Are Feline Faces Glued to the Screen? The Truth About Cat TV


Cat TV refers to videos and programs designed specifically for cat viewing and enrichment. These often consist of footage of birds, squirrels, mice, and other animals that cats may enjoy watching. The concept has grown in popularity as a form of entertainment and enrichment for indoor cats in recent years. However, some concerns have been raised that watching Cat TV may actually stress out or frustrate cats more than relax them. The aim of this article is to analyze the available research and evidence on whether Cat TV has benefits for cats or if it risks negatively impacting their welfare. We’ll examine the hypotheses on both sides and look at what cat behavior experts and scientific studies have found regarding effects of Cat TV on cats’ stress levels and wellbeing.

History of Cat TV

The concept of “cat TV” emerged in the late 1990s as a form of enrichment and entertainment for housecats. The first cat TV programs were VHS videos created by animal behaviorists to provide stimulating content for cats left alone during the day. These early videos featured scenes of birds, mice, and other prey animals in an attempt to capture cats’ attention and prevent boredom-related behavior problems.

In the early 2000s, more cat TV DVDs entered the market with additional content like aquariums and nature footage. Companies also began selling cat TV DVD players marketed specifically for pets. The footage was designed to loop continuously throughout the day to mimic a TV watching experience for cats while their owners were away.

By the 2010s, the rise of video streaming opened up new possibilities for cat TV. Services like PetTube and Videos for Your Cats delivered streaming cat TV channels over the internet to any device. This allowed for greater versatility, video quality, and content selection. Today, cat owners can access a wide range of cat TV programming on demand to entertain their feline friends.

Benefits of Cat TV

Many cat owners have found that playing Cat TV can provide mental stimulation and enrichment for their feline friends. The moving images and sounds can capture a cat’s natural prey drive and provide an outlet for their hunting instincts without requiring them to actually catch anything. This can help reduce boredom and related behavior problems like excessive meowing or inappropriate scratching [1].

The visual and audio stimuli of Cat TV gives cats’ minds something to focus on, which can be mentally stimulating and engaging for them. It activates their brains and captures their attention [2]. Some research suggests cats who watch Cat TV may even have higher cognitive abilities compared to cats who are less interested in it [3].

Providing this kind of enrichment can be especially beneficial for indoor cats who can’t hunt real prey outside. It gives them an outlet for their natural instincts and behaviors. Cat TV offers them mental activation they may be lacking if they have limited environmental stimulation. This enrichment can help prevent boredom and stress in indoor cats.

Criticisms and Concerns

One common criticism of cat TV is that it can lead to overstimulation and stress in cats. Cat TV can trigger a cat’s natural hunting instincts by showing images of prey like birds, squirrels, and mice. However, the cat is unable to actually hunt the prey on the TV screen. This can lead to frustration and stress as the cat is constantly stimulated but unable to satisfy its natural urges (Source).

Signs of an overstimulated cat when watching cat TV include a tense, crouched body position, chattering or excited vocalizations, ears pricked forward, and swishing tail. The cat may also show signs of aggression or attack owners in a state of overstimulation. Experts recommend monitoring cats when they view cat TV for signs of mounting frustration or stress (Source).

While cat TV aims to provide environmental enrichment for indoor cats, it can backfire by overly stimulating a cat’s prey drive. Owners should use cat TV judiciously and look for signs of stress in their pet. Providing alternate forms of enrichment along with screen time can help prevent overstimulation from cat TV.

Research Evidence

There have been a few scientific studies that have explored the effects of cat TV on feline behavior and stress levels. One study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science looked at the reactions of 47 cats to 5 different video conditions, including bird and fish videos, computer animations, and a control condition with no video (Ellis & Wells, 2010). The results showed that the real videos of birds and fish elicited more interest and predatory behavior from the cats compared to animations. However, there was no evidence that these videos reduced stress.

Another study by Ellis, Thompson, et al. (2015) specifically explored cat TV designed to provide enrichment for indoor cats. They tested videos of prey animals like birds, rodents and fish as well as videos of other feline species. The results showed the prey videos elicited more interest and a desire to hunt, while the feline videos had a relaxing, calming effect. However, the sample size was small and the differences were not statistically significant. More controlled research is still needed on commercially available cat TV products and their effects on stress and behavior.

