Cat Videos and Cuddles. Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Your Feline?

Introduction: The Debate Over Screen Time For Cats

Animals and technology don’t always make for the best combination. As humans spend more time in front of screens for work, communication, and entertainment, many cat owners wonder if some of that screen time is okay for their feline companions. The question of whether cats should watch TV or be exposed to other forms of media like tablets and smartphones has stirred debate among cat owners, veterinarians, and pet experts.

On the one hand, some argue that allowing cats to watch videos or play with touchscreen devices can provide beneficial stimulation and enrichment. On the other hand, critics point out potential risks like psychological issues, exposure to harmful content, and reduced physical activity. Wherever one lands in this debate, there’s no doubt that screen time for cats requires mindful moderation and monitoring by owners.

What We Mean By Screen Time for Cats

When talking about screen time for cats, we are referring to exposure to TV, tablet, phone, and computer screens that display moving or flashing images and videos. Unlike humans who choose to actively watch screens, cat exposure is often passive from screens in their environment. Common sources include:

  • TV screens playing movies, shows, or music videos
  • Tablets, phones, or computers playing videos or games within eyesight of a cat
  • Security or pet cameras with screens showing live footage

Many cat owners leave screens on for background noise, visual stimulation, or to entertain their cats while away. However, cats don’t comprehend screens the same way people do and prolonged exposure could be mentally and physically detrimental. Later we’ll discuss recommended limits for cat screen time.

Why Cat Owners Allow Screen Time

Many cat owners allow their pets to have screen time for entertainment and companionship. According to, cats can become transfixed by moving images on TV or computer screens in much the same way humans do. When left alone for long periods, having the TV or videos playing can provide cats stimulation and make them feel less lonely. Cat owners may put on shows with other animals, moving objects, or nature scenes to capture their pet’s attention and curiosity when they are away at work or school. The sounds and activity can make cats feel like they have company. Additionally, some owners enjoy the bonding experience of watching videos or shows with their cats curled up beside them.

According to a survey discussed in, over half of cat owners let their pets watch TV or cat videos with them as a way to spend time together and strengthen their bond. Watching screens can become a ritual comfort activity that owners and cats look forward to sharing.

Potential Benefits of Screen Time for Cats

Research suggests screen time can provide some benefits for cats, primarily mental stimulation and relaxation. According to a recent study by, screen time can provide positive sensory stimulation for cats kept exclusively indoors. The study found that when cats view moving images of prey, toys, or other animals on a screen, it can satisfy their natural instincts to hunt and interact with subtle movements in their environment (

Additionally, a Catster article reports that viewing soothing nature scenes or cat-friendly videos can help an anxious cat relax and reduce stress levels. The visual stimuli occupy the cat’s focus and provide a distraction from stressful triggers ( Researchers note that cats seem most interested in TV content specifically designed for feline viewing, with slower frame rates closer to a cat’s visual acuity.

Thus, in moderation, age-appropriate screen time with positive content can provide mental enrichment and stress relief for cats. However, it should not replace actual play, exercise and bonding time with human companions.

Potential Risks of Screen Time

While screens can provide some benefits for cats, excessive screen time does come with some risks that cat owners should be aware of.

One potential risk is lack of physical activity. Staring at screens is a sedentary activity, and too much screen time can mean cats aren’t getting enough exercise through play and exploration. Lack of physical activity can contribute to obesity and related health issues in cats.

Another concern is eye strain. Cats’ eyes are not designed to stare at close-up, flickering screens for long periods. This can lead to eye fatigue or strain. Excessive screen time has even been linked to myopia (nearsightedness) in young children, so similar risks may apply to kittens.

Too much screen time before bedtime can also lead to sleep issues. The blue light emitted from screens can suppress melatonin production and disrupt normal circadian rhythms. This can make it harder for cats to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Recommended Screen Time Limits

Experts generally recommend limiting a cat’s screen time to less than 2 hours per day (Source: More than 2 hours of passive screen watching can start to have negative effects.

Cats do not comprehend screens in the same way humans do. Their vision is geared more toward detecting movement and is attuned to a higher frame rate than human vision. Prolonged staring can strain their eyes (Source:

Excessive screen time can also take away from more enriching activities like play, exercise, bonding, and exploring. Moderation is key when it comes to digital entertainment for cats.

Tips for Safe Screen Use

Supervising your cat during screen time is important to keep them safe. Cats can get overstimulated or obsessed with the moving images, so monitor their behavior and limit sessions. Avoid violent, rapid, or stressful content, as the American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends calmer programming (Mint). Interact with your cat during viewing by tapping the screen or toys along with them. This makes it a social experience rather than mindless staring. Let your cat walk away freely when they lose interest.

Signs of Unhealthy Screen Time

Excessive screen time can have negative effects on a cat’s behavior and wellbeing. Some signs that your cat may be experiencing unhealthy reactions to too much screen exposure include:

Aggression – Cats who view frequent fast-moving imagery on screens can become overstimulated, which may lead to increased irritability, aggressiveness, or attacking behaviors towards people or other pets. This is likely an instinctive response, as cats may see images on screens as potential prey they want to hunt and capture.

Restlessness – Screen time that overstimulates a cat’s senses can translate into restless energy. A cat that paces, meows excessively, or seems unable to settle down and relax may be showing signs of unhealthy reactions to screen exposure.

Sleep Changes – Too much screen time, especially before bed, may make it harder for cats to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Their natural sleep cycles can be disrupted. Pay attention if your cat has trouble sleeping or keeps you up due to restlessness after screen time.

Other potential indicators of excessive screen exposure include decreased appetite, lethargy, hiding behaviors, overgrooming, and anxiety. If you notice multiple problematic changes in your cat’s normal habits and temperament, consider curtailing their screen time.

Alternatives to Screen Time

Screen time should be limited for cats to ensure their health and wellbeing. Luckily, there are many alternatives to electronic screens that allow cats to stay happy, enriched, and entertained.

Interactive toys like puzzle feeders, treat balls, feather wands, and laser pointers can provide mental stimulation and physical activity for cats. Rotating different types of toys keeps cats from getting bored. Multiple play sessions per day are recommended. Adult cats benefit from at least 15-30 minutes of playtime daily.

Providing cats with window perches or cat trees near windows allows them to observe outdoor sights and sounds. Bird feeders can attract flocks for cats to observe. Placing bird baths within view adds movement. Cat towers with different levels and scratching surfaces also give cats environmental enrichment.

Ultimately, the best way to limit screen time is to directly interact and play with cats ourselves. Quality time spent petting, grooming, teaching tricks, and playing interactive games deepens the human-animal bond.


In conclusion, screen time for cats can provide benefits but should also be used in moderation and with caution. Excessive screen exposure carries risks like reduced physical activity, behavioral issues, and impaired development. However, limited and supervised screen time may enrich a cat’s environment, provide mental stimulation, and strengthen the human-animal bond.

The key is moderation. Owners should aim for less than 2 hours per day of screen time, provide breaks and interaction, cap viewing before bedtime, and monitor for signs of screen addiction. Screens should complement, not replace, physical play, environmental exploration, and quality time with owners. With a measured, supervised approach, screen time can be an entertaining enrichment activity for cats.

Overall, the wellbeing of the cat should be the top priority. While screens may hold some benefits, they are not a requirement for a happy, healthy feline. As with any enrichment offering, owners should evaluate risks versus rewards and proceed with care.

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