Can Cats Watch TV? (and What Do They See?)

Can Cats Watch TV?

You’re binge-watching your favorite Netflix series. You step out momentarily to use the bathroom. When you return, you find your cat staring intently at the television as though he’s enjoying the show.

Your attempts to teasingly change the channel are met by a rude stare and a subtle meow. As a curious pet parent, this might get you wondering whether your cat is interested in the television.

It’s not surprising that cats love to watch things. That’s particularly true for things done by their owners. They watch us attend to our daily routines, sometimes in a manner that suggests they crave a piece of the action. Even so, it’s quite unusual to find your cat glued to the television. That’s because cats’ vision and perception works a bit differently from that of humans. Now, this brings us back to our question, can cats watch TV?

The answer is a resounding yes. Cats can, indeed, watch television. There’s generally no harm in allowing your kitto to snuggle with you on the couch following a television show. In fact, watching the television offers numerous benefits to cats. For instance, it can keep your cat mentally stimulated even while you’re away. The images and sounds emanating from the TV create the illusion that someone is home. That may go a long way in keeping lonely- and boredom-related conditions, such as separation anxiety, at bay.

Do cats enjoy TV?

Not only is it okay for cats to watch television. Some cats actually enjoy doing it. However, this largely depends on the type of television show.

In this post, we highlight everything you need to know about cats and television. Some of the areas we’ll cover include the benefits and potential dangers of televisions for cats, as well as how cats perceive the television.

Should I Let My Cat Watch TV?

As we’ve just pointed out, there are no immediate risks associated with cats watching television. However, it would help to monitor your cat carefully while he watches the television. Overindulgence in television might make your cat a couch potato, thereby opening him up for various lifestyle diseases.


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But the most important thing to note is that cats don’t exactly perceive the television the same way we humans do. That’s especially with regards to the color and images appearing on TV.

Therefore, the fact that your cat watches a television series so intently doesn’t necessarily mean the animal is enjoying the show. He might simply be frightened by the different sounds and images coming from the telly.

The best way to determine if your cat is interested in a television program is to examine his reactions.

Watching the television with narrow pupils coupled with whiskers and ears pointed forward indicates that the animal is likely stimulated by the action.

On the other hand, dilated pupils, flatter ears, and an uneasy posture might suggest that the cat is stressed or frightened by what’s going on in the television. In such circumstances, it’s advisable to leave the cat alone and allow him to escape to another room if he feels like it.

Also, remember that cats behave so differently from each other. It’s possible to have two cats in the same house and one becomes an ardent television fan, whereas the other shows complete disinterest in the TV.

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What Does My Cat See On The TV?

One key thing to understand before allowing your cat to watch the television is how cats perceive the world around them (in general) and the TV (in particular).

Some studies suggest that cats are able to identify imagery on TV. Most of these studies borrow from the fact that cats can distinguish between outlines, textures, and patterns.


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But what do cats see?

A cat’s vision is quite different from a human’s.

For starters, cats have a slightly wider field of vision than humans. They can see up to 200 degrees, about 20 degrees more than a human’s field of vision. The higher field of vision implies that cats also have better peripheral vision than humans do.

Another important thing to note is that cats don’t see as clearly as humans do at long distances. They can only see roughly 20 feet ahead. Any image further than that gets blurry and hazy. And that includes images on a television. For comparison’s sake, humans can see images as far away as 100 – 200 feet.

Also, cats’ eyes contain more photoreceptors than humans’. Photoreceptors refer to the receptors that affect how we see images, especially during poor visibility conditions. This explains why cats can see better at night than humans.

But that’s not all. A cat’s photoreceptors are particularly sensitive to wavelengths in the blue-violet and greenish-yellow ranges. Cats can see a bit of green too. In a nutshell, cats are red-green color blind and mostly see shades of blue and green. So, images generally appear less vibrant and less detailed to them.

Visual speed is another crucial aspect to consider when trying to understand how your cat perceives the television. Humans can see between 10 and 12 still images per second and still be able to process the images individually.


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There’s also the question of the light frame rate used to project the images. If the range is between 50 Hz and 90 Hz, then the human eye perceives stable images. Anything lower or higher than this range may cause the images to flicker. On the other hand, cats process visual information much faster than humans. Most cats prefer to watch images with a 100 Hz frame rate.

Having highlighted how cats perceive the world around them, you could now be wondering, can cats see TV and what do television pictures look like to cats?

