No, Dogs Don’t See in Black and White: Here’s What Your Pet’s Vision Looks Like

No, Dogs Don’t See in Black and White: Here’s What Your Pet’s Vision Looks Like
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If you’re a pet owner, chances are you spend a solid amount of your time obsessing over every detail of your little animal baby’s life. From the snacks they enjoy to the toys they run to most, being a pet owner is in huge part living your days thinking about how to make that animal happy.

But have you ever thought, really thought, about how your pet sees the world? Though we have our assumptions about what our cats and dogs may be thinking from time to time, not many of us have a clear understanding of what our fur babies (or feathered or scaled babies) see when they look at us.

Here’s a look into precisely that.

Dogs

We all know this one: dogs see in black and white, right?

No, actually. As it turns out, dogs do actually see colour, they just see less colour than humans do.

Eyes contain two types of photoreceptors, called rods and cones. Cones are responsible for seeing colours, while rods help vision in low light. While humans have three cones for red, green and blue vision, dogs only have two, which are suspected to be green and blue.

This means your pet dog (and all dogs) will be able to see some colours vividly, but others in a vastly different way to the way humans do. It’s suspected that dogs are also able to see more shades of grey than humans do, and also have far superior night vision to ours – which is why their eyes reflect light in the dark.

You can see a mock-up of how dogs see in this video:

Cats

Cats are quite similar to dogs in that they only have two cones, likely also green and blue. They also have far superior night vision – which you may already be aware of.

Another interesting fact about cat vision is that they have a wider field of view than humans, though the amount of it that’s in focus is about the same. Cats are more short-sighted than humans, but they make up for it with increased acuity in other senses.

Birds

Unlike dogs or cats, birds actually have better vision than humans. As well as red, green and blue photoreceptors they have a fourth that allows them to see on the ultraviolet spectrum. This means that birds can see a whole range of colours we don’t even know about.

What’s even more amazing is that birds have a special protein in their eyes that helps them ‘see’ the Earth’s magnetic rays, aiding migration and homing behaviours. Incredible stuff, no?

As animals that rely on their eyesight more than most, it’s no surprise that birds have evolved a whole lot of impressive visual tricks.

Learn more on this below:

Snakes

As a pet I have always wanted to have, I’m pretty curious about how snakes see – though there isn’t as much research on them as on other animals.

Snakes also appear to be dichromatic like cats and dogs, seeing in blue and green. Vision seems to be different between nocturnal and diurnal snakes, with diurnal snakes boasting a UV filter that’s a bit like a built-in pair of sunglasses.

Most interesting though is snakes’ ability to see infrared – though technically this isn’t vision but another sense provided by a pair of ‘pit organs’ on the snake’s head. This allows snakes to hunt even in total darkness, as demonstrated in the video below:


Want to keep learning about pets? Here’s a look into the signs your dog loves you and isn’t just using you for food.

This story on the vision of your pets has been updated since its original publication date.