Have you ever noticed your cat staring deeply at a blank space—or responding to a sound that you can’t hear? Could it be that they’re sensing a presence from the ‘beyond’? Can cats see ghosts?
Throughout the centuries, cats have been the subject of myth and folklore. They’ve been simultaneously revered and feared; they’re considered bad luck by some and good luck by others. People harbor many different beliefs about these furry felines.
Let’s take a deep dive into whether cats can see ghosts or not. We’ll cover everything from cat behaviors to superstitious beliefs and even take a look at how these furry felines were treated in past cultures. All these factors can help explain why some people believe these household pets are more connected to the spiritual world than we humans are.
Can cats see ghosts? Let’s explore all the different aspects of that question so you can come up with your own answer.
Image from Mikhail Vasilyev on Unsplash
Cat’s Senses vs. Human Senses
Cats have more innate sensory abilities than humans do. Considering they’re both prey and predator animals, they need these sharper senses to help them pursue prey and escape predators. Let’s take a look at a cat’s five different senses and see how they compare to human senses.
Cats have the edge on humans when it comes to several aspects of vision. They have a wider field of view than humans do and are able to see 200 degrees, whereas humans only have a 180-degree field of view.
They also have a greater range of peripheral vision, which allows them to spot things out of the corner of their eyes better.
Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at twilight, which is before sunrise and after sunset. This means they have good night vision. Their eyes have six to eight times more rod cells than humans, which allows them to sense motion in the dark better than we can.
However, humans can see better than cats in several circumstances too. Humans can see better in the daylight than cats can. We’re also able to see a full range of colors, whereas it’s believed that a cat’s vision is limited to blue and gray colors.
Considering most people associate ghosts with the dark, and since cats do see better than humans in the dark, this might be the reason some people believe our feline friends can see ghosts. When really, a cat could just be spotting something with their night vision that humans can’t pick up as easily.
Cats have an auditory capability beyond humans. They have cone-shaped ears that help amplify sound waves. They also have 32 ear muscles that allow them to move their ears up to 180 degrees and pinpoint sounds. Humans, on the other hand, only have six ear muscles and are not capable of swiveling their ears.
As far as hearing limits go, humans and cats share a similar lower hearing limit, which is around 20 Hz. Both humans and cats struggle to pick up anything lower than this.
However, there’s a big difference in the upper limits of cat and human hearing. Humans hear frequencies of up to 20,000 Hz, but cats can hear sounds up to 64,000 Hz—more than three times higher than we can.
This sensitive hearing might explain why your cat searches the room and looks in different directions for something that doesn’t seem to be there. It might just be that they’re trying to identify where a noise is coming from.
The whiskers of a cat serve important functions. These specialized hairs assist their vision and help them navigate the world. Even something as sensitive as airflow or vibrations is picked up by a cat’s whiskers and transmitted to its brain.
A cat’s whiskers help them explore their surroundings with more precision. Could this sensory equipment also be able to pick up on paranormal activity? The jury is still out on this one.
Cats beat out humans when it comes to their sense of smell. Humans have about 5 million odor detectors in their noses, while cats have more than 200 million. This means cats can smell about 14 times better than humans.
Cats also have another smell detector, called the Jacobson’s organ, which is located in the upper portion of their mouth. If you’ve ever seen a cat staring at something with its mouth slightly open, it might be because it’s using its olfactory organ to sniff something out.
So how does this sense relate to ghosts? Well, people have reported picking up different scents when they believe a spirit is present. Some examples of this can include perfume, cigarettes, or other odor-emitting substances favored by a loved one that’s passed on.
Whereas it’s debatable whether you can see, hear, feel, or even smell the presence of ghosts or spirits, I think we can all agree that taste probably doesn’t come into play. But just for the sake of comparing the five senses between cats and humans, it’s worth noting that our feline friends fall short in this sense.