The answer depends on the specific visual elements in question.

i. Field of View

A cat can see images on television if the set is located within 200 degrees of his eye line.

ii. Distance

Your television will need to be located within 20 feet for your feline friend to watch it clearly.

iii. Photoreceptors

Since cats see incredibly better than humans at night, watching television in poorly lit conditions may feel uncomfortable for them. So, you should preferably allow your cat to watch TV during the day. In terms of wavelengths, every image on the television, despite the color, will appear green or blue to a cat.


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iv. Speed

Cats can see images at higher frame rates than humans. This essentially means that your cat can see videos too. But to make the experience enjoyable for him, insist on high-end flat-screen televisions with better image clarity and more stable frame rates.

However, it’s still difficult to say with certainty what cats actually perceive television images to be. As you might already know, cats generally explore the world around them using their senses of smell and hearing. So, some cats may simply be drawn by the noises that come out of the television.

Why Do Some Cats Watch TV?

Cats watch television for numerous reasons.

Common reasons include;

1. Sheer Curiosity

Cats are highly curious animals. Kittens, in particular, are fascinated by the television. They especially enjoy moving pictures.

But you’re unlikely to catch your kitten sitting still on the couch following a television program. Instead, you’ll find them exploring the television screen using their paws or sniffing around the back of the device, frantically searching for the source of the sounds.

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2. Copying Your Style

Cats are famous for copying what their owners do. That explains the origin of the term ‘copycat.’

Your cat might watch the television, not because he enjoys the action, but simply because you’re doing it too. The phenomenon is common among cats who are strongly attached to their owners.

The fact that most families watch TV together means that cats are also likely to join in on the action.

3. Attention-seeking Behavior

Cats are attention-seeking animals. They can resort to all manner of behavior while seeking their owner’s attention.

You could be watching the television when suddenly, your cat comes to you, sits on the couch and pretends to be watching the TV.

The cat is not necessarily enjoying the program. Instead, he might be trying to draw your attention to something.

In this scenario, it’s important to examine the cat’s body language. Is he composed or does he look reckless?

Intense vocalizations like purring and meowing could mean the animal is craving some petting or feeding. Signs of unease might imply that the cat feels threatened.


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4. Mistaking The Television for a Window

As weird as it may sound, some cats mistake the television for a window.

Cats spend a great deal of their time perched on window sills watching the world go by. Flat-screen televisions resemble typical window sills.

The images and sounds coming from the TV may be similar to what your cat frequently sees and hears while perched on a window sill.

So, it’s understandable why your feline friend might mistake your TV for a window.

Maybe you’ve always wondered, can cats see TV screens?

While many cats will probably tell TVs and window sills apart, some cats consider these two items to be one and the same thing.

5. For Stimulation

As we already mentioned, cats respond fairly well to visual and vocal stimuli. So, the images and sounds on the television may stimulate your cat’s senses.

Cats that are bored or lonely especially find watching the television stimulating. Without their human housemates, other cats, or pet toys to play with, the cat may choose to while his day away by watching the TV.

On the other end of the spectrum, some cats may find the television soothing. Such cats may rely on the flickering images and serenading sounds from the telly to drift off to sleep.

6. They Like The Show

It’s possible that your cat watches the television because he likes the program.

But just what shows do cats like to watch?

Cats are generally attracted to animal programs. You may realize that your kitto exhibits more interest in the Nat Geo than in a movie channel.

Cats with a strong prey drive are more drawn to animal channels. The image of a mouse dashing across the forest floor may appear so real that the cat responds by going on the prowl.

Other animal images on television likely to excite your cat include those of Big Cats, birds, fish, flying insects, and crawling animals like snakes.

Benefits of Watching TV for Cats

a. It Keeps Them Stimulated

The most outstanding benefit of letting cats watch television is that it keeps them stimulated. That’s especially true for cats that spend much of their time alone, without sufficient physical and mental stimulation.

Watching television could reduce the risks of mental issues, such as separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is an anxiety disorder common in animals who spend a great deal of their time alone but without enough stimulation. Common symptoms include restlessness whenever you’re about to leave the house and overly-excited greetings whenever you return home.

Do cats enjoy TV?

