In a survey conducted by the American Kennel Club, almost half of those surveyed said that their dog had shown interest in what it saw on TV. Does your dog or cat appear to “watch” TV? Does it react to some of the sights or sounds that it sees or hears on TV? While some pets appear to actually “watch” TV intently, others only react to a few sounds emanating from the TV (such as the sounds of another animal or the ringing of a doorbell), and still others don’t react at all to TV programs, appearing completely oblivious to them. So, what’s up? Can dogs and cats actually see what’s on a TV screen, and, if so, is it the same thing that we humans see? And why are some of them interested in what they see, while others are not?
Some of what your dog or cat sees on television depends on how new and advanced your TV is. Fusing a rapid set of images into what our eyes can register as a moving picture is called “flicker fusion frequency.” Newer TVs do this much better and faster than old TVs, which could only produce up to 50 new frames a second (with older models producing even fewer frames per second). We humans need about 16 to 20 images per second to perceive what we see as continuous film, whereas dogs need about 70 to 80 images per second, and cats and birds need about 100. Thus, with older TVs, dogs and cats are unable to perceive clear, fluid images on TV; however, with the additional resolution in current television technology and imaging, most pets, but especially dogs, can probably see the images that are on TV screens as well as they see the world in general and have, thus become potential television viewers.
This new TV “audience” has not gone unnoticed, and TV executives are already starting up special TV channels and programming for pets. For example in 2012, in Great Britain, Baker's Dog Food made a one-minute commercial that had images of their dog food on the screen that were enhanced by high-frequency sounds that could be heard only by dogs! And, here in the United States (as well as in Israel and some Asian and European countries), DogTV, a network that produces programming especially for canines, is now available via streaming and from certain cable and satellite companies.
Cat Myra watches Sesame Street.
Here is a link to a cat sports enthusiast! Sorry for the long link… our program would not allow us to upload the video itself. Just click on it here: https://plus.google.com/photos/107484704748596947781/albums/6112780351451945409?authkey=CLLCyY_n2PidQA
Still, the question remains: Are dogs and cats really interested in what they see on TV? And, if some are and some aren’t, why is that? Experts say that both dogs and cats are more likely to be interested in “real-life” drama (including what they see out a window) than anything that they are likely to see on a TV screen. However, a study of shelter cats exposed to TV found that cats without access to windows and without a lot of “real-life” drama around them were more interested in TV viewing, especially programs with birds, rodents, and fish images. (In other words, TV was, for these cats, an anecdote for boredom—just as it sometimes is for humans.) Of course, birds, rodents, and fish are natural prey for cats, and, since dogs and cats are predatory animals, any movement or sound that they perceive on TV as coming from possible prey can (and often does) attract the attention of even the most pampered house pet.
Another factor that determines what pets see when viewing TV is color. Seeing colors is dependent on the cones in one’s eyes. Not only do humans have more cones in our eyes than dogs and cats, but we also have more different types of cones. Humans have three kinds of cones, allowing us to see not only blues and greens, but also reds. Dogs, on the other hand, have only two types of cones, which allows them to see colors in the blue and green spectrum quite well, but not reds. Cats can see a larger range of color in the blue, green, and yellow spectrums than dogs do, but, like dogs, they see very few or no reds. Likewise, cones also affect perception of details, so, although dogs and cats can see detail, they cannot do so as clearly as humans.
Finally, the physical attributes and the personality traits and interests of various pets help to determine not only what they can see on TV, but also how they react to what they see. For example, some breeds of dogs, such as blood hounds, rely more on their sense of smell, so they might not be as interested as other breeds of dogs in the visual images that they see on TV. In addition, some pets are very territorial and, thus, are more likely to react to an image on TV that they perceive as “invading” their territory. Similarly, a dog that loves fetching tennis balls may be more prone to love watching the back-and-forth movement of the tennis ball in a tennis match—while, as was shown in the shelter-cat study mentioned earlier, a bored indoor-only cat may be more interested in watching images of birds or fish, especially if they’re green or blue!
Do you have a pet that “watches” TV? Does it react to or seem to enjoy certain images or programs more than others? If so, OMHS would love to hear from you. E-mail your comments, observations, and/or photos of your pets watching their favorite TV programs (in jpg format as an attachment) to us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Article by M S B, with research by M L H
Sources: Science Nordic; Four Legs Good; VMLCI