Can Rats See in the Dark

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Rats are one of the most annoying and destructive species in the U.S. They cause serious harm to your property, crops, and food supplies. In addition to this, they also spread life-threatening diseases to humans. Rats usually make their way to your home at night, which compels you to think; Can rats see in the dark?

No, rats cannot see in the dark. Besides the fact that rats are nocturnal, they have poor eyesight. They use other senses to compensate for their vision and to navigate objects. According to the University of Sheffield, rats use their whiskers to find their way in the dark. They also assist in knowing what’s in front of them.

Do you want to know more about the rat’s vision? If so, this article will give you all the essential information regarding rats’ vision and perception. So let’s begin.

Can Mice See in the Dark?

Yes, in comparison to rats, mice can see in the dark. Although they can see in the dark, they have poor eyesight. They use different methods for navigation. Some of them are listed below:

  • Mice use their whiskers to map out their environment.
  • They use touch, smell, and hearing senses to compensate for their vision. 
  • Mice have numerous whiskers on their face that have powerful receptors on them.
  • Whenever the mice touch the objects, whiskers send signals to their brain that helps them to figure out their circumstances.
  • As mice have a strong sense of smell, they follow the aroma to stay on their course.
  • Additionally, mice use their hearing sense to keep them safe from predators. They use their hearing sense as a vision to look around their beasts.
  • Moreover, mice have good memories that help them to avoid upcoming harmful situations.

Can Rats See in Color?

Yes, rats can perceive color. According to a journal from MDPI, as humans are trichromatic, rats are dichromates and have blue-UV and green-sensitive cones. It means they can see things in blue and green colors. 

Due to the presence of green cones in the retina, rats can see different colors of green. In addition to green wavelength, rats can see into the ultraviolet light spectrum, whereas humans cannot.

According to the Journal of Experimental Biology, rats have two sorts of cones, one is an ultraviolet-sensitive photopigment, and the other is a middle-wavelength pigment. So the signals from these two cones help rats to discriminate colors.

Although rats have light-distinguish cones, they perceive much of their surrounding as a blur due to the small size and number of cones. Moreover, with an increase in age, a rat’s retina becomes thicker. As a result, an adult rat may have a vision.

Do Rats Have Good Eyesight?

No, rats don’t have good eyesight. However, their vision is well-adapted for avoiding predators, it is not helpful when scouting out new areas and looking for food. To navigate things, rats use their body hairs and whiskers. That is the reason you often find rats running around walls.

Although rats have green and blue ultraviolet-light cones, they see most shades of red as dark. They cover up their poor eyesight with smell perception. What’s more, they distinguish things by their scent and aroma. They also use their urine mark to keep them on their path.

In addition to their sense of smell, rats have strong taste buds that make up for their poor visual acuity. They use their taste sense to determine whether the bread is out of harm or not. Further, they can detect poison and other pollutants in food, enabling them to avoid ingesting anything that may be lethal.

Rat Smell and Hearing V/S Eyesight

Although rats are nocturnal, they don’t have very excellent eyesight. They are dichromates and perceive only two colors. A rat has cloudy vision and poor depth perception. Additionally, rats have highly developed senses of smell, touch, and hearing, much like blind humans.

A rat uses its whiskers and sense of touch to detect the world around it. The rat brushes its whiskers on the floor, furniture, walls, and other rodents. Thus, this tactile sensation provides the rat with an accurate picture.

Moreover, rats inhabit an extensive world of smell and hearing. In contrast to humans, rats perceive the world differently through their sense of smell. Above all, rats’ hearing is more acute than ours. They can detect higher frequencies up to ultrasonics.

Do Rats Come Out with the Lights On?

Yes, even though rats are nocturnal, they can come out with the lights on. As far as the rats feel safe to wander out, they move out with the lights on. According to a Professional Wildlife Control Company in the USA, a rat can see quite well during the day. If you have a rat as a pet, you can take it out of its cage during the daytime and have some fun.

Rats used to sleep during the day, seventy-five percent of it, but they don’t do it continuously. They often take naps, and when they do wake up for a moment, they usually spend it doing something else. 

Seeing a rat is generally unpleasant, but if you see one in the light of day, you should be concerned about it. It would be a sign of some wickedness. Additionally, it can indicate that they have been awakened from their sleep by the intense human activity nearby.

Do Rats See Better in the Dark or Light?

As rats are sensitive to bright light, they prefer dark. While rats have poor eyesight, they use other senses to perceive their way around. No doubt rats can see both during the day and night time, but you find them most active at night due to their owl-like nature. They use their whiskers to navigate in the dark.

Although rats are nocturnal animals, they are most active in the twilight hours, which begin shortly before sunset and conclude just before sunrise. At this time, ultraviolet vision is beneficial for rats. That’s why ultraviolet sensitivity persists in rats.

