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Why Do Cats Have Snake Eyes – What You Should Know!

Why Do Cats Have Snake Eyes – What You Should Know!

You’ve just rescued a cat from the shelter, and you both are snuggling on the living room couch. You turn over to check if she’s sleeping, and you get the chills looking at her snake eyes. Yes, we’ve all been there. We’ve all had the question pop in our head; why do cats have snake eyes?

Cats have snake eyes because it allows them to open their eyes wide in lowlight conditions. The slit-shaped pupil, similar to a snake, can control varying amounts of light depending on the day and nighttime settings. Their eyes also give cats an advantage in hunting.

This article will go over the most common but essential facts you need to know about your cat, like why some cats and snakes have the same kind of eyes, why some of the other cats have elliptical pupils, and many more.

Why Do Cats And Snakes Have The Same Eyes

Cats and snakes both are predators and nocturnal creatures and hunt by suddenly attacking their prey. This common characteristic of cats and snakes causes them to have the same eyes.

Vertical pupils have evolved independently in different species, which is fascinating. Vertical pupils are found in house cats, as well as some snake species.

Slit pupils can handle a wider range of light conditions because they close more tightly. The species that are only active during the day do not have slits. Cats and snakes have vertical slits. These slits provide a better judgment of the area and the distance. The slits also allow these animals to see in low light while preventing them from being blinded by bright light.

Slit pupils are also seen in vertebrates with multifocal lenses, focusing on different colors. In bright light, slits allow more colors to be seen. Colors with different wavelengths hit the eye at different speeds. This improves color vision at night, as well as at dusk and dawn.

Vertical pupils also have more room to expand and contract in response to changing light conditions. A human pupil can dilate up to ten times its original size, while a cat’s pupil can dilate 135 times its original size. This feature has obvious utility for an animal that hunts in various light conditions like cats and snakes. For example, nocturnal pit vipers have vertical pupils, whereas diurnal cobras have round pupils.

Why Do Some Cats Have Elliptical Pupils

Below are the key reasons why cats have elliptical pupils.

Cats prey on their target by sneaking on them. They do not hunt using power or speed. Hence, cats come under the category known as ambush predators. With the help of vertical pupils, the cats can easily gauge the distance between themselves and the prey without giving their prey any hint.

Cats tend to eat small portions frequently during the day. They hunt during the times when the sun shines low, i.e., early morning and late evening.

In bright light, vertical pupils are reduced to slits, ideal for daytime because it allows less light. This pupil then dilates during dawn and dusk, allowing the cat to have a better view and judgment.

Vertical pupils are unusual in that they only appear in animals that remain near the surface while ambushing their target from close proximity. Vertical pupils are found in snakes, cats, and foxes. 

Hence, owing to the cats’ physical, hunting, and eating habits, some cats have elliptical pupils.

Do All The Cats Have Vertical Pupils

No, not all cats have vertical pupils. Bigger cats like lions and tigers have round pupils. Apart from these, domestic cats and smaller cats have vertical pupils.

The big benefit of the vertical pupils is how it allows a cat to be more flexible in how they hunt. These pupils are common among nocturnal creatures, not just cats; but snakes too.

Cats can use their vertical pupils to determine things such as the distance from their prey. Having the ability to accurately judge the distance is important, especially in the wild with feral cats.

Cats can also control the amount of light that comes in. This is a huge advantage for cats that hunt in the nighttime. They are able to take advantage of the time of day without losing quality. And, if it’s daytime, they can simply adjust their eyes and do their work during this period too.

In addition to regulating light, a cat’s vertical snake-like pupils help them create more stealth in their movements.

Why Do Cats Pupils Change Shapes

If you have a cat, you probably know that sometimes your cat will appear calm and composed. But few times, she’ll be all riled up, and you may be frightened for a moment. If your cat shows a slit pupil, it means that she is in a composed and relaxed mood.

However, if your cat is aggressive, you’ll immediately notice how her pupils transform to a round shape.

Why Do Cat’s Eyes Glow At Night

Cats’ eyes have a special layer in their eyes, which is reflective. It is called tapetum lucidum. When light enters the cat’s eyes, sometimes, it doesn’t reach the retina. Instead, the light is reflected by this reflective layer.

This reflection of light from the cat’s eyes makes the eyes glow at night. This reflective layer is missing in the human eye, and hence, you never see the human eyes glowing in the dark!

How Are Cats And Snakes Similiar

Apart from the eyes, cats and snakes also share a common sound: hissing.

Many animals hiss, but cats and snakes are probably the first two that come to mind. The glottis is an organ in the snake’s throat that allows it to breathe. Normally, this is a silent process, but forcing air out of the glottis produces a distinctive hissing sound. 

Snakes hiss as a form of defense, which is especially effective for small, non-venomous snakes. A hissing snake can appear to be a larger, more dangerous adversary. 

When cats are mainly defensive, they may hiss and make a guttural growling sound. Certain snake species, including the King Cobra, can growl.