Can Cats Watch TV?

If you’ve found your kitty staring at the TV screen, you may have wondered if can cats watch TV? Do they see images the same way as us, and are they capable of understanding what they’re watching?

In this post you’ll find out what’s going on in your cat’s brain when she sits on your lap enjoying the latest episode of Corrie. Maybe your a tennis fan though, and you laugh at the way your cat follows the ball on the screen. Or perhaps she seems fascinated by wildlife programs. Hopefully though, your kitty doesn’t take control of the remote and choose what to watch!

Do cats see TV images in colour?

Cats have fewer cones than humans, so don’t see the range of colours we do. This doesn’t mean they only see grey tones though. Scientists have been researching how well cats see for years. It’s a fascinating topic, however no one has yet been able to see through the eyes of a cat. As they can’t talk, any findings are purely subjective.

It’s believed cats see colours far less vibrantly than we do. In fact images on your tv screen probably seem very desaturated. In addition, it’s thought cats see certain colours much better than others with a greater ability to see blues and greens.

Fine detail is something your cat can’t see. This is because felines don’t have a fovea, which humans have. The fovea enables you to see crystal sharp detail. High definition images on a TV screen would mean nothing to a cat.

Your cat is unable to focus on near distance objects. As a result, anything less than a foot in front of her would be blurred. This means she won’t see TV images as clearly as you.

Cats process images faster than humans

cat watching tv with owner

When you watch TV you see everything in fluid motion. However, when your cat looks at the screen she probably sees flickering images that make no sense. This is because humans process images at a rate of approximately 45 HZ, whereas cats process images at about 70-80 HZ

When you’re watching a wildlife program and see a bird flying in the air, your cat probably sees the bird, but as a series of flickering images. This would be entertaining enough to hold her attention for a while. In addition, she may even look behind the TV to find the bird!

Why your cat’s night vision affects how she sees TV

Though your feline friend can’t see any better in total darkness than you can, she has superior low light vision. With only one sixth of the amount of light needed to see compared to humans, the TV screen will appear ultra bright. Surprisingly though, this won’t hurt your cat’s eyes.

Beware of your cat’s hunting instinct!

Cats seem to vary in their desire to hunt. Though your cat may be well fed she still maintains her basic hunting instinct. My cat has a fairly strong prey drive, with occasional evidence to prove it! However, some kitties seem to enjoy a quieter life, especially as they get older.

The danger of your cat trying to jump on the TV is very real. If you’re watching a program featuring rodents or other feline prey, have some toys to hand. Watch your cat’s reaction and if you feel she’s getting ready to chase the mouse on screen, distract her with a toy one instead.

Why you should never leave your cat watching TV unsupervised!

As you can see from the image, my cat Alfie was getting very involved with the weather forecast! Luckily, I had a close eye on him as he was getting so excited! Flat screen TVs can be knocked over if they’re not close to a wall. As a result, the weight of an excited heavy kitty launching itself at the TV could spell disaster!

Fortunately, many people nowadays mount flat screen TVs onto a wall, but be mindful if yours is free standing. The danger is greater if your kitty has a strong prey drive, as she may decide to pounce on the bird or mouse! Though your cat may not distinguish the bird as being real, she’s still attracted to the moving image.

Scientists believe cats are able to recognise outlines and patterns on TV images, however no cat has spoken about what they really see! No one truly knows if a cat sees a mouse shown on screen to be a mouse or just a random moving object.

There’s nothing funnier than watching a cat following a tennis match on TV. Cats are drawn to motion, and the flickering images of a moving object such as a ball have huge entertainment value. As you can see in the video below, these cute kitties are big tennis fans!

Why your cat doesn’t feel threatened by seeing cats on TV

If your watching a program that features another cat, your kitty won’t react in fear or feel threatened. Even if she recognises the outline and shape she won’t hiss at the animal. This is because there’s no scent. Your feline friend relies heavily on her sense of smell to identify other animals. In fact she can “read” other cats by their scent marks left behind. In some ways this is similar to a calling card.

Big cats won’t scare her either! If your cat sees a lion or tiger on the screen she won’t run and hide! She may possibly identify the outline as being feline , but that’s about it.

Is the TV just a big window to your cat?

We all know how cats love to sit on window sills. Whether outside looking in, or inside gazing outside at the wildlife. It helps stimulate the brain and stops boredom. In fact a high perch near a window is the perfect lounging spot for your kitty.

