Cats and Screen Time: High Tech Playtime, or a Bad Idea?


Science has proven that watching cat videos online is good for you. A 2015 study conducted at Indiana University Bloomington found that viewing cat videos boosts energy and positive emotions. But is the same true for our cats?

Video games for cats

Videos showing birds and rodents have been around for a long time, but the explosion of apps specifically designed for cats have raised the question among cat parents and feline behaviorists whether all this screen time may be detrimental to cats’ well being. These apps designed to stimulate cats’ hunting instinct may be cute to the human observer, but I can’t help but think that batting at virtual prey moving across a screen is mostly frustrating for our feline friends.

Mikel Delgado, PhD, a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Minds, offering on-site consultations for cat guardians, shelters, and pet-related businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area and remote consultations around the world, agrees with me. “They’re not getting any tactile experience; they’re not getting any smell; they’re not getting any movement sense with their whiskers,” she told Experience Magazine. Like Mikel, I worry that these apps could confuse and frustrate cats. “It might be violating some sort of property of physics or nature that the cat might expect.”

Ruby occasionally played the Cat Fishing iPad game, but Allegra shows very little interest in screens. None of my cats have ever cared much about videos featuring birds, preferring the real thing outside the windows.

A poor substitute for real playtime

My biggest concern with video games for cats is that they will be used as a poor substitute for real playtime. Not only do these games not satisfy cats’ hunting instinct, they also take away one of the most important aspects of playtime, which is the interaction between cat and human.

Do your cats show any interest in digital games?

Photo by Kanashi on Unsplash

search close