Can Cats See Computer Screens?


Cats seem curious about almost everything. Whatever it is we’re doing, they want to be a part of it. That can sometimes make it hard to tell if cats actually know what’s going on or just want to be in the mix and in the action. And with so many people spending most of their days on computers, a lot of people are wondering…

Can cats see computer screens? Yes, cats can see computer screens! But because cats have very different eyes from us, exactly what they see is a little different. Still, they can identify common objects and even enjoy watching squirrels on a computer screen!

Just check out the cute orange cat in the video above as he does his best to track down that elusive squirrel!

Let’s take a closer look at what our cats can see and how our computer screens probably look to them starting with the basic anatomy of a feline eye.

How Are Cat Eyes Different From Our Own?

The eye contains two types of photoreceptor cells:  rods and cones. By analyzing the prevalence of these two types of cells we can learn a lot about what the world looks like through the feline eye. 

But what do these cells do?

Rod-type cells help cats (and us humans) see in low light and help track movements. Cones on the other hand are critical for day visions, seeing a wide range of colors, and for the sharpness of vision.

Humans have 10 times than cones our feline friends which means we can see a much wider range of colors with greater sharpness. But it should be no surprise that our cats have more rods than us which gives them excellent night-vision and the ability to track even extremely subtle movements. The ability to see in low light and track small movements is an important part of the feline hunting process.

So What Colors Can Cats See?

To get an idea of how this difference in rods and cones plays out, check out this simulated comparison from Business Insider:

You can see a decrease in sharpness but also a complete lack of red! You’ll also see more gray and shades of gray through the cat’s eyes. Business Insider goes on to say that “A cat’s vision is similar to a human who is color blind. They can see shades of blue and green, but reds and pinks can be confusing.”

So while there’s nothing to suggest that cats can’t see computer screens, they might find some images less interesting, especially if they’re heavy on reds, pinks, and other shades that cats can’t see!

Can Cats See Up Close?

While it might seem a bit surprising, cats can’t actually see anything up close. With huge eyes and massive pupils, cats can’t actually focus on objects that are within a foot or so of them. In order to compensate for this cats actually have whiskers on the back of their front legs that help them feel prey or anything else.

That means the best spot for cats to see a computer screen is actually a few feet away.

But you might be saying, “Then why do I keep seeing videos of cats crawling as close as they can to the computer screen?!”

Good question! The most likely explanation is that it’s a natural part of the hunting process. If cats see something interesting in the world, whether it’s on a computer screen or not, their first instinct is to get close to it where they can start batting it around or even give it a chomp.

So even though cats won’t able to see the computer screen up close, they still instinctually want to close the distance.

Can Cats Make Out What’s On The Screen?

I’ve watched enough cat videos to see that cats can most certainly see what’s on the screen. There are hundreds of stories on the internet of cats reacting to different videos. I’ve also seen firsthand my own cat enjoying videos along with dozens of foster cats that have also had fun watching birds and other forest critters.

But if we take another look at the cat vision simulation above, we can see that cats do lack a lot the visual acuity or clearness to see precise or small items on the computer screen. That’s why the best videos for cats usually feature zoomed-in animals that are easy for our cats to see.

Should I Video Chat With My Cat?

You absolutely can and there’s a good chance your cat will enjoy it even if they are a little confused! To make it easy for your cat to see, make sure the screen isn’t too close and try to avoid any complex background colors. Even if your cat can’t completely make out your face, your voice will give them all the cues they need to know it’s you.

If you want to take things to the next level, have whoever is operating the video chat present your cat with a shirt or other clothing that you’ve worn recently so that your cat can also take your smell. That way your cat gets to experience you with all their senses

Should I Put On Videos For My Cat?

There are hundreds of cat videos on YouTube.

And I don’t mean videos of cats (there are probably millions of those) but instead, videos for cats! These videos feature close-up shots of birds, squirrels, and other forest critters and are a great way to entertain your feline friend.

But how do you choose the best video?

Consider what already interests your cat! Does your cat love watching birds or are they more interested in chasing mice toys around the house? Maybe they like squirrels? Whatever it is, there’s a cat video for them.

The best videos use colors that cats can actually see, which means limited reds, and feature animals that are shot close up to make for cat’s limited visual acuity. High-quality sounds are also a big plus and the sound of birds chirping is what really gets my cat to start looking at the computer screen in the first place. This video of birds on a bench is her favorite.

Don’t Let The Computer Screen Frustrate Your Cat

While having your cat watch interesting critters on the computer screen can be a lot of fun, it could also frustrate some felines.

Why?

Because your cat can never actually catch and interact with what they see on the screen. Over time, this can frustrate some cats as they never get the payoff of capturing their prey. It’s the same problem with laser pointers where your cat is perpetually chasing the red dot prey but can never actually capture it.

So don’t rely on the computer screen too much for entertainment and consider mixing in some playtime with toys that your cat can capture!

Does The Type Of Computer Monitor Matter?

These days, most monitors use LCD technology and the classic (and massive) tube monitors are a thing of the past. These modern monitors have a frame rate and image quality that cats can easily see.

But if you’ve got an old tube-style TV or computer screen there’s a chance your cat won’t be able to actually see anything! That’s because the frame rate may be too low for them to actually see the images. While there is some debate around this, it’s safe to say that modern computer screens, televisions, tablets, and phones all use technology that cats can see.

Can Cats See Tablet Screens?

Yes! Cats can also see tablet screens and there are actually several interactive apps on the market that are specially designed for cats to use on tablets. These apps allow your cat to chase mice or fish as they run across the screen and when your cat taps on one of them they’re considered “captured” and fall off the screen.

Some cats will go crazy these for apps and that’s just the start of your options. My favorite is the Paint for Cats app which you can see here. This app has a little mouse that runs around the screen and every time your cat paws at it they leave a little spot of paint. Eventually, your cat will have created a complete masterpiece that you can then proudly hang on the fridge!

Closing Thoughts

Cats can absolutely see computer screens but it may not look exactly how we imagined. Our feline friends aren’t great at seeing reds and don’t have the same visual sharpness or acuity that we do. But that doesn’t stop them from enjoying videos made especially for them or from recognizing you on a video call!

So if you’re looking for another fun thing to do with your cat, consider plopping them in front of the computer screen and firing up a cat video!

Logan M.

Logan has always loved everything about cats! Growing up with a family full of pets and a lifelong passion for animals he pursued work in the veterinary industry. After 10 years, he started BetterWithCats.net to help cat owners learn more about their feline friends.

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