Pets See the World Differently

by Bonney Brown

Our pets certainly experience the world differently than we do. Their vision is just one of the ways their perceptions differ, but maybe not in the way you think.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs’ and cats’ vision is not like a black-and-white film. They perceive fewer and less vivid colors than we do and while they cannot distinguish red or green they can see yellow and blue. We can see the range of colors we perceive because humans have three types of photoreceptors in our eyes while dogs and cats have two.

What animals lack in color perception they make up for in other ways. Their eyes are perfectly adapted to the life they would live in the wild. Both dogs and cats are superior to us in the detection of movement, which is helpful if you are dependent upon catching small prey for meals.

Ever notice how dogs and cats eyes glow when light hits them at night or in photos taken with a flash? That’s because they have a reflective layer behind the retina called tapetum lucidum, which improves their ability to see in low light. Cats in particular can perceive light seven times lower than humans.

Because of the placement of their eyes, cats have better depth perception than we do, but they have a smaller field of vision. Dogs, on the other hand, have less depth perception, but greater peripheral vision, allowing them to see more of the world at one time.

Cats have a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane, a thin cover that closes from the side. If the third eyelid is often visible the cat may be sick and should see a veterinarian.

Just as vision differs by species so does the meaning of eye contact. Dogs often perceive direct eye contact as threatening so it is best not to stare into a dog’s eyes. However, you can train your dog to make eye contact with you by rewarding them for it.

Cats have a special signal they give with their eyes which is reserved for people for whom they feel affection; a slow blink or squint. Try giving your cat the slow blink and see if he or she responds in kind.

If it is true that eyes are the windows of the soul, understanding how our pets see the world can help us better understand and relate to them.

Events that Help Animals

Cat Convention ― All Things Cats, February 9 at the Grand Sierra Resort. Cat marketplace, cats for adoption, refreshments, local celebrities.  Admission is free.

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