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Can Cats See TV? Vet-Reviewed Facts and Feline Preferences

cat watching television
Image Credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock
Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Jordin Horn

Vet approved

	Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca

Veterinarian, BVSc GPCert (Ophthal) MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Have you noticed that your cat intently watches the TV at times? Maybe a bird flickered by, or a small mouse can be seen on screen, and it catches your cat’s eye. Was it just a coincidence, or did your cat actually see it on the TV? The answer is yes, they do see images on the latest TV technology, and we’re going to tell you how.

cat paw divider

What a Cat Sees When They Watch TV

Cats seem to be interested in TVs to different degrees. This might be caused by the fact that cats do not always see a continuous image on the TV screen as we do. Depending on the type of TV, they might be seeing individual flickering images. 

This depends on the screen refresh rate, which is measured in hertz (Hz). If the images flicker at around 50 or 60 Hz, humans will see a continuous image and cats and dogs will see individual flickers. This is because the cells in their retinas (cones) work slightly differently in cats. Modern TV screens, which can display images at over 100 Hz, might be more likely to capture your cat’s attention than old TV screens.

We don’t know for sure what cats see when they watch TV. They likely see the images with less color and less clarity than we do. They will be particularly entertained by the noises made by animals on the screen.

Cats can get so engrossed in what’s on TV that they will follow the objects or animals all across the screen, even checking behind the screen when the object disappears from view.

Cat watching TV
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

What Do Cats Like to Watch?

It depends on the cat; some cats are more interested in the TV screen than others. Cats that are fascinated by the screen might do so because they have more of a hunter personality than other cats.

Some cats will watch nearly anything on the TV, but what’s most likely to grab their attention is footage of other animals and the noises they make. For example, some cats will be intrigued by watching other cats on TV. The cats that love to hunt will pay attention to TV that has birds, fish, or rodents on the screen.

People often wonder if cats benefit from video calls with their owners when they are away. Though there’s no research on this topic, some cats seem to display confusion when they see and hear their pet parent on a screen. It may be puzzling to be able to see and hear them but not touch or smell them.

You can try both modalities; you can use audio when calling your pet or a video call and see which one you cat seems to be more interested in. No doubt your cat will be delighted to hear your voice!

cat watching TV
Image Credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock

Is Watching TV Bad for Cats?

The truth is that not all cats will show an interest in watching TV, and it would be challenging to get them to do so. However if they do, it may be somehow beneficial. A 2008 study in shelter cats proved that watching TV programs featuring prey animals and linear movement provided some enrichment and stimulation, although their interest lasted for around an hour. 

Probably the only situation where it is not healthy for a cat to watch too much television is if it is used as a substitute for environmental enrichment. Mental stimulation is vital for your cat’s health and well-being. An enriched environment includes one with interactive or puzzle feeders, vertical spaces like a cat tree, scratchers, toys, and, above all, playtime and interaction with their humans. 

Another occasion where watching TV might be bad for cats is when it causes physical danger. This can happen when a cat is attacking a TV and the device falls on them. Falling flat screens have caused injury to humans. Imagine what it could do to a cat! Make sure your kitty is safe by securing your TV and monitoring what they do when they watch the screen. If they get too excited, it might be best to keep it off.

two cats with tv remote
Image Credit: lucioly, Shutterstock

On the other hand, if either of these situations is not a threat to your cat, watching TV can be stimulating fun for your cat. If your cat seems bored and you’re running out of ideas to entertain them, you can try turning on a special cat channel or animal program.

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Now that you know your cat can see the TV in their own particular way, you can pick up on what your cat likes to watch or if they even pay attention to it at all. What will you show your cat on the TV, tablet, or phone? Just search “cat tv” on YouTube and you can choose from several videos. Just let your cat choose one!

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock

About the Author

Jordin Horn
Jordin Horn
Jordin Horn is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, CBD, and parenting. Over the years, she has moved around so much that there's been no time to settle down and own a pet. However, as an animal lover, she dotes on and cuddles any pet she happens upon! She grew up with and dearly loved an American Eskimo Spitz named Maggie and a Pomeranian/Beagle mix named Gabby. She calls Colorado home, but has also recently resided in China, Iowa, and Puerto Rico Jordin does not like to settle for the "easy answer" when it comes to living life with your pet. She loves to research the best methods and products out there and cut through the jargon so you can see plainly what something is or how something is done.

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