With the recent changes to television and the switch to digital TV, pets are now able to ‘see’ TV much better. But do they actually enjoy it?
Does TV Flicker to Our Pets?
Dogs and cats have very different vision compared to us. The older style television was simply a series of images flashing up on the screen, which to our slow human eyes looked continuous. Dogs and cats have a faster flicker rate. Their brains pick up more images from their retina per second, so TV would have appeared as a series of flashing images. That has now changed with digital television.
How Do Pets See?
Dogs and cats don’t see vibrant colours, but see movement more accurately than we do. Cats in particular are adapted to low light situations, so they can hunt in near darkness. Dogs are essentially similar to humans that are red-green colour-blind. Cats are less optimised for the red end of the colour spectrum, but can differentiate between red and green. So the bright colours of our favourite TV shows are probably lost on them.
Cats and dogs are also far-sighted, so close-up images appear somewhat fuzzy and in fact even with distant things they are easier to see if moving. So a dog can identify his owner if moving at 900 metres, but only 500 metres if stationary. Cats rely heavily on their sensitive whiskers for close-up viewing.
Our pets have more sensitive hearing compared to ours, so they can hear higher frequencies and sounds that are much softer than we can detect. Bearing this in mind, sometimes they may show signs of distress and we wonder why. It could be that their sensitive ears are picking up something we can’t detect.
The main difference when pets do watch TV is that they don’t bring the same perspective as humans to the viewing. They have different depth perception and they cannot tell that the very small dog in the distance on the TV screen is in fact still a dog. They rely more on their hearing, smell and vision, and in the case of cats their whiskers to give them information about their world. They are simply not as visual as humans and their interests and experiences are vastly different to ours.
There is a whole station in the US dedicated to dogs and plans on the backburner for cat TV also. Dog TV has a series of short shows geared towards a shorter attention span with images geared towards what dogs can see and their interests. They have 3 categories of viewing: relaxation, stimulation and exposure, all with different types of ‘shows’. The exposure channel is specifically designed to give dogs an experience of different stimuli, which if it works could be useful for puppy socialisation.
So the jury is out on whether dogs and cats really enjoy TV. Certainly they don’t see TV in the same way that humans do and perhaps might find certain things grating to their sensitive ears. However, there are many pet owners who report their dogs and cats do have favourite shows and perhaps even respond to animals on the TV. Many pets also learn that when the TV is on, everyone is relaxed and will learn to come and join the family on the couch for some pats.