Neutral point testing of color vision in the domestic cat

Exp Eye Res. 2016 Dec:153:23-26. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2016.10.002. Epub 2016 Oct 5.


Despite extensive study, the basic nature of feline spectral sensitivity is still unresolved. Most electrophysiological studies have demonstrated two photopic receptors within the cat's retina, one most sensitive to longer wavelengths near 560 nm and the other most sensitive to shorter wavelengths near 460 nm, providing the neuroretinal basis for dichromatic vision. A few studies, however, have detected a third photopic receptor most sensitive to medium wavelengths between 500 and 520 nm, overlapping in spectrally sensitivity with the feline scotopic receptor, that potentially could allow trichromatic vision. Indeed, one behavioral study has demonstrated trichromatic vision in cats, but a flaw within its experimental design raises the possibility that achromatic intensity cues might have allowed the accurate identification of medium wavelength targets. This study tested for a spectral neutral point in the domestic cat using a two-choice discrimination task. The positive targets were created using monochromatic light from various single wavelength light emitting diodes (LEDs) combined with a white light of variable intensity, while the negative targets were created using white light of variable intensity. Trials were performed with varying intensities of positive and negative targets, from brighter positive targets to brighter negative targets, to eliminate achromatic intensity cues. Two cats with prior experience with two-choice discrimination tasks, one male and one female, successfully discriminated monochromatic light from 456 nm to 497 nm and from 510 nm to 524 nm, but both failed to discriminate monochromatic light at 505 nm over multiple trials. These results provide strong evidence that cats are dichromatic with a neutral point near 505 nm. This neutral point is nearly identical to the neutral point of the human deuteuranope, making feline vision a more accurate a model for red-green colorblind individuals than normal trichromats.

Keywords: Color vision; Discrimination task; Domestic cat; Neutral point testing; Spectral discrimination; Visual discrimination learning.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Color Perception Tests / methods*
  • Color Vision / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Retina / physiology*