10

I recently discovered that some people put Animal Planet (or similar nature channel) on the TV when leaving a cat alone all day. I'd never heard of this before, but I found many mentions of it while searching for more information.

Cats that have been outside and seen the real thing often don’t react, but homebody indoor-only cats enjoy watching videos of fluttering birds, squirrels and other critters. There are a number of these videos available, including the original called “Video Catnip” by PetAVision, Inc. Alternately, find a nature television show such as on Animal Planet, and tune in for your cat’s viewing pleasure. [How to Solve Separation Anxiety in Cats - About.com]

and

Don’t have any wildlife? Leave the TV tuned to a nature channel or Animal Planet, or pop a wildlife DVD into the player while you’re gone. You can find some that are made just for cats. [Tips for leaving cat home alone - cattime.com]

Usually, the sites make the claim that it helps with separation anxiety. Is there any research to support this? Does this actually benefit the cat, or is it just something to make the owner feel better about leaving the cat alone?

  • cats have separation anxiety? srsly? – NZKshatriya Jan 21 '17 at 0:52
  • @NZKshatriya - So the claim goes. In my case, we had a kitten we'd just brought from a home with plenty of other cats to interact with to one where she was totally alone all day, so it was something we were worried about for the first few weeks. These days, I doubt she gets anxious when we're gone, but she is known to occasionally watch for us from the front window and come running to the door when we get home. Could just be boredom, though. – Bobson Jan 21 '17 at 23:18
  • Hmm, lucky. Most cats I've interacted with had what I would call a "meh" attitude lol. my sisters mini dachshund however......oh gods. – NZKshatriya Jan 21 '17 at 23:22
  • @NZKshatriya - She's a very strange cat. Adorable, but very strange. – Bobson Jan 21 '17 at 23:23
6

I couldn't find any research to support the notion that cats benefit from watching TV. I couldn't find any to contradict it either.


I did find that the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery published AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines Sarah L H Ellis et al. DOI: 10.1177/1098612X13477537

Which seems a reasonably comprehensive guide to what a domesticated cat needs but which doesn't mention the provision of TV based audiovisual stimulation.


The US National Institute for Health (NIH) published an article on Environmental Enrichment for Indoor Cats

which says

Recommendations to cat owners to house their cats indoors confer the responsibility to provide conditions that ensure good health and welfare. Cats maintain their natural behaviors, such as scratching, chewing, and elimination, while living indoors, and they may develop health and behavior problems when deprived of appropriate environmental outlets for these behaviors. This article divides the environment into five basic “systems” to enable identification of features that may benefit from improvement. It also addresses practical means of meeting cats’ needs in each of these systems.

Cats appear quite capable of living indoors, occasionally even in high population densities,1 especially when food resources are abundant.2 However, cats are captives in these environments, akin to zoo animals, and as with zoo animals, cats’ health and welfare may be affected by their surroundings.3 Cats also retain their natural investigatory and communication behaviors (e.g., scratching, chewing, elimination) when they live indoors. Because of this, they sometimes display undesirable behaviors when deprived of appropriate outlets for their expression

It doesn't mention TV. The reference to zoo animals is probably about confined animals becoming psychologically disturbed


An article in Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (2009) 11, 901–912: ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT Practical strategies for improving feline welfare includes this table

enter image description here

but cautions

While cats were found to watch the television, it is difficult to conclude that this behaviour improved the welfare of the individuals.

A note of caution is warranted regarding situations where an animal cannot reach and/or interact with the source of stimulation (eg, items shown on a television screen or viewed out of a window), as such interventions may potentially induce frustration and related behaviours in some animals.


Tentative conclusion:

In terms of feline welfare, TV is no substitute for environmental support for a wider range of more normal cat activity.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .