtime, and they retain their level of near-sightedness with better movement detection at night.
Movement detection, combined with excellent peripheral vision—another benefit of having all of those rods—and short-sightedness is why cats hunker down in their “pounce” stance and become very still, so they can maximize their ability to see all movements.
Other Ways That Ragdolls Can See Better
There are no additional mechanisms within your Ragdoll’s eyes that give it more advantages. However, cats combine their incredible hearing and excellent sense of smell, using all three senses to see.
Cats can hear things that we simply cannot and can zero in on the slightest squeak of a mouse that is clear across the room. Likewise, they can hear the buzzing of an insect’s wings in a room where everyone is talking.
They also have what is called the Jacobson’s organ, which is an organ within their nasal cavity that picks up odor particles. Ironically, it’s the same organ, packed with sensors, also found in snakes.
Because of this organ, a cat’s sense of smell is roughly 15 times more powerful than a human’s. So your Ragdoll has quite the advantage when it comes to darkness, but it doesn’t mean that they can see any better in the darkness, just that they have more advantages when the lights go out.
What Does Your Ragdoll See When the Lights Go Out?
Distance and colors are pretty much out of the equation in terms of what a Ragdoll can see, whether in the dark or in full daylight. Cats can detect blue and yellow and have a vague sense of green. Distant objects are complex, grainy, and or blurry.
Even in the dark, your Ragdoll has a wider viewing angle at 200° versus your 180°. That may not seem like much until you consider that cats have very sensitive, close range movements.
How Do Ragdolls See In Comparison to Humans?
The average cat has 20/100 to 20/200 vision versus the 20/20 vision of a human, but thanks to the extra rods in their eyes, Ragdolls can see at 16% of the available light that humans can. So we need far more light in a dark room.
Most of that is because of the mirror that cats have within their eyes. So any tiny amount of light that somehow gets around the multitude of available cones will have a second opportunity after it’s reflected back.
Like a human iris, a cat’s iris expands and contracts according to the amount of available light, expanding as light decreases and contracting as the room brightens.
Are Ragdolls Afraid of the Dark?
Despite the prevailing attitude that cats are nocturnal animals, they are far more accurate in the wee hours of the morning, right before the sun begins its ascent.
However, Ragdolls can be afraid of the dark, but more specifically, of absolute darkness, where their advantage in rods is not enough.
The feeling is most likely an instinctive one. While Ragdolls are apex predators in their own class and below, they are instinctively aware that they are not at the top of the food chain in everything and that there are things out there that would be happy to hunt them, rather than the other way around.
Signs Your Ragdoll Is Scared of The Dark?
It doesn’t necessarily mean that your Ragdoll is afraid of the dark, only that it’s possible. However, if it is afraid of the dark, there will be some obvious signs that something is wrong.
- Loud and constant meowing
- Wet paws
- Erratic and confusing behavior
- Rapid heartbeat
It may not be that your Ragdoll is terrified of the dark because Ragdolls are lap cats and want to be everywhere you are.
However, leaving them behind in the dark is probably less of a “scared of the dark thing” and more of an attitude of dismay that it can’t find or reach you.
When cats are terrified, they sweat, similar to humans, and cats sweat through their paws. You’ll know it was scared if the bottoms of its paws are wet. Rapid heartbeat is another way to tell.
Your Ragdoll’s resting heart rate is already faster than ours, so you will have to know your cat well to understand that its heart is beating at an accelerated rate. Erratic and confusing behavior is tied to fear within a cat as well.
Your Ragdoll may panic and meow strangely or run into doors that it assumes are open but simply can’t see. It may lose control of its bladder. However, such a level of fear in the dark means that there is probably something abnormal going on.
It may be something in your Ragdoll’s past, especially if you adopted it, or it may be that your Ragdoll has a previously unrecognized physical issue going on.
If your Ragdoll is exceedingly stressed out, it will exacerbate the issue.
For the most part, however, your Ragdoll may be confused but should otherwise be alright, even in total darkness. That’s especially true if it has a high level of trust and affection for you and believes you would never do anything harmful to it.
It’s not that your Ragdoll can see better than you in the darkness. It’s more that it can use the tools in its eyes better than we can because we lack the number of rods they have.
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