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Cats vs Dogs – A Battle of Senses By Jessica Turquette – owner of Moab BARKery

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 us explore their similarities and differences.

Scent: 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, 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 whopping 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 meal rather than tasting it. Because cats can distinguish scents so well, they can be sensitive to some fragrances you use around the home. This is also why all those funny videos you see on the internet involve cats gagging while smelling something. Their superpower is sense of smell, and knocking things off the table while maintaining eye contact.

Taste: Taste buds have an important role in survival by helping mammals detect the difference between safe and unsafe food. Humans 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 scavenging omnivores, and scientists believe the digestive system of humans and canines evolved together to process carbohydrates. Although humans have more salivary and digestive enzymes than dogs.

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 was not a taste needed to survive. Both dogs and cats have specialized taste buds at the tip of the tongue that detect water.

Sight: Dogs and cats are crepuscular rather than nocturnal animals. Meaning they are most active at dusk or twilight. 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. This is why cats stalk from behind and pounce, they are specialized to have laser focus in all levels of light and ambush their prey. Dogs have eyes designed to chase prey that changes direction and moves much faster.

Touch: 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. Cats have specialized whiskers on their legs that can detect if a hole is large enough to fit their body. All dogs have whiskers under their chin and on their cheeks to detect movement of prey inside a small space. Both specialized hairs assist in hunting.

Hearing: 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. They are expectional hunters with body adaptations that are vastly superior to humans. Now if cats could only develop thumbs to open that can for dinner, and dogs to throw the ball!

Clean Up After Your Pet
Bring plastic bags. Wherever you stay, don’t forget to clean up after your pet. It’s both common sense, and courteous to the places you’re visiting.
Watch for Heatstroke
Even if you don’t keep your pets in a hot car, hot summer weather can still be bad for your pet’s health - find out about the symptoms of heatstroke in dogs, and how you can prevent it.
On sunny and warm days, the air in the car doesn’t circulate and the temperature can rise within minutes to a point where it can become life threatening. Even if the windows are cracked, cars heat up quickly and your pet can be in danger.
For example, a 70 degree day will quickly heat up to 104 degrees inside the car.

Dog-Friendly Walks/Hikes
in the Moab Area

Corona Arch - Easy/Moderate. 1.3 Miles one way. Trailhead is 25 minute drive from Moab. North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).

Mill Creek Pathway - Easy. 1.1 Miles. Little to no driving. Starts at the intersection of 100 South and 100 West, a block off of Main Street.

Portal Overlook - Hard. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 20 minute drive from Moab. N. on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).

Grandstaff Canyon - Moderate. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 10-minute drive from Moab. North on US-191 to the River Road (Utah 128)


MoabBarkery website

Dog Friendly Walks/Hikes in the Moab Area
Trail or Walk Difficulty Length
(one way)
Proximity to Downtown
MillCreek Pathway
easy 1.1 miles Little to no driving
Starts at 100 S & 100 W
Portal Overlook
(trailhead @ Jaycee Park)
Hard 2.0 miles 25 min drive N on US-191 to W on Utah 279 (4.2 miles)
Moab Rim Hard 3.0 miles
(to Hidden Valley trail)
8 minute drive 2.6 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Negro Bill Canyon
(aka William Grandstaff Canyon)
Moderate 2.0 miles 10 minute drive N on US-191 to
W on Utah 128, 3 miles
Hunter Canyon Easy 2.0 miles 25 minute drive (mild off-road)
7.5 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Corona Arch Trail Easy/Moderate 1.5 miles 25 minute drive N on US-191 to
W Utah 279 (10 miles)
Hidden Valley
(trailhead at end of Angel Rock Rd)
Hard 2.0 miles 10 minute drive S on US-191
3 miles to Angel Rock Rd
Fisher Towers
(trailhead 2.2 miles off Utah 128)
Moderate 2.2 miles 35 minute drive N on US-191 to Utah 128, then 21 miles

Tips for enjoying your time with your dog here in the Moab area:

  • Bring lots of extra water for you and your dog.1 gallon per day for every 60lbs of dog!!
  • Don’t let dogs chase wildlife (especially coyotes, they can lead dogs into an ambush).
  • In the city, dogs are required to be leashed, but on public lands off leash with voice control is allowed.
  • Slickrock and sand is very abrasive!  Check paw pads often, or buy and use booties.
  • If it’s over 85 degrees only consider early AM or late PM hikes, daycare or leave your dog at home.
  • Pack out my poop!  Seriously or the other hikers without dogs will eventually demand no dogs allowed!

To see past articles about animals, pets and their care check our archives.

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