March 11, 2015
Researchers last year discovered that dogs, cats and some other mammals can see more than us humans. They can see into the ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum which allows them to see better at night and could explain some of their behaviors.
The study suggested that pets are able to see elaborate patterns on birds or even flowers that are not visible to humans. Our eyes block out ultraviolet light but it reaches the retinas of our pets because they have UV-transparent lenses.
“Nobody ever though these animals could see in ultraviolet, but in fact, they do,” said City University London biologist and study leader Ron Douglas. The researchers obtained eyes from many different mammals, including macaque monkeys, hedgehogs and pandas that had died or were donated by zoos, veterinarians and science labs. They found many mammals have lenses that allow ultraviolet light through, but they didn’t quite know why.
“The question is only being asked because humans can’t see it,” continued Douglas. Our pet’s eyes have evolved to help them better see what is important to them in the wild. This ability allows them to be able to see dried puddles of urine letting them know this territory has been marked by its owners and can even help them to forage for food, select a mates and spot predators.
The animal that has taken the most advantage of its ultraviolet vision is the reindeer. The arctic snow soaks up all ultraviolet light, but it is not absorbed by white fur. That means, reindeers can better see prey like winter hares, and watch out for predators like polar bears. These animals blend into the snow when we seem them, but this adaptation makes it a better life for the reindeer.
The knowledge that many animals have ultraviolet vision could one day provide a greater understanding of why our pets behave the way they do. Or maybe your cat really is just crazy.