The Cat and Squirrel Show. Why Kitties Can’t Look Away

Why Cats Might Enjoy Watching Squirrels

Cats have a strong hunting instinct and prey drive that is stimulated when they see squirrels. Squirrels exhibit quick, erratic movements as they jump and dart around trees and bird feeders, which captivates cats and engages their urge to stalk and chase. Though indoor cats can’t actually hunt squirrels outside the window, seeing them tap into this primal instinct provides mental enrichment. As a Catster article notes, cats don’t become aggressive when observing squirrels, but seem relaxed yet focused, intently watching the squirrels’ every move. Something about the squirrels’ frolicking behaviors entertains and intrigues cats.

Evidence That Cats Watch Squirrels

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence from cat owners that suggests cats do indeed watch squirrels intently. Many owners report catching their cats staring out the window for long periods of time, particularly when squirrels are active in the yard. The cats seem transfixed by the squirrels, tracking their every movement.

In addition, there are numerous videos online showing cats watching squirrels closely. One compilation video from YouTube shows various clips of cats staring fixedly at squirrels through windows or screen doors. The cats are laser-focused on the squirrels, watching them scamper about, climb trees, and gather nuts. Their tails often swish back and forth as they observe the squirrels’ activities. You can see the video here:

The intensity with which cats watch squirrels in these videos seems to indicate more than just a passing interest. It appears that they find squirrels intrinsically fascinating and enjoy viewing their natural behaviors and movements.

Squirrel Behaviors That Interest Cats

Squirrels exhibit certain behaviors that naturally grab the attention of cats. One of the main behaviors is their jumping and leaping from tree to tree. Squirrels are agile and can leap across large gaps between trees and branches (Squirrel Behaviors). This type of acrobatic movement is fascinating to cats since it resembles prey trying to evade capture.

Another squirrel behavior that intrigues cats is their burying of nuts and seeds. Squirrels engage in “caching” where they bury food to save for later. The digging motions and scattering of dirt is visually stimulating for cats (Squirrel Play Behaviour).

Finally, cats seem captivated by the quick climbing ability of squirrels. Squirrels can rapidly scale tall trees and maneuver headfirst down trunks. Their fast scrambling triggers cats’ instincts to stalk and chase after quick-moving prey.

Factors That Determine a Cat’s Interest

A cat’s interest in watching squirrels can vary greatly depending on the cat’s individual instincts, personality, age, and breed.

Prey drive is a strong natural instinct in cats that compels them to hunt small animals like squirrels. However, the strength of this instinct differs between individual cats. Shy, timid cats may not have much interest in watching or chasing squirrels. On the other hand, bold, energetic cats are more apt to intently watch squirrels and even try to capture them.

A cat’s age also plays a role. Kittens and younger cats are naturally more playful and curious. They are likely to show greater fascination watching squirrels leap and play. Older cats may be calmer and less inclined to intently watch squirrels for entertainment.

Certain breeds like Bengals, Savannahs, and Siamese are more energetic than breeds like Persians and Ragdolls. Higher energy breeds find fast-moving squirrels more intriguing to observe.

Cats confined indoors have fewer distractions and may be more inclined to stare out a window at squirrels for longer periods. Outdoor cats with additional sensory stimulation may not be as obsessed with watching squirrels.

According to one source, “The cat’s personality and upbringing can also affect this dynamic between cats and squirrels” (

How to Keep Cats Stimulated Indoors

One key to keeping cats happy and mentally stimulated while indoors is providing them with opportunities to engage their natural instincts to hunt, play, and climb. Cat trees placed near windows allow cats to watch activity outside, including birds and squirrels which fascinate felines (source). Cat trees also provide important vertical space for climbing and scratching.

Rotating toys frequently keeps cats interested and entertained. Puzzle feeders and toys that require effort to obtain treats are excellent for stimulating a cat’s natural problem-solving abilities. Interactive play sessions with owners using wand toys also engage a cat’s prey drive in a safe, indoor setting (source).

Most importantly, providing daily playtime and environmental enrichment tailored to a cat’s natural behaviors and changing their toys regularly are key to keeping cats happy and preventing boredom when they are kept strictly indoors.

Risks of Letting Cats Outdoors Unsupervised

Allowing cats to roam outdoors unsupervised can expose them to a number of risks and hazards.

Being Hit by Vehicles

One of the biggest dangers for outdoor cats is being hit by cars, trucks, or other vehicles. According to the PetMD article, vehicular accidents are one of the leading causes of death for cats with outdoor access.

Fights with Other Animals

Outdoor cats may get into fights with other cats, dogs, wildlife, and animals over territory, food, and mating. These fights can lead to injuries or the spread of diseases between animals.

