Is It Bad For Cats To Sit Close To The Tv?


It’s a common sight – a cat curled up near the TV, intently watching whatever is on the screen. According to the statistic, “8 out of 10 cats prefer a quiet night in watching TV,” felines seem fascinated by the moving images and sounds coming from televisions. But is this captivation concerning for cats’ health and wellbeing? There are differing opinions on whether TV time is beneficial enrichment or overly stimulating for cats.

Possible Dangers

One potential danger of cats sitting close to TVs is radiation exposure, specifically from older cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs. CRT TVs produce a small amount of X-ray radiation as part of their normal operation. The levels are generally very low and not considered dangerous for humans. However, since cats are smaller, they could potentially receive higher doses from sitting very close to the TV for extended periods.

According to one source, the X-ray radiation emitted by a CRT TV is strongest in front of the screen. So if a cat lays or sits right in front of the TV regularly, they could receive more exposure over time. The effects of this radiation exposure are not fully known, but could potentially increase cancer risk.

Older CRT models from the 1960s-1980s may emit higher levels of radiation than newer CRTs. So using an antique TV as cat entertainment could pose greater risks. In general, prolonged close contact with CRT screens should be avoided, especially for kittens or sick/elderly cats with weakened immune systems.

Modern TV Safety

Modern flat-screen TVs using LCD (liquid crystal display), LED (light emitting diode), and plasma technologies emit very little electromagnetic radiation compared to older CRT (cathode ray tube) TVs (1). Unlike CRT TVs which use electron beams to create images, LCD and LED TVs work by modulating tiny liquid crystals or LEDs that block or transmit light from a backlight. Plasma TVs operate using gas-filled cells that emit light when electrically charged.

Research has shown that the electromagnetic radiation emitted from flat-screen TVs drops off dramatically with distance. At a normal viewing distance of 5-10 feet away, exposure is negligible (2). The FDA has standards limiting radiation emission from TVs to less than 0.5 mR/hr measured at a distance of 5 cm from the screen surface (3). So at typical viewing distances, modern flat-screen TVs are very safe.

While some minimal radiation is emitted from the power and other components, modern TV technology has essentially eliminated the worrisome radiation associated with old CRT screens. At normal use, modern TVs pose a very low electromagnetic risk.

Visual Effects on Cats

Most cats have limited ability to see images on a television screen due to their lower visual acuity, or sharpness of vision, compared to humans ( While they can perceive motion and changing light patterns, a TV picture lacks sufficient clarity for cats to see the fine detail necessary to fully engage with or comprehend what they are viewing.

In particular, fast moving and rapidly changing images that are common in TV shows and commercials can appear as confusing, flickering light patterns and shadows to cats. Their vision and brain are not equipped to track and process this visual stimulation in the same way humans can. The fast motion and scene changes can actually overstimulate cats’ visual systems, leading to stress.

Auditory Effects

High-pitched and repetitive sounds that emanate from modern televisions can be very stressful for cats. Their hearing range extends into the ultrasound spectrum, meaning they can detect sounds up to 64 kHz, whereas humans can only hear up to 20 kHz ( High-frequency sounds like beeping and static are harsh on a cat’s sensitive ears.

Common distressing TV noises include the static between channel changes, high-pitched theme songs, beeps from video game consoles, and continuous canned laughter on sitcoms ( These types of sudden, loud sounds can overstimulate and frighten cats. Exposure to aggravating high-pitched frequencies may cause cats to seem irritable or upset.

It’s best to avoid blasting the television’s volume or leaving it on loudly when unattended. Consider muting intense sounds that may bother cats. Provide a comfortable cat bed in another room, so cats can distance themselves when needed. Pay attention for signs of agitation like ears flat back, pupil dilation, and hiding.

Behavioral Effects

Watching TV can potentially lead to unwanted behaviors and anxiety in cats. The fast movements and noises coming from the TV can overstimulate a cat’s senses and provoke reactions like pouncing, swatting, and vocalizing as if they were hunting prey on the screen. This hypervigilant state can stress some cats out and cause obsessive fixation on the TV.

One study conducted by researchers at the University of California found that cats who watched wildlife videos were more anxious and active after viewing compared to cats shown control videos. The wildlife footage seemed to trigger their predatory instincts.

Some signs of TV-induced anxiety in cats include dilated pupils, twitching tail, startled reactions, aggression, hiding, and excessive meowing or crying. To mitigate these effects, cat owners are advised to limit TV viewing, provide sufficient enrichment activities, and monitor their pet’s behavior closely when the TV is on.

Positives of TV

Watching television can provide some mental stimulation for cats. The moving images and sounds can capture their attention and engage their natural hunting instincts. This can provide cats with enrichment and exercise their minds in their home environment. One study found that cats tend to watch TV more when they are alone, suggesting it provides them with some companionship and entertainment when their human family members are away.

According to veterinarian Dr. Justine Lee, interactive TV content with images of birds, mice, and other prey “seems to keep cats occupied” and less prone to boredom or behavioral issues. She notes that cat TV offers a safe outlet for them to watch “hunting shows” and can be particularly beneficial for indoor cats who can’t hunt real prey outside.

While watching regular TV is unlikely to be harmful, content specifically designed for cats can maximize the mental engagement and enrichment. Products like Videos for Cats display stimulating footage cats instinctively respond to and may hold their interest better than shows designed for humans.


There are a few precautions cat owners can take to minimize any potential negative impacts of TV viewing on cats:

Limit TV time for cats. Experts recommend minimizing the amount of TV viewing for cats to no more than 1-2 hours per day. Extended TV viewing can overstimulate cats leading to anxiety or problematic behaviors.

Keep TV volume low when cats are present. The sounds coming from the TV even at a moderate volume can negatively impact cats sensitive hearing. Keep the volume lower to avoid any auditory distress.[1]

Provide alternate enrichment. Make sure cats have access to engaging toys, climbing structures and interaction when the TV is on to prevent over-focusing on the stimuli from the TV.

Monitor cats for signs of distress. Look for anxious behaviors like pacing, hiding, aggression, excessive vocalizations or destruction which can be triggered by too much TV exposure.

Signs of Distress

Cats experiencing stress or distress from the effects of TV may show various signs of agitation, hiding, or aggression. According to the Cats Protection organization, stressed cats may become “more withdrawn or hiding more than usual.” Hiding is a key sign that a cat is feeling threatened or anxious. The Blue Cross notes that a stressed cat “may start to hide away a lot more and not want to spend time with the family.”

Aggressive behavior like hissing, growling, swiping, or biting can also indicate a cat is distressed. The Blue Cross advises, “You may notice they become aggressive and tense, and react angrily and out of character to things that normally wouldn’t bother them.” Petplan similarly states that a stressed cat may “hiss, growl or even act aggressively.” These behaviors suggest TV proximity is causing the cat severe anxiety.


In summary, while TVs used to emit radiation that could negatively impact cats, modern TVs are generally safe. The main potential issues for cats watching TV include overstimulation from the visuals and sounds. There’s also the risk of cats becoming obsessed or stressed from TV. However, many cats enjoy TV, especially nature videos, in moderation. As long as you observe your cat for signs of distress and don’t overexpose them, letting your cat watch appropriate TV shows or videos from time to time is likely fine. Use common sense, limit viewing, and monitor your cat’s reactions. With some basic precautions, there is no need to ban your cat from TV time.

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