Can Your Cat Really See You on Video Chat? The Surprising Truth


Many cat owners have wondered: can cats see you on video, like in video chats? As pets, cats form strong emotional bonds with their owners and become attuned to their presence. So it’s natural for cat owners to wonder if their feline friends are aware of them over screens. This article explores how cats perceive video chat using their different senses, whether they can recognize their human companion on video, and the cues cats use to communicate their moods remotely.

Cats’ Vision

Cats have a visual system that is different than humans in some key ways. According to All About Vision, cats have a wider field of view, with a 200 degree range compared to humans’ 180 degrees [1]. This allows them to spot predators and prey approaching from the sides without turning their head. However, cats do not see as much detail as humans. Their visual acuity ranges from 20/100 to 20/200, meaning they have to be 20 feet away to see what a human with normal vision can see at 100-200 feet [2].

Cats are also very sensitive to motion. Their eyes have more rods than cones compared to humans, making them better adapted for night vision and detecting movement [3]. This helps cats spot and hunt prey in low light conditions. Overall, while cats do not see fine details or rich color as well as humans, their vision is optimized for detecting motion and threats in their environment.

Seeing Screens

Cats can see TV and computer screens, but not as clearly as humans due to differences in their vision. Cats have trouble seeing details and stationary objects, while their vision is optimized for detecting movement (Healthy Paws). When it comes to screens, cats are limited by the refresh rate, which refers to how many times per second the image on the screen is redrawn. Since cat vision requires a higher refresh rate to perceive motion smoothly, images on screens can appear choppy or disjointed to cats.

The average refresh rate of screens, around 60 Hz, is much lower than the flicker fusion rate of cats, which is 55-100 Hz depending on the brightness. This makes it difficult for cats to track movement they see on a screen.

Cats also have lower visual acuity than humans, so they see screens with less detail and definition. Their vision is estimated to be 6-8 times worse than humans in terms of distinguishing details. The combination of low refresh rates and poor visual clarity means that cats do not experience screens the same way humans do. However, cats can still recognize familiar shapes and movement on screens, even if the image appears blurry.

Recognizing People and Animals

Cats have the ability to recognize and differentiate between familiar people such as their owners. According to a recent study from Tokyo University, cats can recognize their owners’ faces and voices (Feighelstein, 2022). The study tested cats’ reactions to their owners’ faces on a computer screen versus strangers’ faces. The cats exhibited more interest and positive behaviors like moving their ears and heads when shown their owners. This indicates facial recognition abilities.

In another study from Stanford University, researchers trained deep convolutional neural networks to detect, verify and identify individual domestic cat faces (Stanford, 2019). They collected thousands of cat photos to create datasets and algorithms for cat facial recognition. The technology was able to accurately identify individual cats’ faces. This shows cats have distinguishable facial features that can be used for recognition.

Overall, evidence suggests cats can recognize and differentiate between familiar people like their owners versus strangers. They are able to recognize owners’ faces, even on video chat screens. Their facial structures are unique enough for facial recognition technology to identify individual cats.

Seeing Video Chats

Research has shown that cats can recognize their owners on video chats and respond to their voices. A 2022 study published in the journal Animal Cognition found that cats were more attentive and responsive when their owners spoke to them through a video chat using a high-pitched, affectionate “cat-directed” voice compared to a regular adult-directed voice (source). The cats turned their heads, moved their ears, vocalized, and showed other signs of recognition and engagement when their owners used the cat-directed speech. This suggests cats can identify their owners on a video call.

However, cats may still have limitations in fully engaging through a video chat. While they can see and hear their owners to some extent, they cannot smell or touch them physically. The 2D nature of video may also make it more difficult for cats to interpret the visual information compared to seeing their owner in person. More research is needed to fully understand how well cats comprehend what they are seeing on a video screen.

Hearing Video Chats

While vision is a cat’s primary sense, hearing also plays an important role in how cats perceive the world. Cats have an excellent sense of hearing and can detect sounds up to one octave higher than humans. Their mobile outer ears help them localize sounds efficiently. This means cats can hear audio from video chats, even if they cannot see the screen.

The voices of their owners coming through speakers or headphones are very familiar to cats. Even if they cannot see the video screen, they can recognize familiar voices, which provides an audio cue that their owner is present virtually. Cats also respond to other sounds coming through during a video chat, like ambient noises, other voices, laughter, etc. These audio cues likely pique their curiosity and help them realize something interesting is happening, even if visual cues are lacking.

Therefore, while cats may struggle to visually recognize people or animals on a 2D video screen, their keen sense of hearing allows them to identify familiar voices and sounds. Audio cues play an important role in helping cats perceive and understand what is happening during video chats.

Smelling Video Chats

While cats have a very strong sense of smell, it’s likely not possible for them to actually recognize their owners’ scent through video chats. The scents from the video simply can’t be transmitted electronically to the cat on the other end.

However, cats may still recognize their owners on video through other cues like hearing their voice and seeing their face, even if smell isn’t possible. The owner’s familiar voice and visage can help the cat identify their human, even without being able to pick up their scent.

So while smelling through video isn’t feasible, cats can still recognize and connect with their owners through a video call thanks to their powerful vision and hearing. The lack of scent stimuli doesn’t prevent bonding, it just utilizes more of the cat’s other keen senses.

Other Cues

In addition to vision, cats rely on other senses and cues to recognize their owners. These include hearing, routine, and body language.

Cats can recognize their owner’s voice, even if they’ve been separated for a while (Cats Protection UK). Familiar voices, like an owner’s, are comforting and help cats identify people they know.

Routine also plays a role. Cats recognize the patterns of their owners through regular feedings, play time, and interactions. When owners consistently do certain activities at certain times, cats come to expect them.

Finally, cats read human body language and facial expressions. Kind, loving owners have calm mannerisms that cats recognize. More aggressive people move and behave differently, which cats may shy away from or dislike.


The short answer is yes – cats can see their owners on video chats and recognize them visually. Cats have excellent vision and can discriminate between objects on a screen. While their visual acuity may not be quite as sharp for images on a screen compared to real life, cats see enough detail to identify faces, movements, and colors. Their recognition is aided by other cues like your voice and familiar background that further confirm your identity.


To recap, cats have highly developed vision that allows them to see movement, contrast, and color well. This gives them the ability to see screens, including televisions and computer monitors, and recognize videos and images of people, animals, and objects. While cats likely cannot comprehend videos the same way humans do, they can often recognize their owners, other pets, and even prey animals on screens through a combination of sight, sound, and smell. The takeaway is that while cats do not see televisions or video chats in the same way we do, they are often perceptive enough to recognize familiar people, animals, and things being displayed through visual media. So yes, your cat most likely can “see” you on video!

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