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Can Cats and Dogs See Color?

You may find yourself wondering a few important things about your pets; "do cats and dogs like music?”, or “are cats really afraid of cucumbers?” or even more importantly, “am I a cat or a dog person?" These are all very valid questions, and there's another age old query we're debunking today - can cats and dogs see color?

Perception of color is determined by the presence of cells in the eye, these cells are called cone photoreceptors. Human photoreceptors are different from that of cats and dogs. The retina of the eye has two main types of cells—rods (which detect light levels and motion), and cones (which differentiate color). Humans have more cones than dogs and cats, which gives us an edge with perceiving a broader spectrum of color than our four legged friends. However, dogs and cats have more rods in their eyes than we do, which allows them to see better in the dark.

What Cats Can See:

We know our cats love chasing laser pointers and shiny objects, but why? Although this behavior is partially caused by their hunting instincts, it also is related to what cats can actually see. Cats are crepuscular, which means they are active at dawn and dusk. Because of this, great night vision is quite important. Although they cannot see in pitch dark, they only need about 15% of the light that humans do to see at night. Their eyes have six to eight times more rod cells than humans do, which makes them more sensitive to low light. They are also better at spotting motion in the dark than humans are. This improves their hunting skills and can help protect them from potential predators.

Can Cats See Colors?

Now that we’re caught up on cats’ night vision skills, it’s time to answer another popular question; can cats see color? The answer is yes! To compare cats’ color vision to humans, human eyes have three types of cones that can identify combinations of red, green, and blue. Cats only have two types of cones, which is called dichromatic vision. To put it in perspective, a cat’s normal vision is similar to a human who has red-green color blindness. For example, red may appear brown or grey to your kitty, and blue and purple will look exactly the same to them.

What Dogs Can See

Dogs tend to be more nearsighted than humans. Because of this, they can look at an object from the same distance as us and it will appear blurry to them. However, our four legged friends have us ocularly beat in several other departments. Due to the placement of their eyes, dogs have much better peripheral vision than their humans. Like cats, dogs’ ancestors were also crepuscular, and their night vision is far better than their humans’. Furthermore, canines also have more rod cells in the retina than humans, so they can detect small movements, even at great distances. This is especially true for sighthound breeds!

Can Dogs See Colors?

Many dog owners wonder about dog color vision, and there was an old fallacy that dogs were colorblind. This is not the case at all. Dogs can perceive all colors, but they don’t always see the “true” color. Dogs can see shades of yellow and blue. They may have trouble differentiating between certain colors and hues. Like cats, dogs have dichromatic vision. Their view of the world is also similar to a human who has red-green color blindness. Their red ball may appear brown or grey, and their blue and purple toys will look exactly the same to them. Luckily, pups can also use their great sense of smell to help them identify different objects.

Pet owners should keep their fur baby’s visual strengths and weaknesses in mind when shopping for toys for them to find ones they will enjoy most and be able to clearly see.

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