The five senses – scent, taste, sight, touch and hearing – are important tools for survival for humans and animals alike. We know our pets’ senses are superior to ours in many ways, but how do the senses of dogs and cats compare to each other – are they the same? Let’s take a look!
Our canine friends have an amazing sense of smell, and we use their scenting ability in many ways. However, cats have an even better sense of smell and can identify differences between a larger variety of scents. Mammals have three types of scent receptor proteins in the nose. One of these proteins, V1R, is thought to be responsible for giving mammals the ability to distinguish one scent from another. We have two forms of this protein; dogs have nine and cat have a whooping 30.
Most dog breeds have around 150 million scent receptors in their nose; some breeds, including the Beagle, Basset Hound, Belgian Malinois and German Shepherd, have about 225 million. The Bloodhound takes first prize with around 300 million.
The average feline has around 200 million scent receptors. For cats, their nose makes up for a lack of taste buds. They smell their favorite CANIDAE meal rather than tasting it. Because cats can distinguish scents so well, they can be sensitive to some fragrances you use around the home.
Taste buds have an important role in survival by helping mammals detect the difference between safe and unsafe food. We have around 10,000 taste buds, dogs have about 1,700 and our feline friends have around 470. When it comes to taste, humans and dogs can detect five – sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory/meaty. The ability to taste bitter and sour allows meat eating animals to tell if a food source is rancid or safe to consume. Dogs are considered omnivores, and scientists believe the digestive system of humans and canines evolved together to process carbohydrates.
Because cats are obligate carnivores, they must eat meat to survive and can taste energy producing molecules found in meat. Felines can also taste sour, bitter, salty and savory/meaty, but they lost their ability to taste sweet a long time ago during evolution because sweetness wasn’t a taste needed to survive. Both dogs and cats have specialized taste buds at the tip of the tongue that detect water.
Dogs and cats are crepuscular rather than nocturnal animals. Their eyesight is designed to pick up on the slightest movement in the low light of the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. They can also see ultraviolet light which is invisible to us.
Dogs can see blue and red colors, but get confused with the difference between green and red. They can see a hand signal given from a mile away, but it’s harder for them to focus on objects right under their nose. When looking straight ahead, canines have a visual field of view of 240 degrees while a cat’s is 200 degrees. Binocular vision (when the field of view of each eye overlaps) is important for depth perception. Compared to cats who have around 140 degrees binocular vision, most dogs only have about 30 to 60 degrees. Both species can see motion from the corners of their eyes, but dogs are better than cats at catching subtle movements in their peripheral vision.
Cats have better night vision than dogs and can see things in detail as far as 200 feet away. Felines are a little better than dogs at focusing in on objects up close, but not by much. Cats can tell the difference between blue, yellow and some hues of green colors, as well as blue-/violet, but are more interested in the pattern and brightness of things. Hues of pink and red are harder for them to differentiate.
The sense of touch in dogs and cats is comparable. Both have super sensitive whiskers that help them detect the slightest change in air currents and pressure to navigate in their environment as well as to detect prey, predators and obstructions in the dark. Sensitive paw pads are used to communicate, sense the environment, function like shock absorbers and help regulate body temperature.
Dogs and cats use their ears to express emotions, and both have remarkable hearing. Even in the wee hours of the night the world is a noisy place for our pets. Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears allowing them to move each ear independently to better detect where a sound is coming from. They can hear frequencies up to around 45,000 hertz.
Cats have an even greater range of movement with 32 muscles that allow them to rotate their ears 180 degrees, and they can hear at higher frequencies than dogs – up to 100,000 hertz.
Bottom line – both dogs and cats have amazing senses!