Night Cat Quiz

Night Cat Quiz
Here's your chance to be a caracal. The more you know about cat eyes and night vision, the more successful you'll be on the hunt. If you get a question wrong, you'll go hungry for the night, but if you get it right you'll enjoy some fine dining, caracal style. Can you survive 10 evenings in the Serengeti? Take the Night Cat Quiz to find out.

1) The muscles that control a cat's iris are shaped like which of the following?

a) Figure-eight

b) Cross

c) Oval

d) Hourglass

A cat's iris is controlled by tiny muscles in the shape of a figure-eight rather than a circle. In the dark, the muscles pull the iris back like castle gates to allow more light into the eye. In bright light, the gates close and the pupil becomes a narrow slit. A cat's eye can do this in a fraction of a second. An animal with circular muscles controlling its iris can't open its pupils as wide or as quickly, and in the light, its pupils constrict to pinholes rather than slits.

2) Infrared vision allows cats to detect which of the following?

a) Heat

b) Movement

c) More red light

d) Electrical fields

A cat's infrared receptors allow it to pick out warm objects like birds and antelopes, which give off more heat than their surroundings. Animal movement is detected by motion detector cells, which respond to shifting light on the retina. Light is detected by photoreceptors, and cats can't detect electrical fields.

3) In cats, the cornea - a transparent membrane that covers the pupil - bulges out like one-half of a bubble. Why?

a) To help the cat focus better.

b) To allow in more light.

c) To create a concentrated field of vision.

d) To better protect the pupil.

Light has to pass through the cornea to enter the eye; the more cornea there is, the more light can get in. This is part of the secret behind night vision. Focus is controlled by the lens. Cats have a wide, not concentrated, field of vision because of their bulging corneas. A cornea's shape has little to do with protection.

4) There's a big rock nearby, a tree stump about 20 yards out and a shrew gathering seeds in a distant patch of grass. All of these are in a cat's field of vision. Which of these does the cat see in highest detail?

a) The big rock

b) The tree stump

c) The shrew

d) The entire scene

A cat's eyes have motion detector cells that help it center in on movement, but when focused in this way its surrounding field of vision appears blurry. A moving animal is nearly always a cat's focal point. It was once thought that cats were nearsighted, meaning they can see close objects better than those in the distance, but recent studies have disproved this.

5) How much better is a cat's nighttime vision than a human's?

a) Three times

b) Four times

c) Five times

d) Six times

Cats cannot see in total darkness, but they pick up low levels of light six times better than humans can.

6) Why do a cat's eyes face forward?

a) To gather more light

b) To detect movement

c) To increase its field of vision

d) To gauge distance

Cats have binocular vision, meaning both eyes face forward to produce a single image. This allows cats to see in three dimensions rather than just two; the extra dimension is distance. Because of binocular vision, a cat can assess precisely how far it has to run to reach its prey, and exactly how far it has to extend its paw to hook it. Without it, cats couldn't hunt successfully.

7) Which of the following cats is most active during the day?

a) Ocelot

b) Canada lynx

c) Jaguarundi

d) Jungle cat

Looking like a cross between an otter and a cat, the jaguarundi is a diurnal animal, meaning that it is most active during the day. It prowls the scrublands and forest margins of Central and South America, never venturing far from water. Its favorite prey seems to be fish. Another diurnal cat, the fishing cat, is aptly named because it also relies heavily on fish. Cats that fish work best during the day; light travels so poorly in the water that night vision is of little use in spotting the animals.

8) The tapetum lucidum helps the cat see at night. How does it do this?

a) By absorbing light

b) By focusing light

c) By reflecting light

d) By dispersing light

The tapetum lucidum is a silvery layer of reflecting cells that resides just behind the retina, a membrane that absorbs light. When light reaches the retina, some of it is absorbed by photoreceptors called rods and cones, but some of it keeps on going. The tapetum lucidum bounces light back onto the rods and cones, giving them another chance to absorb it. So essentially, the cat recycles light within its eye to gain a brighter picture of its surroundings.

9) Cats are very sensitive to movement in which direction?

a) Side to side

b) Up and down

c) Round and round

d) Coming and going

Cat photoreceptors are laid out in a horizontal strip on the retina, rather than a circle, making cats highly sensitive to movement from side to side. This allows cats to detect animals moving across the ground from great distances.

10) Which of the following has the sharpest vision?

a) Bear

b) Human

c) Dog

d) Cat


  1. a) Figure-eight
  2. a) Heat
  3. b) To allow in more light
  4. c) The shrew
  5. d) Six times
  6. d) To gauge distance
  7. c) Jaguarundi
  8. c) By reflecting light
  9. a) Side to side
  10. b) Human