What Happens When Your Pet Watches TV

By Valdette Muller| September 1, 2018 | Blog

Dog and cat owners often notice their pets watching televisions, computer screens and tablets.

But do we really understand what is going on in our pet’s heads when they watch videos?

Some pet owners have observed that their pets are quite captivated by what is on the screen, others have noticed their pets simply do not find it that interesting.

Some pets lose their minds at the site of other pets and animals on the screen and others simply watch then move on.

By tracking our pet’s vision, researchers have found that domestic dogs and cats do find certain images and videos more stimulating to others.


Researchers have found that dogs are intelligent enough to recognise onscreen images of animals as they would in real life, even animals they have never seen before and have been found to recognise TV dog sounds, such as barking, whining and howling.

2013 study published in the journal Animal Cognition showed that dogs could identify images of other dogs among pictures of humans and other animals, using their visual sense alone.


A study of shelter cats exposed to TV found that some felines without access to windows might benefit from having a TV as a possible form of enrichment.

The cats in the study were shown a variety of moving images, and the most popular programs depicted birds, rodents, fish, flying insects and any other natural prey for felines.

Cats and Dogs Visual Senses

According to animal behavior expert, Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., for dogs to take an interest in television programs depends upon a number of factors, with the main factor being the dog’s visual abilities.

Research has shown that watching TV may not be easy for dogs. Images on a television screen are refreshed 60 times per second, making them appear as a continuous picture to us humans.

However, dogs can detect a flicker of light that refreshes as quickly as 70 times per second, meaning those TV images appear jumpy and far less real to dogs than how we would see it.

Aren’t our pet’s Colour Blind? (Not really). Many people think canines can only see black and white. Contrary to this very popular myth, dogs and cats can see colour, just not as much as we humans can.

While a dog or cat can see the colour blue clearly, reds, yellows, and greens all look somewhat the same to them.Dogs DO see colors, mostly blue and yellow.

The reason behind this is that humans have three types of cones at the back of their eyes, which give us the ability to see a rainbow of colours, whereas canines have only two types of cones at the back of their eyes.

Does my pet actually enjoy it/ is it harmful?

While science has shown that dogs and cats can engage with television and prefer to watch certain programmes, we are yet to understand the complex question of whether they do actually enjoy the experience.

We as humans will often watch jarring or distressing footage that make us feel a range of emotions, from distress to anger and horror.

It is not always because it makes us feel good. We still do not know whether these similar factors motivate a dog or a cat to watch or continue watching a programme.

Can TV become harmful for your pet?  Until your dog or cat learns how to use a remote, we probably do not have to worry that much as pet owners.

If your pet is soothed by the sound of a human voice or fascinated by squirrels running in and out of trees, no harm should come from a bit of casual TV watching.

Researchers have not seen how screen time affects dogs or cats negatively, so we do not know if it has any consequences long term as more research needs to be done. However it will not hurt your dogs or cat’s eyes if they sit too close to the TV.

It all depends on your dogs or cat’s personality, experience and preference.

What your canine does engage with will differ from dog to dog and cat to cat. Depending on an individual’s personality, experience and preference.

Some dog breeds find TV more fascinating than others such as herding breeds that find movement more stimulating than say a hound breed who finds smell more stimulating then movement.

The choice shows of the owner can also contribute to what their pets watch as they may follow the human’s gaze and other communication signals, such as gestures and head turns.


Sources: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201106/do-dogs-understand-what-they-are-seeing-television


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