Dogs Vs. Cats: A Comparison of the 5 Senses

There is sometimes an argument between cat lover and dog lover on which pet they would love to have as an addition to their family. Cat lovers will tell you they prefer cats because they are independent, not clingy like dogs and are affectionate when needed. While dog owners would say dogs can be more affectionate, can actually guard your home. All pets are equal, but for those who disagree, we have provided a comparison of the senses between the two animals.  Below is a list of the 5 senses and comparison of their strength in dogs and cats.

The sense of smell

For a long time it was believed that dogs had a better sense of smell than most cats. This is because they have millions more scent receptor than their feline counterparts. Bloodhounds have been shown to have 300 million scent receptors, which is hundred million more than the best scent cats out there. 

However, scientists have found that the noses of cats are more sensitive than dogs. It was found that out of the three types of scent receptors, the one responsible (V1R) for the distinguishing between scents are more in cats than dogs. While humans possess only 2 V1R receptors, dogs have 9 and cats have 301. Yes, 30 V1R receptors, this means they have the most sensitive noses around even though they have may have less receptors. The ability to distinguish between very similar scents makes their sense of smell better than dogs.

The sense of taste

While it can be said that cats won the first round, it is not the case with the sense of taste. Research has shown that the average cat has only 473 taste buds2. To put this in perspective, the average human has about 9000 taste buds. As a result of this severe lack in their taste department, cats determine what they eat by mostly smell. It does not matter how delicious a meal is, if it does not smell good your cat will not eat it as they can hardly taste the difference in flavors. While not as good as humans, the average dog does significantly better than cats at 1709 taste buds3.

Dogs can detect sweet, sour, salty, bitter and savory while cats can mostly detect sour and bitter because this is more important in determining the quality of the meat they consume. Cats can also detect salty and bitter but not sweet flavors. This is because cats are carnivores and eat only meat while dogs are considered omnivores, hence they do not possible the ability to taste sweet things as that is not necessary for survival. Now you know why dogs beg for scraps off your plate while cats don’t. Unlikely cats, dogs can actually taste some of the delicious flavors in the meals we prepare.

The sense of sight

Cats have been known for quite some time now to have better sights than dogs. Proportionally their eyes take up more of their faces them both humans and dogs. When staring ahead dogs have a wider field of vision than cats (240 degrees as compared to the 200 degrees of cats)4. However when using the binocular focus cats have a range of 140 degrees while dogs have about 30-60 degrees. Although most people think dogs are color blind that is incorrect. Dogs have the same color range as a human that is green-red color blind. What this means is, they can see all other colors except those in the red and green tones. While cats also do not possess the full human range, see mostly in green and blue ranges4.


However, cats can tell the difference between contracts in colors and can see more colors than dogs. Finally, it’s time to discuss the ability cats are most famous for; the ability to see in the night. Although cats can see in very low intensity light, they do not possess the ability to see in total darkness contrary to what most people believe. While the eye sight of dogs in low intensity light is similar to that of humans, their eyes are still better at utilizing light than humans. The iris of humans and dogs contract limiting the amount of light allowed through4. The eyes of cats are far more complex than both dogs and humans, which allows them to shrink their iris to slits instead of contracting them into pinpoint like humans and dogs. This allows in more light and lets them see better in the dark

The sense of sound

Both dogs and cats have better hearing than that of humans. That is not the case for pups, as dogs are born deaf and do not develop the sense of hearing until they are 21 days old.

By the time they are old enough, their hearing becomes 4 times stronger than humans and can hear from about a quarter mile away. While this is impressive in itself, cats have 9 more ear muscle than dogs bringing their sum total to 27 ear muscles. They can also hear higher frequencies than dogs and can determine the distance the sound travelled to reach them2

The sense of touch

The sense of touch is about the same and has the same importance to both dogs and cats. From the moment they are born the very first sense is that one touch. Moms groom and show affection towards them by licking and rubbing against them. This is still the case even in adulthood for both cats and dogs. Their whiskers are extensions of their skins and for cats are used to protect their eyes as it reflexively closes when something comes into contact with their whiskers. They both have sensitive paws and nerve ending beneath all that fur. In this instance, they are closest to humans in the way they feel the world.

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  1. Seidel Jamie. “Could cats replace search-and-rescue dogs? If we can motivate them.” 11th October, 2017. Accessed 14th October, 2018.
  2. “Cat Senses-How Felines Perceive the World”. Paws Chicago. Accessed 14th October, 2018
  3. “Make Sense- Dog Sense”. Guide Dogs. Accessed 14th October, 2018.
  4. Shojai Amy D. “ Dogs Vs. Cats: Who has Better Vision?” Global Animal. Accessed 14th October, 2018.

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