What Colors Do Pets See?

Have you ever wondered what the world looks like to your cat, or dog? At one time people thought most animals, including cats and dogs, were colorblind, but we now know they are not.

Eyes are made up of Rods and Cones, it is the Cones that are important for seeing color, and some animals have different types of cones in their eyes than humans do. Humans have 3 Cone types, Short, Medium, and Long, allowing those of us who are not colorblind to see what we consider a full range of colors – the rainbow. Colorblind people see certain colors as grays, the same thing applies to the animals who cannot see certain colors. So just what do animals see?

Pigeons

While humans are capable of seeing 10 million different colors (you may note there are many colors of “blue” for example), pigeons are believed to be able to see 10 billion different colors. They have 2 different cone types that humans do not have. This means pigeons are more sensitive to different hues within a color than other animals.

Other Birds

Other birds can see a full range of color, you can teach a pet parrot to recognize colors, and will note that some male birds use a display of colors in their courtship rituals. Some birds, such as owls, have extra cones to help them see better at night.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Snakes, turtles, frogs, and other reptiles and amphibians can probably see better than you. They have 4 cone types. It has been noted that these cones probably are important for improved twilight vision. Some of these animals are nocturnal and the extra cones would allow them to see color in the dim light of the evening or night. You will note humans have limited color vision in the dark, as everything falls into shades of gray when the sun is gone.

tabby cat, photo by author

Cats

Your cat cannot see as many colors as you. Cats are not totally color blind, they can see blues and greens, and some yellows, however cats cannot see reds and oranges. Cats have better night vision than humans.

Dogs

Dogs have pretty much the same color range as cats, perhaps slightly better. Dogs can see blues and greens, and some yellows, but are colorblind in terms of red and orange. You will note that while dogs may not be able to see as many colors than us they have a superior sense of smell than even the best human.

Horses, Cattle, Sheep, etc.

Farm animals are also limited in the range of colors they can see. They have a color blindness to red and orange, but can see blue, green, and most yellows. Most of these animals have a blind spot in front of them, so would see a thin black area directly ahead of them, but have good peripheral vision, with the exception of the lack of seeing red and orange.

Fish

Some fish have better color vision than others, and some can even see ultraviolet light.  Most fish have full color vision.


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