Phone screens are very central to our lives. In some form or another, almost every aspect of our lives has moved to our phones from our news sources to our shopping, and this may even include some parts of pet care. Just as most parents will admit to occasionally using videos to distract an unruly toddler, you might use your phone to show pictures to your cat, and even to video chat! This would all be pretty pointless if your cat can’t see phone screens, so what are your cats seeing when they look at your phone or tablet screen? Are you sharing a bonding experience, or just wasting their time?
How Cats See Color
Because our eye structures are very different, our cats see the world a little differently from us. While there are many differences we could discuss, one crucial difference is that we have one more cone than they do. As cones help our eyes to interpret color, this means that our cats see a little less color than we do. They do, however, still see more color than the dogs in your life.
Specifically, cats have only two cones and so are partially red-green colorblind. This means that the color they can view the best is blue, while other colors, such as red, yellow and green, are harder to pick out. Imagine looking at the world through slightly blue tinted glass and you may be able to understand what your cat can see.
This also affects how they view our phone screens. You may have read online about blue light and phone screens. It is thought that the blue light that is emitted from the screens we now use every day can mess up our sleep cycles as our brains can interpret it as daylight.
Whether or not this is true, our phone’s use of blue light may actually make your phone more appealing to your cat. By giving everything a slightly blue tint, your phone screen may actually make everything a little clearer for your cat’s vision because their brain is used to picking out shades of blue.
Keep this in mind if you have a setting on your phone that allows you to turn off blue light or to set a timer to turn off blue light automatically in the evenings. You should consider making sure blue light is switched on when you are using your phone to show something to your cat or to video chat with a family member who cannot be there.
Another interesting vision difference that may impact their enjoyment of your tablet or phone is their ability to manage with distance. Cats are quite near sighted. They are generally limited to seeing within approximately 20 feet. Everything past that will be very blurry, or perhaps even completely indistinct.
To help you imagine what that may be like, it is useful to know that the average human vision can usually see up to 100 to 200 feet away. That is 5 to 10 times further than a cat. Next time you are in a wide, open space, try and what the furthest object that you can clearly focus on is, then look at an object that is 10 times closer than that. This is approximately the distance that your cat can see to.
Like the blue light, their nearsightedness means that a phone that is held fairly close to them is ideal. They have great eyes for picking up detail and may well be able to see things that you can’t. That being said, research has not concluded exactly how attune this makes cats to looking at phones, but it definitely can’t hurt!
Recognizing Their Loved Ones
The most important use of our phones for cats is to video chat with family members and loved ones who aren’t in the room with us. Regardless of whether they are seeing things with a blue tint, or the amount of detail they can see, we all hope that they are as reassured by the sight of us as we are of them.
The good news is that they probably are! First and foremost, this has to do with audio rather than sight. Many studies have shown that cats remember the sounds of their owners’ voices and respond much more to recordings of their owner’s calling their names than a stranger. This means that, provided that you have a decent microphone and speaker, your cat is likely to appreciate hearing your voice.
It is less certain whether your cat appreciates seeing you as much as hearing you. However, studies have shown that they can also identify their owners through body language. This suggests that videos are a better medium than photos. Make sure you are smiling, waving, or do anything else you commonly do when you see them in real life, and it is fairly likely that your cat will recognize it is you.
Bonding With Your Cat
As always, we could do with a few more studies to help us pin down exactly how phones can benefit our cat’s lives as much as they benefit ours, but anything that will have you spending time together and bonding is always positive. As well as video chatting, there are a number of games made for cats that you can get for your tablet or smartphone to try, for example, and it is always funny to see if they react to silly online video.
Regardless of your cat’s reaction and what they can or cannot see or understand, it is important not to forget what playing and video chatting with your cat means to you. Many pet owners don’t like leaving their pets for long as they can start to worry about them and miss them. If checking on your cat during a trip reassures you, makes you happy, and allows you to have a longer, more relaxing holiday than you otherwise would have – just go for it!