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

Written by: Jordin Horn

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat watching television

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


Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo


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 flickers by, or a small mouse appears on the 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 more likely 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 clarity than we do. They are particularly entertained by the noises animals make 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 fascinated by the screen might 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 are intrigued by watching other cats on TV. The cats that love to hunt will pay attention to TV with 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 confused 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 use audio when calling your pet or a video call to see which one your cat seems more interested in. Your cat will be delighted to hear your voice!

cat watching TV
Image Credit: Ingus Kruklitis, Shutterstock

Is Watching TV Bad for Cats?

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 on shelter cats proved that watching TV programs featuring prey animals and linear movement provided some enrichment and stimulation, but their interest lasted only for 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 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 attacks a TV, and the device falls on them. Falling flat screens have caused injury to humans. Imagine what it could do to a cat! Ensure your kitty is safe by securing your TV and monitoring what they do while watching the screen. It might be best to keep it off if they get too excited.

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.

two cats with tv remote
Image Credit: lucioly, Shutterstock

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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? You can search for “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

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