New scientific data shows that cats, long a symbol of mysticism, are able to see things that are invisible to us. Cats apparently see psychedelic stripes on flowers and patterns on the wings of birds that are completely invisible to the human eye. According to this study, cats, dogs, and some other animals are able to see types of light, like UV light, that we don’t see at all.
“There are plenty of things that reflect UV radiation, which some sensitive animals are able to see, while we are not,” said Ronald Douglas, professor of biology of the City University of London and co-author of the study. “For example, these may be certain patterns on flowers that show where the nectar is, or traces of urine of an animal. Also, reindeer can and see polar bears as the snow reflects UV radiation, while white fur does not.”
This enables animals like cats and dogs to detect animals with white fur on snow, whereas we might only see the white of the snow. Douglas argues that cats, dogs, rodents, bats, weasels, and okapis are able to detect significant amounts of ultraviolet radiation.
“For decades, we have known that many invertebrates such as bees see ultraviolet light,” continued Douglas, saying that even birds, fish and some reptiles were recently added to the same list.
“However, scientists believed that most mammals cannot see ultraviolet light because they have no visual pigment with maximum sensitivity to ultraviolet light, but instead have lenses like those of humans, preventing ultraviolet light from penetrating into the retina,” he said.
All of this explains why cats can become so enamored with ordinary objects like pieces of paper.
“We all know that ultraviolet radiation can be harmful,” said Jeffery in Discovery News.“I work a lot in the Arctic, where the UV radiation levels are too high as there is much snow and ice. The surfaces reflect 90% of UV radiation, with the result that animals are exposed to it. If you do not wear goggles, your eyes will hurt within the first 15 minutes.”
Scientists think that it is possible that cats, deer and some other animals that can detect UV rays have a protective mechanism. Scientists also believe that UV light tends to create more blur.
“Humans are good at one thing: they can see more details,” added Douglas and concluded: “Maybe that’s why we have a lens that ‘blocks’ ultraviolet light. If you do not have it, the world might appear more blurred.”