Can Cats and Dogs See Colour?

by | General Pet Care |

When your cat or dog looks out the window, what does it see? Can your dog see a red ball on the green lawn? Can your cat see the difference between a blue jay and a cardinal?

For a long time, it was assumed that cats and dogs could only see shades of black, grey and white, because it was believed that their eyes lacked the colour-detecting cells known as cones. Humans have three types of cones, which allow us to detect a wide range of colours. Scientists now believe that cats and dogs also have the ability to see colour, just not the same range as humans.

How dogs see the world

dog eye
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A dog only has two types of cones, which allow the dog to detect shades of blue and green, but not red—similar to what a person with red-green colour blindness might see. This means that a dog can see shades of yellow and blue, but lack the ability to see the range of colors from green to red. An object that’s red may appear grey to a dog, while something that’s green, yellow or orange, all take on a yellowish hue. In other words, a dog likely sees the world in shades of yellow, blue and grey.

While dogs may have a harder time distinguishing between colours compared to humans, their eyes are better equipped to detect motion and see objects in low light—both necessary skills for catching moving prey.

How cats see the world

cat eye
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Cats are believed to have three types of cones, but because the number and distribution of each type differs from humans, cats aren’t able to see the full range of colours as we do.

Cats can prominently see shades of blue and yellow, but aren’t able to see red. The world also takes on a pastel hue, since cats aren’t able to see the same richness and saturation of hues as humans.

Like dogs, a cat’s eyesight is designed to aid them as hunters. Cats have a wider field of view than humans (200 degree view compared to a human’s 180 degree view), and they can see much better than humans in low light. While cats may not be able to see the same colours as humans, their strong sense of smell, hearing, and sensitive whiskers are far more useful tools to them.

Even though your pet may not see colours the same way as you do, they’re really not negatively affected by it. Your pet’s eyes are designed to aid them in survival, so the colour of the object that they’re chasing really isn’t important.

While it may not matter what colour toy you buy your pet, a red ball on green grass may take a while for your dog to find. If you’re looking for a highly detectable toy for your cat or dog, try high contrasting colours or colours like bright orange and neon. Dogs and cats also excel at detecting movement, so they love toys that allow them to fetch, chase and hunt for objects!



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