A cat’s sense of taste is not as pronounced as a human’s. Cats have only 474 taste buds on their tongue, while humans have over 9,000.
Do Cats Possess a Sixth Sense?
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A sixth sense is a term that generally refers to the power of perception beyond our five senses.
While it’s true that cats have more heightened senses compared to humans, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have a sixth sense.
A cat’s sharp senses give them the ability to detect subtle changes in the environment more effectively than humans. They also tend to be more attuned to their surroundings than humans are.
People have reported cats being able to predict things like pregnancy or sickness. Some expecting mothers say their cat began acting differently leading up to a positive pregnancy test. Similarly, people that became sick reported their cats being extra clingy and craving their attention.
However, most experts theorize that cats weren’t predicting these events. Instead, their heightened senses probably made them aware of changes in their owners’ lives.
When women become pregnant, their body chemistry changes. Blood flow increases, which increases their temperature, and changes in hormones affect their personal scent. Most likely, it’s these changes that a cat is picking up on.
Likewise, when people get sick, their scent can change as their immune system goes into overdrive. Cats feel more secure around scents they are familiar with, and odors that they do not recognize might intrigue them. This is probably the reason that your cat might begin to cling closely to you.
Unusual Cat Behavior
Cats display all different types of behavior that may seem odd at first. However, there’s usually a good explanation as to why your cat is acting a little off. Here are some strange yet explainable behaviors you may have noticed in your kitty-cat.
Arching Their Backs
Cat’s arch their backs for a number of reasons. Sometimes it just means your cat wants to play or is stretching. It could also mean that they’re scared. In this case, the stance is to make them appear larger and to scare away the threat.
Seeing your cat shake might worry you. While it could mean they’re suffering from a medical ailment, it could also just mean they have an irregular body temperature and either need to heat up or cool down. Panic, fear, and anxiety can also cause a cat to shake, so it’s best to monitor your cat and keep an eye on the situation until they’re back to normal.
Meowing at Night
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Hearing your cat meowing at night might startle you, and although this can be annoying behavior, it’s usually nothing to worry about. Things that can cause your furry friend to call out at ungodly hours include old age, mating conduct, your cat wanting attention, or simply that their litter box needs freshening up.
Cats and Superstition
Cats are seen by many as mysterious creatures. For centuries, they have been linked with superstition, some good and some bad. Let’s take a look at a few myths surrounding cats from around the world.
Black Cats and White Cats
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One of the most well-known superstitions is about having good luck or bad luck if you cross the path of a black cat. In Britain, Ireland, and Japan, it’s considered good luck to cross the path of a black cat. In Germany, it’s also considered a good omen, but only if the cat crosses your path from left to right.
In the US and India, however, if a black cat crosses in front of you, it’s advised to turn around and take another path, or bad luck will follow.
In Scotland, if a black cat arrives at your home unexpectedly, it means prosperity will follow.
Back in the day, British sailors took cats on long journeys with them. They believed that black cats brought good luck and ensured a safe return voyage home.
The debate about whether white cats have a good or bad omen attached to them is more divided. Many cultures believe that white cats symbolize purity and innocence. In certain parts of Asia, including Japan and China, they are often associated with happiness, good fortune, and purity.
Have you ever seen the statues of white cats in Asian stores waving one of their paws? These smiling kitties are called Maneki-Neko (beckoning cat) and are believed to bring good luck to the owner of the shop.
In the UK, however, white cats are usually seen as symbols of bad luck. This stems from their white color, which is linked to ghosts and spirits. In England, if a white cat enters your home, it’s believed that your money and luck will exit your house when the cat does too.
Cats and Halloween
Cats and Halloween go hand in hand. Black cats, in particular, are one of the popular symbols of the season. They’re lumped into the same spooky category as ghosts, vampires, and witches.
So why are these household pets popular imagery for this spooky holiday? It seems like it’s their association with witchcraft. Back in the day, it was commonly believed that witches could take the form of a cat. So basically, it seems like it’s a cat’s association with witches that makes it one of the most popular Halloween symbols.
