Have you ever walked into a room and found your cat staring at the television? Or have you caught your cat tracking and batting at objects on your TV screen while watching Netflix? Many of us have witnessed our felines seeming to be “watching” TV and wondered, can cats really see TV? We will discuss this topic further in this post.
What Is the Answer — Can Cats See TV?
No matter what you might think or believe, your cat can definitely see the television. It is true that on older cathode ray tube (CRT) screens on older television sets, cats most likely could not see the images on the television, instead perceiving them as rapidly moving dots. With today’s newer TVs, however, images are created so quickly that even cats, with their hyper sensitive vision, can see them.
Cats can see images not only on television screens, but also on mobile devices, like phones, laptops and tablets. While they may not recognize all images that they see, cats are still perceiving movements on these screens that may intrigue them.
What Do Cats See on TV?
Before we answer this question, you should understand how cats “see” differently than we do. Cats process images differently and more quickly than humans. Cats process images at a rate of 70 to 80 Hz, much faster than what TVs display. (In comparison, humans process images at a rate of 45 Hz).They see many of the same colors as we do, but might see red as not as vibrant. Cats can identify outlines, movement and sounds they see and hear on TV.
Of course, as we mentioned above, cats can see images much more clearly on newer TVs. These televisions have a much higher refresh rate, meaning that the images on the screen change faster. Cats can perceive individual images much more quickly than we can. Therefore, the older TVs probably looked like a bunch of still, flickering images to your cat. The newer TVs, however, look more like real movement and can draw their attention and make your cat watch TV.
How Cats Perceive Color, Depth and Images on TV
Cats can see yellow, green and blue colors and have very good depth perception (especially in comparison to dogs, who have poorer depth perception and can’t see colors as well). While humans have more cones in the eye than cats and can see colors better than cats, cats can still perceive color. The colors they see may be a bit more desaturated than “real life.”
Cats see images on the TV as a series of still images, especially with older TVs. Cats need to see 100 frames per second in order to perceive smooth, clear movement on TV. (By way of comparison, humans only need to see 20 frames per second to perceive movement).
Cats have more rods in their eyes than humans, meaning that they have better night vision. Because the TV emits a bright light, especially in a darker room, your cat might feel a bit blinded by the TV. The images it displays might look too bright to your cat.
Sounds on TV
The sounds on TV are audible to your cat, but might not sound natural to them. Additionally, the volume of your TV might sound too loud to your cat. A cat’s hearing is designed to help them locate prey. Newer TVs and sound bars with more evolved sound systems might sound more natural to cats than older TVs with speakers. Thus, the noise on the TV might also attract your cat’s attention (as many cat owners will attest to, when watching nature shows, especially those with bird sounds!)
Should Cats Watch TV?
Watching TV isn’t necessarily bad for your cat. TVs can provide company for cats who are alone, lonely or bored. Just like humans, cats shouldn’t be parked in front of the TV for 24 hours a day. Cats shouldn’t sit in front of a TV screen for hours on end, watching it. Noticing the movement out of the corner of their eyes while they are doing other things, and occasionally stopping and watching the TV, is fine.
If your cat does tend to sit and actively watch TV, try to notice what type of programs attract their attention (many cats, especially indoor ones, tend to like nature programs). Those programs could be good babysitters to keep your cat company when you aren’t there.
You shouldn’t let your cat sit too close to the TV screen, as the brightness could damage their vision and volume could affect their hearing. The light levels from a bright TV could disrupt your cat’s sleep or affect your cat’s mood. Turn off the screen before bedtime so that your cat (and you) can sleep well.
Remember, cats still need active playtime. Physical exercise will help to keep your cat from becoming bored, unstimulated, and fat. TV time can provide some mental stimulation, but cats need physical stimulation and exercise as well.
Cats who jump at images on the TV or try to bat at TV screens should be deterred from doing so. Some cat owners use a spray bottle to redirect the cat from the TV so the cat’s claws don’t damage the TV screen.
Make sure that your TV is secured to the table or wall. Flat screen TVs can easily be knocked over if your cat bats at it, injuring your cat.
If you take the above precautions, you and your cat should be able to enjoy watching TV together or separately, safely!