If you keep rats as pets, you should place them out of direct sunlight because they are sensitive to intense light. Bright light can stress rats out and damage their eyes. So keep your rats out of danger.

What Time Do Rats Come Out at Night?

Since they are nocturnal animals, rats spend most of their time active between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before daybreak. Rats usually move out of their attics during the night, but you can also find them out during the day because of the following reasons:

  • You can find rats more active in the daytime in clubs and other places because they are full at night, and rats can’t find them pleasant.
  • Rats used to ramble in gardens and yards during the daytime to find their food.
  • Besides naturally occurring food, rats love your pets’ and birds’ food placed in your open pit.
  • Rats seek as much protection as they can. Therefore they use yards with lots of plants or areas covered in dense vegetation as hiding places.
  • In the light of day, you can also find rats near your trash bins.
  • In addition, rats who are used to interacting with people may be more likely to emerge during the day.

How Do Rats Find Food in Darkness?

Rats are omnivores and eat a variety of different foods. They enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, small animals, and leftovers from larger predators. It is a common misconception that rats can see quite well in the dark since they frequently scavenge for food and water at night.

Despite having weak eyesight, rats have excellent senses of touch, hearing, and smell. They use all of these senses to find food in the dark. Although rats can detect savory scents, they have more advanced noses and can recognize food from a greater distance.

Besides the sense of smell, rats use their memory and hearing perception to find food at night. Once it has located the food, the rat drags it off to a safe place to eat while holding it in its mouth.

What Colors Do Rats Hate?

Rats are night-loving rodents. Although rodents have agricultural benefits, rats act as pests for crops and vegetables. To get them rid of, you may often use lights of different colors, but do you know; what colors rats hate?

Before doing anything, you must know as humans can distinguish colors, rats cannot. It means rats can neither dislike nor love any color or shade. Rats are dichromats, and their retinas contain only 1% cones and 99% rods. 

In contrast to cones, which allow them to distinguish between hues, rods enable them to feel simply light and darkness. Their primary focal points are ultraviolet lights and dark & light backdrops. Since they are dichromatic, they can see different hues, but only in shades of blue and green. As they are nocturnal, they can survive without discrimination of color.

How Far Can Rats See?

Rats have poor vision as compared to humans. But when you compare it with other rodents, they have the best eyesight. Rats are short-sighted; they only concentrate on an object that is one or two feet distant.

Moreover, rats have limited depth perception due to the presence of eyes on either side of the head. Because of the rat’s tiny size and poor visual acuity, the depth of focus in rats ranges from 7 cm to infinity. For rats to detect blurriness, there must be a 14-diopter change.

Rats have fuzzy vision. Their lack of acute vision is due to the few cones they have. Normal rats can see clearly up to a few feet away with 20/600 eyesight. Additionally, they can see large objects and shapes only from a few steps distant.

How Do Rats Find Their Way in Darkness to Travel?

Rats are night-loving rodents, but do you know? They have poor vision. So how can they find their way in the darkness? Scientists from the University of Sheffield have found that rats use their whiskers as humans utilize their hands and fingers for navigation.

Rats are clever rodents. They can purposefully alter how they detect their surroundings using their facial whiskers based on whether their surroundings are novel. In addition to that, they can use their whiskers to know if they are likely to run into something. Moreover, rats position their whiskers in areas where they anticipate receiving the most appropriate information.

How Do Rats See the World?

A rat’s perspective of the world is dissimilar from our perception of the same scene. Rats pick up the faint hint of ultraviolet, blue, and green color. They have a blurry vision of the world with poor depth perception.

According to Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, rats move their eyes in a way that enables them to see above their head. This adaptation prevents them from their predators. Moreover, because of their ability to move their eyes in opposing directions, they can constantly monitor the airspace above them for any potential predators that could swoop down.

However, rats’ sense of touch, smell, and hearing is very sharp. They can perceive their environment using their whiskers as a sense of touch. They can find their way around using their powerful smell and hearing perceptions.


Rats are nocturnal creatures, whether you find them in the wild or keep them as pets. To compensate for your schedule, some pet rats will become dusky than nocturnal, but you still find them most active at night.

Rats have night-loving nature, yet, they have poor eyesight and trouble seeing in the dark. They use their keen hearing, sense of smell, and delicate whiskers to help them find their way around at night.

After reading the above details, you will surely get a better understanding of how rats perceive their surroundings and world. If you want to add something more, mention it in the comment box below.


  • The University of Sheffield.
  • Gerald H. Jacobs, John A. Fenwick, Gary A. Williams; Cone-based vision of rats for ultraviolet and visible lights. J Exp Biol 15 July 2001; 204 (14): 2439–2446.
  • Niklaus S, Albertini S, Schnitzer TK, Denk N. Challenging a Myth and Misconception: Red-Light Vision in Rats. Animals (Basel). 2020 Mar 3;10(3):422.