How Past Cultures Viewed Cats
Many cultures have associated cats with ghosts, spirits, and the afterlife. For whatever reason, people have had some pretty strong opinions on these domesticated animals over the years. Let’s travel back in time and examine how the historical link between cats and spirits may be why some people believe they’re capable of seeing ghosts.
Cats and Medieval Europe
In Medieval Europe, the fear of witchcraft was widespread. It was commonly believed that witches, and even the devil, could take the form of a cat at will. For this reason, cats have had a pretty bad reputation.
Religious figures publicly denounced cats, especially black cats. Pope Gregory IX told the masses that cats were evil and in league with Satan. Pope Innocent VIII published a decree promoting the ritual sacrifice of cats during certain religious holidays.
However, not everyone wrote off cats completely. Even if they didn’t enjoy the household status as cute companions as they do today, they were still seen as useful animals to keep for maintaining rodent populations.
Luckily, after centuries of persecution, Louis XIV of France helped pave the way towards the end of cat oppression. In 1648, he prohibited the sacrificial killing of cats.
Cats and Colonial America
When the Puritan Pilgrims came to colonial America on the Mayflower, they carried with them a deeply devout belief in God and the Bible. They also carried high suspicion of anything they thought could be connected with Satan.
The Pilgrims regarded the black cat as a companion to witches, who were widely believed to be in line with witchcraft and the Devil. While other colored cats would have been welcome on the ship and in their homes due to their ability to kill unwanted rodents, black cats often met an untimely end.
Cats and Thailand
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Hundreds of years ago, when Thailand was called Siam, Siamese cats were beloved members of the royal family. In fact, they were so treasured that only royalty was allowed to have them as pets.
Siam royalty believed that when a member of their noble family passed away, a Siamese cat would acquire their soul. Because of this, these beautiful cats were thought to hold special powers and were treated to a very luxurious lifestyle.
This breed of cat is known for being very affectionate towards its owners, similar to dogs. They’re also gentle, loving, protective, and love to communicate. They tend to follow their owners around and beg for their attention.
It’s reasonable to assume that this type of behavior could have led members of the royal family to believe that it was the soul of their deceased relatives trying to connect with them again.
Fun fact: The Siamese cat gets its name from the country it is indigenous to. What we today call Thailand was once called Siam.
Cats and Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptians revered cats. They were depicted in social and religious practices for thousands of years. Certain ancient Egyptian deities were displayed with cat-like heads, such as Mafdet, Mut, Bastet, and Sekhmet.
So why did cats hold such a powerful position in ancient Egyptian culture? Well, there are several reasons.
The Egyptians believed that their gods could freely inhabit animals, including cats, and use them as vessels. They also believed that felines could communicate with spirits and serve as mediators between the spirit and human realms. This gave cats an elevated status in society.
Today, we tend to joke about how our furry feline pets feel like they’re superior members of the household, and it seems like this might actually have roots going back to ancient Egypt.
Seeing Ghosts vs. Signs of Stress
While it may seem funny or lighthearted to see your cat reacting to something that isn’t there, if this becomes repeated behavior, it might be a sign that your cat is reacting to a stressful environment. If this is the case, make sure to closely examine the situation and eliminate any triggers that you feel may be causing your furry friend stress or anxiety.
Can Cats See Ghosts? | Final Thoughts
Over the years, cats have been associated with many myths and superstitions. They were seen as god-like in ancient Egypt, while in medieval Europe and colonial America, they were seen as evil and demonic. In many western countries, every October, cats are placed in the same category as ghosts and other scary figures.
What’s more, cats have heightened senses compared to humans, so it’s totally understandable that they may react to things that humans don’t pick up on. But does their unexpected behavior mean they’re seeing ghosts? I guess that’s something we might never truly know.