Cats are among mammals that can glow in the dark

A groundbreaking study has revealed that the ability to glow under ultraviolet light is surprisingly widespread in mammals, including house cats.

Researchers at the Western Australian Museum analysed specimens from 125 different species and found that a majority exhibited fluorescence, a phenomenon where materials re-emit light at a different wavelength.

The study, published in Royal Society Open Science, documented fluorescent fur in species including the domestic cat.

“We didn’t know that so many mammals had glowing skin or glowing fur,” lead author and curator of mammalogy at the Western Australian Museum Dr. Kenny Travouillon told the Guardian.

While the purpose of the glow remains unclear, scientists speculate it may be used for visual signalling or species recognition, especially in nocturnal animals.

However, for some species like the southern marsupial mole, the fluorescence could simply be an inadvertent effect of translucent fur.

The museum study analysed preserved and frozen specimens under ultraviolet light, with the latter also exhibiting the glow, albeit at lower intensities. The findings build on prior research on luminescence in monotremes and marsupials.

“A lot of people might want to get a UV light and try it on their pets,” Travouillon said. “Just one word of caution – they shouldn’t put the UV light in the eyes of their pets, because that does damage the eyes.”