Can cats actually watch TV (what do they really see)?

Can cats actually watch TV (what do they really see)?

Garfield, Puss in Boots, the Pink Panther, Hello Kitty, The Cat in the Hat, Sylvester and Tom are all famous felines that have appeared on TV.


Garfield, Puss in Boots, the Pink Panther, Hello Kitty, The Cat in the Hat, Sylvester and Tom are all famous felines that have appeared on TV.

These kitty cartoon characters – and their companions – have entertained generations of pet parents with their antics, keeping millions of viewers glued to their television screens.

That includes the real life counterparts of these cinematic stars, who often curl up with their human housemates and watch on.

But can they actually understand and appreciate what’s going on?

Is there a benefit to your cat watching TV? 

Aside from animated animals and feline film stars, cats have also been huge hits online.

It might be a cute and irresistible video that has gone viral, which has turned them into internet sensations.

Or it could be a crazy and calamitous clip that has placed them at the centre of attention on social media.

Either way, it’s clear that our four-legged friends are right at home in front of the camera.

So it does make you wonder whether they can compute what’s happening on-screen when they’re not busy being the star of the show.

Kitty-cats are curious creatures and they’ll often focus on objects that grab their attention.

Films, cartoons, documentaries etc contain intriguing flickers of colour, movement and sounds that will entice them.

The characters, backgrounds, or a change of scene will captivate and stimulate our square-eyed sidekicks.

There might not be any significant benefits to your cat watching TV when it comes to their health and well-being.

And they don’t have the capacity or the cognitive ability to properly process what is being depicted.

But it can provide entertainment and a positive stimuli, especially when paired with quality time with their pet parents.

The signs your cat is stressed at the TV 

It is crucial to recognise the moments when our precious pets do react or respond to programmes on TV.

Anything that over excites our fur babies or causes distress can be harmful.

Here are some of the signs to look out for:

Vocalisation: Excessive growling, meowing or hissing can highlight a cat’s discomfort, discontent and displeasure.

Aggressive behaviour: If their temperament deviates from the norm, and they become more animated, then this could be a sign of stress.

Dilated pupils: Enlarged pupils can indicate heightened arousal, which may signify a feeling of alarm, stress or excitement.

Hiding: Cats might seek shelter and protection if something on TV causes fear or anxiety. They might burrow into their human companion or retreat to a safe spot.

Tail behaviour: A swooshing or puffed up tail can signal agitation or anxiety. This can be caused by flashing lights and/or threatening/intimidating loud noises.

Eating and toilet habits: Stress can affect a cat’s appetite and litter box behaviour. If you notice sudden changes in their etiquette, it might be related to the content you’re viewing on TV.

Body language: An arched back, raised fur, abnormal body posture, and/or flattened ears can signal tension.

Restlessness: Pacing up and down, agitation, and moving constantly can be indicators of anxiety.

If you observe these signs, it’s a good idea to turn off the TV or switch to less stimulating content. Cats have different sensitivities, so what might stress one cat may not affect another. It’s important to prioritise your cat’s comfort and well-being.

My cat’s eyes are moving when looking at the TV – does this equate to ‘watching’? 

Sitting in front of the TV is more of a sensory experience for our curious cats.

A feline’s ‘watching’ habits are not too dissimilar to a baby watching from their bouncer or high chair.

Cats are instinctive, they’re drawn to motion and sound, so anything falling in that bracket can pique their interest.

If there are fast-moving or flickering images on the TV, a cat’s eyes will likely track those movements.

It might also be the case if they recognise the familiar sound of a bird flapping its wings or a vole scurrying through the grass.

Hearing these types of noises on a documentary will send your favourite feline into hunting heaven as their instincts kick in.

However, this doesn’t imply that your cat is engaging with the content due to enjoyment or excitement.

Cats don’t comprehend what’s happening on the screen because their cognitive processes are different from that of their human companion.

Therefore, they might be ‘looking’ and occasionally ‘engaging’ with what’s on offer, but they’re not ‘watching’ out of interest.

Play time over TV time

It’s important to acknowledge and appreciate that most cats won’t care for the content on your screen.

They won’t be following the storyline when you’ve become engrossed in your favourite soap.

They won’t get sucked into the drama that’s unfolding in the latest boxset you’ve tuned into on Netflix.

Intricacies such as plot, tension and dialogue are often too complicated for humans to comprehend.

That means our kitties have next to no chance to gauge what is going on.

It’s most likely that the interaction with their favourite flatmate is what appeals to them.

And every so often a fast-moving object, a sudden sound, or an image of prey might catch their gaze. 

Ultimately, providing your cat with interactive toys and engaging in playtime is more beneficial for their overall health and happiness.

If you found this article helpful then you may also enjoy: