Why Do Cats Get So Close to the TV? The Curious Feline Behavior Explained


It’s a common sight in many homes – cats staring intently at the television screen from just inches away. This curious cat behavior often has their human companions wondering why their furry friends seem so fascinated by and focused on the moving images and sounds coming from the TV.

In this article, we’ll explore the various reasons behind why cats like to watch television up close. We’ll look at their unique vision and how it relates to screens, their sensitivity to sound frequencies, how TV provides stimulation and opportunities for play and bonding, and how it can help relieve stress or boredom. Understanding the motivations behind this distinctive cat trait can help strengthen the bond between pets and their owners.

Cats’ Vision

Cats have exceptional night vision due to having a high concentration of rods in their eyes. Rods detect light and motion, allowing cats to see well in low light conditions. In fact, cats have 6-8 times more rods than humans, enabling them to see in light levels that are 6 times lower than what humans require to see (https://cats.com/how-far-can-cats-see).

However, cats sacrifice long-distance vision for their night vision capabilities. They have far fewer cones in their eyes, which are responsible for seeing color and details. As a result, cats’ vision becomes increasingly blurred beyond distances of around 20 feet away. Their eyes are adapted for hunting small, fast moving prey at relatively close distances (https://www.cats.org.uk/cats-blog/cat-eyesight-facts). Objects further than 20 feet appear indistinct and lack sharp edges.

Hearing Sensitivity

Cats have excellent hearing abilities that are superior to humans in certain ways. Their hearing range is between 55 Hz up to 79 kHz according to Wikipedia, while the human hearing range is typically 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

This means cats can hear much higher frequency sounds than humans are capable of detecting. Many modern TVs emit high-pitched noises at the upper threshold of human hearing, but well within the range of cat hearing. Cats are able to pick up on these high-pitched sounds from TVs that humans cannot even perceive.

Stimulation and Play

Cats are naturally drawn to movement and stimulated by sights and sounds. Watching television provides cats with both visual and audio stimulation that captures their attention. The moving objects and animals on the screen, in particular, trigger cats’ strong prey drive instincts to notice, track and hunt for prey even though they can’t physically touch or interact with the TV.

According to Pet Care Rx, many animal behaviorists believe that cats who love to watch TV could enjoy an increased prey drive and are likely attracted to the quick movements of objects across the screen (https://www.petcarerx.com/article/why-do-cats-watch-tv/5332). Similarly, Vetstreet notes that cats with a higher prey drive are more likely to be fascinated by and attentive to the motions on television as their instincts tell them to observe and capture prey (https://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-does-my-cat-like-to-watch-tv).

Bonding and Socializing

Cats may watch TV to bond with their owners and feel connected to them. Sitting in front of the TV together can be a way for cats to spend quality time with their owners and strengthen their relationship. According to Reddit user Catmom-cunningfolk69, “My cat loves to watch animal documentaries with me. He sits right in front of the TV and seems totally enthralled.”

The voices and sounds coming from the TV can feel like social interaction for cats. As social creatures, cats may enjoy the auditory stimulation and company provided by people talking on TV. As per the Reddit thread “New cat owner here…. Is it common for cats to watch TV?”, user adhdbpdisaster commented “To cats, the sounds of the TV are like people having conversations.” This can make cats feel less lonely, similar to having human or animal companions around.


Cats can become confused by what they see on television because they do not fully understand that the TV screen is not an actual window into another world. Their instincts tell them to interact with the animals, objects, and movements they see on screen, but they cannot actually touch, catch, or physically engage with these things (source). This confusion stems from the fact that cats rely heavily on their senses of sight, sound, and smell to explore their environment. When these senses pick up stimuli that appear real but actually are not, it can be perplexing and frustrating for felines.

Cats will often stare intently at the television screen, following movements closely. They may chatter, swat, or pounce as if they are hunting real prey. Of course, they cannot actually catch anything on the screen. This can lead to irritation when their natural instincts tell them they should be able to capture or interact with the animal they see (source). The sounds coming from the television also draw their attention, since cats can pick up high frequency noises better than humans. They may turn their heads trying to locate the source of sounds that seem to originate from the TV.

Stress Relief

One reason cats may watch TV up close is that it provides background noise which can have a soothing effect for some anxious cats. The low level, steady sounds from the TV can act as white noise that helps to relieve stress. According to a Quora post, excessive noise can disturb cats’ sleep and cause them distress. However, a moderate, consistent volume can minimize startling sounds that cause anxiety. The Heathfield Veterinary Clinic also notes that introducing ambient sounds from an early age may desensitize cats to noises and reduce future stress.


Cats often feel safe and secure when they are near their owners and their territory. Sitting close to the TV while the owner is watching provides a sense of companionship and protection. According to Why do cats watch TV?, being perched up high next to the TV gives cats a vantage point to survey their territory and watch for any potential threats. The reassuring presence of their owner makes cats feel safe, allowing them to relax while still keeping vigil over their domain.


Cats can easily get bored, especially if they are left alone for long periods of time without stimulation. According to a Reddit user, “Some cats have mild interest, some become fixated and some cats simply will not react to activity on a television or computer screen.” (https://www.reddit.com/r/CatAdvice/comments/16qrcje/new_cat_owner_here_is_it_common_for_cats_to_watch/). With little else to interact with in the environment, the moving images, lights and sounds coming from the TV can provide mental stimulation for a bored cat.

As reported in the Mercury News, “It’s not uncommon for cats to watch television, especially if they’re bored” (https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/08/23/gilroy-cat-likes-to-watch-tv-is-that-normal/). The constantly changing sights and sounds can combat feline boredom and provide some distraction.


In conclusion, cats are fascinated by television for a variety of reasons. Their excellent vision coupled with their curiosity draws them to the moving images, lights, and sounds on screen. Cats may feel stimulated and enriched by watching nature scenes, other animals, and fast-paced video content as a form of playtime and environmental enrichment. The company of the TV can also provide comfort and stress relief for anxious cats or bonding time with their owners. At other times, cats may be confused by images that defy their understanding of reality. Staring intently at the television allows cats to scrutinize these puzzling scenes. Above all, a cat’s attraction to TV likely stems from their intensely inquisitive natures. Their drive to explore, interact with, and understand their environments compels them to intently watch televisions and computer screens.

In summary, the curious staring behavior cats often exhibit around televisions results from a blend of their sharp senses, playful nature, desire for stimulation, comfort-seeking, and innate curiosity about the world around them.

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