Cat Facts

Why Do Cats Have Similar Eyes To Snakes? (Explained)

Why Do Cats Have Similar Eyes To Snakes

If you are wondering why do cats have similar eyes to snakes, you are not alone. Various scientists and researchers have also conducted different studies and come up with satisfying answers. The most appealing one is the mode of hunting which the animal prefers.

The predatory animals who prefer to hunt at night are called nocturnal predators. The slit pupil or snake-like eye is seen in such animals.

Another study indicated that the vertical slit pupil is among predators who tend to hunt by staying close to the ground because of their shorter length. This could be the very reason why the large wild cats have round pupils.

You can also see vertical slit pupils in fox and round pupils in wolves because of the same height difference. Some people go farther and ask the question, are snakes and cats related to each other? Well, according to scientists, this is not the case.

You need to read along to dig deep into this myth of cat and snake ancestry and why cats have similar eyes to snakes.

Do Cats And Reptiles Have Similar Eyes Because Of Convergent Evolution?

Convergent evolution means the creation of the same traits in different species because of some environmental factors. The flying trait in birds and bats is because of the convergent evolution.

Birds and bats are different species, but their ecological needs and feeding factors made them develop the unique trait that gave them a competitive advantage over other species.

A mammal and a bird cannot be related to each other coming from the same ancestor, but the flying trait is still the same.

When considering the vertical split pupil of snakes and cats, the study at UC Berkeley will help you understand the whole picture.

The researchers conducted a study by taking into account 214 land animals. They found that the pupil shape and size are entirely dependent on the habits of the animal.

The animals spending more active time at day will have round pupils. On the other hand, the animals with nocturnal activities will tend to have vertical split pupils.

The same slit in the eyes of both the snake and the cat is because of their distance from the ground in terms of height. Being nocturnal also plays a pivotal role in providing them with somewhat same eyes.

Are All Cats Pupils Vertical?

Not every cat has vertical pupils. This study helped people understand why there are different shapes of pupils on this diverse earth.

The study took into account 65 predators and looked for the difference in their pupil design and style. The astonishing factor was the correlation between the animal’s height and the structure of the pupil.

It revealed that 44 out of a total number of predators had vertical pupils. All of these animals were short in their size; they only reached 16.5 inches in height. The remaining animals with a bigger height had round pupils.

The change in the pupil of these predators is also contrary to the grazing animals. Goat, deer, and horses tend to have horizontal pupils.

The horizontal shape allows the grazing animals to scan the horizon clearly and register any threat or predator hidden around.

As opposed to the big hunters, the smaller predators need to have binocular vision in low light because of their even smaller prey. The vertical pupil is the best way to allow ample light to enter through the eyes and create a clear picture of the surrounding in low light.

Are Snakes And Cats Genetically Similar? (Both Have Some Species with Slit Eyes and Some with Round Eyes)

There is no genetic similarity between the cold-blooded reptile and a warm-blooded mammal. The evolution has given these species a chance to develop an innovative response to environmental factors.

The snakes and cats tend to stay closer to the ground and have to hunt for their prey. They need to measure the exact distance between them and their prey.

The vertical split eyes help them in this feat. The pupil also allows them to see things around even in the low light. But still, there is no genetic similarity of any kind in these two species.

Why Do Some Cats Have Elliptical Pupils?

Cats are predatory animals who have to ambush their prey. The cats are small structured animals that have to eat meals two to three times a day. Wild cats hunt for their meal at the beginning of the day when the small animals come out of their hiding or underground dwellings.

The morning is a perfect time for them where there is less light for the cat’s prey to register their predator. Cats have eyes fitted directly to their skull to make them apex predators. The split pupils allow them to gauge the distance with unmatched accuracy.

When the evening falls, the same low light helps the cats hunt for dinner. The elliptical pupils are invisible torch lights for the smaller cats and foxes.

These pupils expand to allow as much light as needed to create a vibrant and brighter picture of the environment to see the minute details around.

These mysterious pupils are responsible for keeping them alive in the most competitive environment where survival is possible only for the fittest.

Due to their height, larger cats and wolves don’t need much light to hunt their prey from a higher domain. That’s why evolution didn’t allow them to have this gift.

Why Do Cats Pupils Change Shapes?

Just like us, cats cannot change the shape of their pupils at their discretion. Cat’s autonomic system is responsible for the change in the shape of these mesmerizing pupils.

When cats show the contracted pupil with a thin black line in their eye, they look closer to snakes. The change in pupil shape is because of the external factors in the environment.

The variation in the shape and size of the pupil is the response that cats cannot master on their own. The first powerful factor in altering the shape of the pupil is light.

When cats are in direct sunlight or the daylight is seeping inside the house with more intensity, you will see the pupils like a thin black line.

This thin black structure allows the eye to restrict the excess light from bombarding the inner structure of the eye, which is capable of performing wonders at night.

The pupils dilate at night to allow maximum ambient light to enter the eyeball and show the accurate picture around even in the dark.

When cats show thin pupils even at night, this indicates fear, agitation, or arousal due to any factor around. Don’t approach your cat in this state and remove any intimidating factor around.

Why Do Cat’s Eyes Glow At Night?

Ancient Egyptians believed that cats were mythical creatures, and they had the tendency to capture the glow of the setting sun. The glow could help them see in the dark to help them move and hunt wherever they please.

The glowing eyes have earned them a special place in many civilizations. In the modern-day, if you see the bright eyes staring at you, the chilling sensation will rush through your spine if you don’t know the science behind this phenomenon.

Cats are not the only nocturnal beings whose eyes glow at night. All the following animals have glowing eyes because of a special reflective structure:

  • Deer
  • Dogs
  • Ferrets
  • Cattle
  • Horses

Tapetum lucidum is the reflective structure responsible for providing this scary glow to these animals’ eyes. This structure is like a tiny mirror that reflects the light coming from the source.

When you see the cats in the dark, the smallest amount of light available in the environment is reflected towards you, and you see the glow in their eyes. This mirror is also responsible for making them see a clear and bright picture of everything around them at night.

Are Cats Related To Snakes?

Cats hiss in particular situations, especially when they feel danger around them. A scared cat showing stress and agitation will hiss to keep the danger away.

A snake also does the same thing, but not every species is capable of doing this. The hissing sound and vertical pupils can make anyone think of the question, “Are cats related to snakes?” If you are also thinking the same because of these two factors, you should hold this question. There is no link between the ancestors of the cats and snakes in the near or distant past.

There is a similarity in cats and snakes in their eye that is the result of convergent evolution. Their eating habits and height from the ground made them obtain the elliptical pupils from the mysterious nature.

A snake is a cold-blooded reptile that lays eggs, and a cat is a warm-blooded mammal that gives birth to children and feeds them.

These two features are enough to break any myth regarding the relationship between these two distant species with no relationship together.

Final Thoughts

Now you have learned why do cats have similar eyes to snakes. There is no relationship or common ancestor among snakes and cats. The hissing and vertical split pupil are just common traits that they developed independently.

The larger wild cats have round pupils to give them a better view around. The vertical split of smaller cats provides a perfect measurement of the distance between them and their prey. This split pupil helps them hunt at night without any difficultly.

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