How Different Colors Affect Different Animals
Color theory is both a scientific and artistic way to understand color and how it affects us. Using color theory, we can pick colors and color combinations that are pleasing to the eye and harmonious when seen together. Understanding this theory isn’t just important to scientists and artists, though. You should be aware of color theory and how colors impact you when you’re painting your home, so that you can choose colors and color combinations that make you feel good and fit the space.
When it comes time to paint your home and use color theory, you probably want to take both yourself and your pets into consideration. However, color theory is different for animals, and this can leave people with questions. How do we know that animals can see color? Which colors can they see? Can different colors affect their behavior? Keep reading to learn how different colors affect different animals and how to incorporate animal color theory into both the paint colors and details of your home.
How We Know: Scientists and Cones
Before your cat or dog runs to hide, this section isn’t about the type of cone they get at the vet. Pets actually have cones in their eyes, which are a type of photoreceptor that processes light so that their brain can detect color. Scientists can count these cones and study their location within the eye to determine which colors on the visible light spectrum animals can see and how strongly those colors appear to them.
So how many cones do our pets have? Dogs, rabbits, and fish have two, which is one less than humans. Cats have the same three as people, while birds have five to seven, so they can see more colors than we can. And reptiles use a combination of visible and infrared light, which means they can see some colors, but they also use heat signatures to determine the shape of living things.
Eyes have another type of photoreceptor called rods. While these don’t detect color and aren’t the point of this article, we find it interesting that these rods help animals see in the dark, since they function with very little light. Mammals like dogs and cats even have more rods in their eyes than humans, so that they can see better than us in the dark. This abundance of rods means that you don’t need to paint your house in fluorescent colors so your pet can see at night. They can already see better than you!
Which Colors They See: Cones and Animals
Since dogs and cats are the most common type of pet, we’ll focus on the colors they can see. Since cats have three cones and dogs only have two, you may think that their visual experience is very different. However, this is not the case.
Dogs only have the blue and yellow cones in their eyes, so they see similar to red-green colorblind humans. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow all appear as yellow, and cooler colors like green, blue, and purple appear as either lighter or darker shades of blue. The cones in their eyes are also less concentrated, so they see colors in shades of pastel instead of the brighter, richer colors that we see.
In contrast, cats have the same three cones that we do: blue, yellow, and red. Despite this, cats also see similar to a red-green colorblind human. They can see blues and greens, but reds and pinks also appear green, while purples appear blue. The cones in their eyes are also less concentrated, just like dogs, so they see in pastels, rather than the vibrant shades humans appreciate.
Both cats and dogs can see a variety of shades in gray, possibly more than we do, because their eyes are more rod-dependent. Having rod-dependent eyes also means that they see better at night, as we mentioned above.
How Animals Are Affected: Colors and Behaviors
So, cats and dogs can both see gray, blue, and yellow, with cats picking up a little more green. They both see these colors in pastel shades. But do these pastel colors affect their behavior? If so, which colors impact which behaviors?
The answer to the first question is an easy yes. Colors affect behavior in pets just as they do in people, even though they see less than we do. Humans find warmer colors like reds, oranges, and yellows to be stimulating, while cooler colors like blues, greens, and purples are more calming.
We can answer the second question based on that information. Our pets are stimulated by yellow and calmed by blue, since those are the only warm and cool colors they can see. Cats can perceive some green, which is considered calming as a cool color. Both animals see a variety of gray shades, and although humans often associate gray with depression and loss, it has a neutral effect on animals since it’s so common to them.
Now that you know that animals can see color and how different colors affect different animals, you can choose paint in colors that are beneficial to your pet. Where in your home do you and your pet need to be stimulated? Consider painting those rooms in warmer colors. Where do you both need to be relaxed and calm? Paint those rooms in cooler colors.
No matter what paint color you choose, make sure that the paint itself is suitable to have around your pets during the application and drying process. Our pet-friendly paints are water-based, without the harsh chemicals found in conventional paints. Despite those lack of harsh chemicals, they’re still incredibly durable, which is great for the active pets in your household.
And if you’re not painting yet and you’re just interested in how color theory affects animals, that’s okay, too! You can use these principles for simple purchases. Add a yellow cat tree to your living room for stimulating climbing play. Get a blue dog dish and splash pad for your kitchen for calm mealtimes. However you choose to incorporate color theory, do so in a way that benefits both you and your furry friend.