Other symptoms include;

  • Obsessive-compulsive behavior, including excessive chewing, scratching, grooming, and pawing
  • Intense vocalization, including incessant meows
  • Abnormal feeding habits, such as overeating or refusal to eat
  • Unusual potty habits, such as going outside the litter box
  • Digestive complications like constipation and diarrhea

So, should I leave the TV on for my cat?

If you operate on a busy schedule where you usually leave your cat unattended for long periods, then it’s recommended to leave your television on. Just ensure you put the right channel, preferably a show featuring other cats, fish, birds, or rodents.

b. It Encourages Bonding

Another benefit of watching television for cats is that it allows them to bond with their owners. This can be of great benefit to new cats who may need to spend more time with their owners to get fully acquainted with them.

Still, it’s important to note that not all cats are fans of watching TV. Therefore, it’s prudent to study your cat’s likes and dislikes to determine whether he’s into the television or not.

Is Watching TV Bad For My Cat?

We’ve already gone through some of the potential benefits of watching television for cats. But before you let your cat watch TV, you’d do well to also familiarize yourself with some of the dangers of watching television.

For starters, remember that cats see better at night than during the day. Therefore, the television screen would appear much brighter to a cat’s eyes than a human’s, especially at night or in poorly lit rooms. And the closer the screen is to the cat’s eyes, the more damage it can potentially inflict.

So, is it bad for cats to watch TV up-close?

Yes, it’s not recommended to let your cat watch the television up-close as it might harm his eyes. The fact that the television screen constantly flickers makes it even more potentially injurious to your cat’s eyes.

Another drawback of watching television for cats is that it could make your cat a couch potato. Every minute spent watching the television equals a minute lost in pursuing typical feline activities, such as playing and prowling.

Worse yet, cats that watch the television a lot miss out on the opportunity to exercise. Note that every adult cat requires at least half an hour of vigorous playtime every day. The playtime should be supplemented by enriching toys, such as laser-guided toys and interactive ball launchers. Without these interventions, your cat could develop a host of lifestyle conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.


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Also, too much television watch time and not enough playtime translates to excess pent-up energy. If allowed to build up for too long, this energy could trigger redirected aggression. You may suddenly realize that your cat attacks anything and anyone that crosses his path without reasonable provocation.

Lastly, the fact that some cats mistake the television for window sills means they may occasionally perch on the television set.

Depending on the cat’s weight, he may topple and damage the television, subjecting you to unnecessary expenses. Even worse, the animal may injure himself in the process. This is also a potential risk for cats with a strong prey drive or those who’re overly excited with television images.

In their enthusiastic responses to happenings in the television program, the cat may pounce on the screen and damage it. If the television happens to be mounted on high shelves, the cat could suffer grievous injuries trying to access it.

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Other FAQs Related To Cats and Television

Why do some cats watch TV and others don’t?

All cats are not made equal. While some cats are ardent fans of the television, others will be just happy to engage in typical feline activity – sleeping, prowling, and playing.

Why doesn’t my cat watch TV?

As we’ve just explained, not all cats are drawn to the television. One reason your cat doesn’t watch TV is that he has a weak prey drive. Or, perhaps the cat is happier passing his time pursuing regular feline activity.

What do you put on a TV for a cat?

If your cat happens to be the kind that loves to watch the television, he’ll be happier watching animal shows, particularly programs of big cats, birds, fish, rodents, and crawling animals. Kid-based shows may also appeal to television-loving cats.

Can your cat understand TV sound?

A cat’s sense of hearing is superior to ours. They can pinpoint the feeblest noises coming out of the TV. However, cats don’t really understand most television sounds unless it’s a sound they’re already familiar with.

Can cats be addicted to the television?

Yes, many TV-loving cats may develop television addiction. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by exercising your cat regularly and supplying him with enriching toys.

Also, it’s recommended to supervise your cat as he watches TV to prevent any scratching and pouncing incidences. And after turning off the television, you might want to cover the screen using a sheet.


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So, Why Do Cats Watch TV?

There are numerous reasons why cats watch television. Some cats watch the TV because they see you do it. Others find it stimulating or relaxing.

Whatever the reason may be, it’s reassuring to know that there are no immediate risks associated with cats watching the television. However, experts recommend supervising TV-loving cats to ensure they don’t become addicted to TV.

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Maria is the Founder and Senior Editor at She is a lifelong feline enthusiast, self-educated pet care nerd and adores cats of all shapes! Currently parent of 2 adopted cats. She loves iced coffee, playing guitar and cat-cuddling! .

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