Cats vs Dogs: How They Each See the World

Cats vs Dogs: How They Each See the World

Have you ever wondered how your pet sees (views) the world? We all know their views differ from ours, but exactly how?

To put this in perspective, let’s use the avg. human as a standard in our comparisons.

●     All statistics are approximate


Vision is probably the first sense people consider when they think of other animals because, naturally, we ‘see’ the world through our eyes. This is the strongest sense most people have, the sense we subconsciously lean to above all others.

But what about cats and dogs? Do they rely as heavily upon this single sense as we do? Unlike humans, who have the ability to use their hands to create complex tools, dogs and cats have evolved to rely almost completely upon their bodies for survival; every sense fine tuned to augment their hunting abilities.


Field of View: 180*

Visual Acuity: 20/20


Field of View: 200*

Visual Acuity: 20/100-20/200


Field of View: 250*

Visual Acuity: 20/80

This data means dogs and cats can’t see objects clearly at nearly the distance we humans can, but they can see at a wider range. Their peripheral vision is greater, allowing them to pick out that small bunny running off (example), or catch the larger predator running at them from the corner of their vision.

Tapetum Lucidum: a reflective layer of tissue lying directly behind the retina of dogs and cats (not humans) that further augment their sight. Have you ever wondered why your pet’s eyes seem to ‘glow’ at night?

Vision Receptor Cells

Rods: A type of photoreceptor cells in the eye, rods are more ‘light sensitive’, often responsible for low light vision. Rods have little role in color detection.

Cones: Cones are responsible for color vision, and are most effective in relatively bright light.


Rods: 90 million cells

Cones: 6-7 million cells


Rods: +

Cones: -


Rods: +

Cones: -

Both dogs and cats have more rod cells in their retina (back of eye), then that of humans, allowing them more light sensitivity. Which, of course, makes them better hunters at night. Both dogs and cats have two of the three types of cone cells (and fewer of them) we humans have in their retina.

This means they can see color, just not the full spectrum we humans can.


Why is hearing important for dogs and cats? After all, they don’t talk, yet can hear at higher frequencies than humans!

●     One KHz X 1000= 1Hz

HUMANS: 20 Hz to 20 KHz

CATS: 100,000 Hz

DOGS: 35,000- 40,000 Hz

Though they both hear better than humans, this data means cats can hear far lower frequencies (softer sounds) than dogs. The footfalls of those tiny rodents as well be drum beats to them (well, maybe not to that extent, but you get the point).

Again, the hunting applications are obvious. Since cats are nocturnal hunters, smaller animals their prey, of course powerful hearing would be beneficial. Humans don’t need to hunt and track their prey.


Whereas cats may not communicate vocally as often with each other, wolves certainly do. Did you think howling had absolutely anything to do with the moon? In fact, wolves howl as a diverse means of communication between pack members. Since dogs evolved from wolves…

Cats do create a myriad of vocal sounds that indeed have meanings. To simplify from our human understanding:

Meow: a means of getting attention

Purr: contentment & comfort, sometimes self- administered

‘Growl’: warning sound; back off

Hiss: next stage of warning after growl, conveys fear or anger


Though cats have a stronger sense of smell than humans, this is where dogs shine- and not just a little bit. Even a teacup Chihuahua would put any of the great hunting cats of the world to shame here.

●     Biologists agree that dogs have a sense of smell 10,000- 100,000 times better than ours!

HUMANS: 6 million olfactory receptors

CATS: 200 million olfactory receptors

DOGS: 300 million olfactory receptors

Here is an analogy/comparison for you to consider:

"Let's suppose they're just 10,000 times better. If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well."

-James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University

-article from Nova

●     The aspect of a dog's brain devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally, 40 times greater than ours.

The Perfect Hunter

Think of it this way- dogs ‘see’ the world through their nose, much like we do through our eyes. A dog suffering from blindness could lead a perfectly happy life (barring traffic/roads), since Canine vision has evolved to augment hunting, and the domesticated dogs of today no longer need to hunt. Take away his ability to smell, on the other hand…

Even their immensely powerful smelling sense evolved to enhance their tracking abilities, again bolstering the hunt (true for cats as well, but to a lesser degree).

Many biologists would argue wolves are the perfect hunting machines, able to both track/trail a day old scent from over a mile away and coordinate complicated pack hunting activities through a vocal communication (howling) human scientists don’t even fully comprehend yet.

Today’s Applications

All dogs retain this tracking instinct, using it every day (even if we don’t see it that way). Most breeds can be taught to use this ability to benefit mankind.

Find a lost child amidst millions of acres of forest? Locate avalanche victims buried deep under snow and ice? Rescue a drowning victim among dangerous rapids? These are easily within their capabilities; search and rescue/water rescue dogs are trained to perform these exact functions. Even criminals equipped with the knowledge of Bloodhound tracking methods would find it nearly impossible to evade these mighty search dogs for long (thankfully most aren’t).

●     In fact, the only land species batter at this function both lacks the intelligence needed and are aggressive to the point they are just as likely to attack/kill the handler. Dogs are absolutely perfect for the task.

Believe it or not, even simple household Canine pets are easily capable of such feats no human on earth could dream of; it’s a simple question of training. This takes a handler knowledgeable enough to show said dogs what is being asked of them.

For Your Consideration

So- if we have such immensely powerful tools at our disposal, more powerful than anything our advanced electronics can boast, at such insignificant cost to us (compared to multi-million dollar man made equivalents), why are so many sitting idly at homeless shelters across the country?

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