Can Pets See Ghosts?
This article is more than five years old and was last updated in May 2019.
It's a popular trope on horror films. Animals sensing the arrival of 'beings from beyond the grave' and attempting to alert humans to the unscheduled arrivals. But is there any truth beyond what we see on screen?
Nothing to sniff at.
Let's forget ghosts for a minute. It's well established that no animal sees the world in exactly the same way as humans. We can't understand exactly how animals see the world, but we do know that dogs, for example, have a fantastic sense of smell. But just how much better than humans is it? Scientists estimate that a dog's sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times as acute as ours. Putting that into visual terms, what we can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see at 3000 miles, and just as well. As well as many more specialised odour sensing cells, the part of the brain that processes smells in dogs is forty times the size of the same area in humans, relatively speaking.
Cats meanwhile are blessed with fantastic night vision. What they lack in discerning colour they make up for in having more cells in their eyes to see at night. Plus their hearing can pick up sounds from a much broader range than humans. Why? Because cats are naturally designed to hunt at night.
So, what has this got to do with ghosts? Well, if animals experience the world differently to us, does that mean they'll be able to see ghosts when we can't? That rather depends on if you believe in ghosts, doesn't it? Dogs barking at a blank wall. Cats staring at something you can't see, and perhaps chasing it around. Ghosts? Unlikely. It's far more likely that they're sensing something we can't. A smell, a sound, the movement of light on the floor... all these things could hold the interest of a pet when it doesn't even register for us.
In addition, animal brains are just wired up in a different way to ours. We try and attribute human emotions and traits to animals, yet they experience the world in a totally different way to us. If ghosts existed, and they sensed them, who's to say how they might behave?
Seeing as nobody has actually defined what a ghost is, at least in a physical sense, that does leave the door open for the possibility that animals can sense them. Perhaps their enhanced senses are taking in a world of the supernatural all around us that we just lack the equipment to take in. What do you think?
Top 5 Animals Most Commonly Thought To Be Psychic
Four in ten Brits across the country believe their four-legged friend has special powers to sense supernatural activity, and a third believe their pet protects them by fending off ghosts and spirits.
In a survey of 2,000 pet owners, those surveyed believe their pets typically alert them to a paranormal presence by barking or growling at an empty space, backing away from nothing or have bristling of the neck fur when sensing a spirit nearby.
A quarter of those surveyed who currently own a pet admit they've become more aware of the possibility of ghosts and supernatural activity since having their beloved animal around the house.
4. Guinea Pigs
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