Does your cat see the TV screen as a window? After all, she gets excited at looking at wildlife programs. Again, the answer is, no one really knows unless cats can talk. However, the prospect of a cat speaking English would be daunting to most owners!

“Get my dinner now!!” or “Do you seriously expect me to watch that rubbish?,” would be common phrases! Some cats may even demand their own TV!

Is your kitty a TV addict?

Does your cat have her favourite programs, or does she just binge watch everything? Now you know the answer to can cats watch TV, I hope it’s helped you understand a little bit about your feline friend’s fascination with television and how she sees the screen.

Of course, all cats are different just like humans. While some are very active and prefer the outdoors, others like nothing better than curling up on the sofa watching their favourite TV show!

If you’ve enjoyed this post please share. Also, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences, please leave your comment below:)

Wishing you a purrfect day:)


14 thoughts on “Can Cats Watch TV?”

  1. I was laughing so hard while watching that video clip of cats watching the tenis. LOL. This is very interesting topic indeed. I do believe that cats see better than us, especially during the night. However, it’s really hard to understand how they see television. In any case, I’ve seen our cat many times staring at the TV like he’s really watching what’s going on. This is one of the things we will probably never going to figure out completely. I enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing this post!

    • Thank you Ivan:) Glad you enjoyed the video, I found it hilarious as well lol! Yes, we can only really guess what’s going on in a cat’s mind, and scientists may never find out. Glad you enjoyed this post:)

  2. This was really interesting, I was often wondering what was going through my cats mind when he was looking at the television especially when its another cat but he doesn’t seem bothered by it now it makes sense as they have no scent to threaten them.
    It certainly would be interesting if they could speak though!

    • Thank you Amy:) Yes, I’m sure if scent ever became available, many cats would react differently! Yes, it would certainly be interesting if our pets could talk lol!

  3. What a great post! I’ve always wondered about this, because when I was little, my family had a cat (Fred) that apparently had very specific preferences in TV programming. My brother and I used to watch a wildlife show on Sunday nights, and whenever there was a feature about lions, tigers, or any big cats, Fred would stand up and jump back and forth. Same thing with cat food commercials. It was like he was excited to see his peers.

    Anyway, really enjoyed reading this – thanks.

    • Thank you for sharing your story Jordan:) Wildlife shows always seem to attract my cat’s attention as well! I’m sure pet food commercials are aimed at feline and canine audiences lol!

  4. Cats are so funny. I am sure I would have one if I wasn’t allergic to them. Nowadays I only see them occasionally when visiting a friend. And unfortunately that will always be a short visit if we have to sit indoors. Such a pity, because I really love cats.
    Very interesting read, Kathy. 🙂

    • Thank you Hannie:) So sad that you’re allergic to cats, but maybe you could tolerate one that’s fairly hypoallergenic such as a Russian Blue. Glad you enjoyed my post:)

  5. Oh, wow! To be honest, I’ve never wondered if cats really are watching TVs just the way as we, humans, do.

    It’s a bit of mystery indeed since cats can’t speak and we never know the truth unless cats start speaking lol.

    It’s interesting though if that’s true that cats can see in the dark?

    I appreciate your feedback on this!

    Best Wishes,

    • Thank you Natalie:) Yes, it will always remain a mystery, but fascinating all the same. Cat’s can’t see in total darkness anymore than we can, but can see very well in dim light such as dusk and dawn:)

  6. I enjoyed the article, and especially the clip with the cat watching tennis. My cat just take glimpses on the tv. She prefers to hunt or to be cuddled when she says so. Once other animals are on, she will take a look, but that’s it.

    Nice article. Thanks.

    • Thank you Josephine:) Yes, cats often like things on their own terms lol! My cat sometimes gets excited when animals appear on screen and tries to touch them, but never attempts to jump on them thank goodness!

  7. Thank you for this post which enriches my knowledge about cats.
    It’s like you said, we can’t say for sure that cats are watching TV if it’s not the day we hear them talking to us. Which will never happen, by the way.

    But a glance at the short video makes me think that sometimes they can perceive what’s going on on TV.
    To be honest, I enjoyed reading this article.

    I am wondering if the habit that they see the same things on TV can’t lead them to a better understanding of what really happens on TV (like the case of the cats watching tennis)? Just wondering!

    • Thank you Sebastian:) Glad you enjoyed my post:) Yes, the video was very funny and made you think if cats can really understand what’s going on when they look at images on tv!


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