Have you ever seen your cat or dog stop in the middle of something to simply stare at what looks like empty space? They might even try to catch something in the air that you can’t see. Scientists have discovered they’re not deranged and you’re not blind. It turns out they are seeing something that we humans cannot. This is not about ghosts or other supernatural elements that animals are supposed to be able to “sense.” It’s something in the anatomy of their eyes that allows them to see things not visible to the human eye.
Basically, the human eye doesn’t “see” ultraviolet light waves and it turns out our favorite animals can see far more than we realized. Ultraviolet light, meaning “extremely violet” light is a wavelength of light from red to violet that goes beyond what humans can see. The human eye has a special lens that keeps the UV light out to protect the retina. It has long been assumed that mammals, such as cats and dogs, had the same kind of arrangement.
But it turns out that dogs, cats, and a number of other mammals, do not have this protective lens. This allows them to see things in ultraviolet color.
Did you ever see the movie Predator? In the movie, the alien predator had technology that enabled the creature to switch between infrared and ultraviolet to see shapes in the dark and different heat signatures in the light. For about $3,000 you can buy night vision goggles to see like your dog. For example, it allows reindeer to spot a polar bear on a backdrop of miles of homogenous white snow, or an animal to more easily follow a urine trail from another animal.
Why should we care what our animals can see? Perhaps we’ll take them a little more seriously when they seem to see something that we can’t. We might even stop telling them to calm down when they bark at the wall, with the understanding that there might really be something behind the wall to bark at.
Give them a little break. They may “see” the situation more clearly than we do.