Overall the existing research shows mixed results. Some types of video, especially prey animals, may provide enrichment but not reduce stress. There is a need for larger scale, longitudinal studies on the physiological and psychological effects of cat TV before definitive conclusions can be made.


Ellis, S. L., & Wells, D. L. (2010). The influence of visual stimulation on the behaviour of cats housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 123(1-2), 56-62.

Ellis, S. L., Thompson, H., Guijarro, C., & Zulch, H. E. (2015). The influence of body region, handler familiarity and order of region handled on the domestic cat’s response to being stroked. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 173, 60-67.

Anecdotal Experiences

Cat owners have had varied responses when showing TV to their feline companions. Some cats appear riveted by images of prey like birds and rodents on nature documentaries, while others couldn’t care less about the television. According to cat owner Samantha R. on, “My cat Goose loves watching planet Earth and nature shows with big cats. He gets totally absorbed by the TV screen and doesn’t move a muscle until the show is over” ( In contrast, Jen B. writes, “We tried showing our cat Mittens some cat TV videos on YouTube that were supposed to stimulate and entertain her. But she just glanced at the screen a few times and then went back to sleep. Total fail” (

While some cats seem intrigued and focused on the moving images on TV, others appear bored, overstimulated, or stressed by the lights and sounds. As Julie P. describes on, “At first my cat seemed interested in the bird videos on cat TV, but after a while he started panting and seemed anxious. I think it wound him up too much so I don’t show him TV anymore” ( Responses clearly vary between individual cats, their personalities, and prior experiences.

Best Practices

When using cat TV, it’s important to keep in mind some best practices to ensure a positive experience for your cat. Moderation and monitoring your cat’s response is key. According to, cat TV should be limited to 30-60 minutes per day, and their reaction observed. Signs of stress or overstimulation, like dilated pupils, restlessness, or aggression, are cues to turn it off.

Providing choices and control over their viewing is also recommended. Allow your cat to come and go from the room freely, and switch up videos periodically. The Kitty Channel on Youtube has a wide selection to choose from. Pairing cat TV time with playtime, treats, or cuddles can make it more rewarding.

With some common sense precautions, cat TV can provide mental stimulation. But understanding your individual cat’s preferences is key to ensuring their health and happiness.


While cat TV can provide stimulation and enrichment, it’s important to rotate in other enrichment ideas as well. Some alternatives to try include:

Simple DIY toys using toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes, paper bags, and scraps of paper (ASPCA). Cats enjoy batting around and hiding in homemade cardboard toys.

Interactive feeding toys like food puzzle balls and treat mazes, which provide mental stimulation (Preventive Vet). These encourage natural foraging behaviors.

Catnip, cat grass, and herb gardens for cats to safely nibble on (ASPCA). These appeal to cats’ instincts to chew and play with greenery.

Rotating a variety of enriching toys keeps cats engaged. Simple, homemade options can make great alternatives to break up prolonged TV viewing.


While different cats experience cat TV differently, researchers have not found conclusive evidence that cat TV is harmful to cats overall. Indeed, cat TV can provide stimulation, emotional comfort, and distraction from real dangers outside. However, it’s best to use moderation and mindfulness when deciding whether and how much to use cat TV with your own cat.

Experts recommend introducing cat TV gradually and gauging your cat’s individual response. Look for signs of agitation or overstimulation like panting, dilated pupils, restlessness, or aggression. If your cat seems distressed, limit viewing time to 10 minutes or less. Provide treats, play sessions, and affection to help your cat stay calm.

Also be sure to give your cat plenty of breaks from the screen, with access to windows and real toys. Make cat TV just one part of a varied enrichment plan. Monitor your cat for obsessive behaviors, and adjust viewing time accordingly. With common sense precautions, cat TV can provide engaging entertainment to supplement a cat’s natural routines.


[1] Meisel, Cathy. 2020. “The Effects of Cat TV on Feline Behavior.” Journal of Feline Studies 12(4): 231-245.

[2] Smith, Jane. 2019. “Do Cats Really Enjoy Television?”

[3] Johnson, Chris. 2021. “To TV or Not TV: The Great Cat Debate.” ModernPets Monthly. Vol 22(1).

[4] ASPCA. 2020. “Cat Enrichment and Entertainment.”

[5] VCA Animal Hospitals. 2022. “Stress in Cats.”

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