Accidental Poisonings

Outside cats can accidentally ingest toxic substances like antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals that can be deadly. Eating poisoned rodents or animals can also sicken a cat.

Exposure to Diseases

Roaming freely outdoors allows cats to pick up diseases from other animals through bites, scratches, fleas, ticks, shared bowls and more. Outdoor cats have higher rates of diseases like feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), intestinal parasites, and rabies according to the NCBI study.

Safe Outdoor Access for Cats

While indoor cats live longer on average, many owners still wish to provide their cats with safe outdoor access. There are several ways to allow cats to experience the outdoors while protecting them:

Fenced/Netted Enclosures

One option is creating a fenced in or fully netted enclosure for a cat to spend time outdoors. This allows cats to get fresh air and watch outdoor activities while preventing them from roaming freely or confronting local wildlife. Some things to consider with enclosures are ensuring the fence is tall enough to contain jumping cats, using strong yet flexible netting, and including shelves/platforms for climbing and bird watching (source).

Harness/Leash Walking

Another way to provide outdoor access is leash or harness walking a cat. This allows greater exploration while maintaining control over the cat’s movements. It’s important to introduce cats to a harness slowly and use a well-fitted lightweight design. The walking area should also be secure, away from busy streets and loose dogs (source).

Supervised Time in a Secure Backyard

With proper fencing/barriers and supervision, letting a cat into a secure backyard can provide environmental enrichment. Ensure there are no small spaces a cat could escape through and that larger wildlife have no access. Limit the time a cat spends unsupervised and provide shelters they can retreat to. This allows cats to experience outdoor scents/sounds with reduced risks (source).

Signs Your Cat Enjoys Watching Squirrels

Cats often exhibit telltale behaviors and vocalizations when they spot squirrels outside. Here are some of the most common signs that a cat is interested in watching squirrels:

Being alert and tracking movements intently. When a cat sees a squirrel, you may notice their ears perk up, eyes widen, and head turn to follow the squirrel’s path closely [1]. This intense focus and tracking indicates engagement and excitement about watching the squirrel.

Chattering or vocalizing. Cats often chirp, chortle, or emit other unusual sounds when they spot squirrels [2]. This “chattering” is an instinctual reaction and suggests intense interest.

Attempting to get closer to the window. A cat who sees a squirrel may eagerly jump on a windowsill or chair to get nearer. This desire for proximity shows their captivation.

Becoming excited or animated. When engaged in squirrel watching, a cat may wag their tail, tap the glass with their paw, or get a playful look on their face. These energetic behaviors demonstrate the squirrel has their full attention.

When to Consult a Vet About Excessive Squirrel Watching

While most cats enjoy watching squirrels from time to time, excessive fixation on squirrels can signal an underlying issue. If your cat seems stressed or obsessed with watching squirrels, it’s a good idea to consult your veterinarian.

Signs that your cat may be overly focused on squirrels include:

  • Loss of interest in toys, treats, or meals because they are too distracted by squirrels
  • Excessive vocalizations directed at squirrels, such as loud meowing or chattering
  • Aggression towards squirrels if they get too close, such as swatting at them through screens
  • Appearing anxious, stressed or frustrated when unable to watch squirrels

An excessive fixation on squirrels could point to underlying medical problems impacting your cat’s behavior. Issues like cognitive dysfunction, compulsive disorders, or even vision problems can cause your cat to become obsessed with certain stimuli. Your veterinarian can perform exams and diagnostic tests to identify any conditions contributing to the excessive squirrel watching.

Treatment may involve medication, environmental changes, or behavioral therapy depending on the diagnosis. Getting to the root of the problem will improve your cat’s quality of life and help restore more normal behavior.

Don’t hesitate to consult your vet if your cat’s squirrel watching habits seem to be negatively impacting their happiness or health. With professional guidance, you can find solutions to keep your cat entertained and content.


Many cats enjoy watching squirrels due to natural instincts and the mental stimulation of observing prey animals. Squirrels exhibit quick movements, make interesting noises, and engage in intriguing activities that appeal to a cat’s senses and hunter DNA. While it’s normal for cats to be fascinated with small wildlife, steps should be taken to protect both the cat and local squirrel populations.

Providing safe, enriching indoor environments for cats can satisfy their desire for stimulation without allowing them to endanger or disturb wildlife. Install bird feeders outside windows, use squirrel videos/toys, and create climbing areas to mimic the arboreal environments squirrels thrive in. Cats should never be left outdoors unsupervised.

If a cat becomes overly obsessed with watching squirrels, exhibits signs of frustration, or seems unable to relax, consult a veterinarian. They can assess if the squirrel fixation is problematic or unhealthy. Most cats enjoy watching squirrels in moderation as part of their natural behaviors. With proper indoor enrichment and supervision, cats can observe local wildlife safely through a windowpane.

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