Ask a Vet: Do Pets Watch TV?

TV shows and commercials aren’t geared toward pets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t watch TV. Many pets glance at the screen, react to the sights and sounds of animals on TV, and may even become as captivated by the latest Netflix series as we are. But when pets watch TV, do they understand what they see or are they merely attracted by all the bright lights and moving pictures?

Here Birdie, Birdie!

A study of shelter cats showed that some definitely had a preference for television shows with images of birds, rodents, and fish (aka prey). Some cats will even go so far as to swat at the screen or run behind the television looking for their object of interest.

Watching television won’t hurt your kitty’s eyes, and it may be a useful form of entertainment during the day when everyone is away from home. Just take care they don’t become too obsessed. Cats with a tendency to leap at or behind the TV shouldn’t be allowed to watch unsupervised.

Who’s that Dog?

A 2013 study published in the journal Animal Cognition showed that dogs can recognize pictures of other dogs among images of people and other animals. It’s been widely documented that dogs can perceive on screen images in much the same way we do, although our eyes are structured differently (their eyes register images more quickly than ours, and they can see a range of two primary colors whereas humans can see a full range of color).

Do Pets Watch TV?

Whether or not pets watch TV probably boils down to personality. Just like people, some pets are simply more interested in what’s on the screen than others. If you have a TV-loving dog or cat, here are some tips to help them get the most out of their viewing time:

  • Some cats can become frustrated if their attempts to “hunt” prey on screen aren’t satisfied. Give your cat a toy before or during the show or try to wear them out with a game of feather chase afterwards.
  • DogTV is a cable channel geared specifically toward dogs. The higher number of frames per second and dichromatic coloring make it a fun experience for dogs who enjoy TV.
  • TV can be a good way to entertain a bored pet, but all pets benefit from more interactive forms of enrichment. Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise each day and lots of bonding time with the family in addition to their TV time.

Do your pets watch TV? We’d love to hear about it the next time you’re in for your pet’s wellness appointment. In the meantime, please know our staff is always here to help. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call!