Do Dogs and Cats See Colors? How Good is their Vision?

These are questions that we all wonder about (at least I do). “Common knowledge” states that dogs don’t see color because they have an absence of cones, a component of the retina which allows for color vision. As far as cats are concerned, the typical assumption is that cats can see better at night than during the day. And as far as color is concerned, well, it was a cat and many researchers just didn’t seem to consider it. Alas, things have changed. Recently in one of the premier veterinary publications, “Clinician’s Brief” the following fun facts are reported.

1. Dogs and cats are both more sensitive to light and motion than humans.
2. Cats can detect objects in one sixth of the amount of light as humans.
3. The visual field (peripheral vision) in humans is about 180 degrees. In cats it is similar at about 200 degrees
But here the dogs win out….their peripheral field is 240 to 250 degrees. That means they can actually see somewhat in back of their heads.
4. Humans have the best visual acuity. So that even though dogs and cats both see better in dim conditions, they shouldn’t drive at night!
Dogs have vision measured at 20/75 which means they can see at 20 feet what humans can see at 75 feet. And cats at 20/100-20/200 are even worse in acuity.
5. Finally, how about color? While humans can see a full range of color, dogs can discern yellow, blue and some shades of grey that are even impossible for us to see.
Color vision in cats? The latest states that “cats have limited color vision”. But then again, you could say that about dogs. So what is the real truth? My thoughts are that
cats being cats…..they just didn’t feel like taking the test.

So there you have it. Dogs do in fact see color. Both dogs and cats see better at night than we do. Cats may or may not discern color. We’ll keep you posted on that one. Finally, keep in mind that just as in some humans who see clearer than others, normal variations in companion animals occur as well. So if you think that your cat can see colors, you just may be right.

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