Our cats are very important in our lives, there's no denying it. And when we go away, while we love our travels, we hate having to be away from our furry family members. Luckily, technology has made it so much easier to stay in touch with our pets when we're away via FaceTime or other video chat apps.
We feel so comforted seeing our cats' sweet faces when we're far away, but do our cats feel the same way? What can they see on screens? We took a look at if or how our cats can understand what's happening on our phone screens, and the results are mixed. While our cats may not appreciate the subtleties of our favorite meme on our phones, there's some evidence that video chats with their humans may not be totally lost on them.
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Cats see blues better
A cat's vision is, of course, significantly different from that of humans or even dogs. Cats see blues better than they see reds, greens, and yellows, which may help with phone screens. Mammal eyes are made up of two kinds of receptors: rods and cones, and cones are the type that process color. Humans have three types of cones to see all the colors, however, cats only have two types. Cats eyes see blues okay, but they are close to red-green colorblind. Luckily, for our kitties on FaceTime, our phone screens radiate more blue light, so cats can pick up some of the colors happening on a digital screen.
And even though they don't see light perfectly, cats do see more colors than dogs, so it's possible that our phone screens look clearer and more understandable to our feline friends. Along with some of their other abilities, our kitties might be able to get as excited seeing your face as you do seeing theirs.
Cats need to see things up close
For this reason, Facetime might actually work for cats. Another way that cats' eyes function differently from our human eyes is in their ability to see distance. We humans can still see objects clearly when they're anywhere between 100 and 200 feet away. Cats, however, can only see objects that are no more than 20 feet away, so cats are much more nearsighted than humans are.
But when we look at a FaceTime screen, things are pretty close. We can't hold the phone much more than an arms length away and our cats can get right up to the screen to see what's on it. While we don't know for sure, our cats' nearsightedness may actually help them see our phone screens better.
Cats can recognize their handlers — possibly even on phones screens
Even though we understand that cats may not understand what's on a phone screen completely, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cats notice when we talk to them via FaceTime or other video chat. That might be because our cats can recognize us in other ways, such as by our voice.
Researchers have found that cats do understand their parent's voices. As a part of a study, researchers played cats their owners voice saying their name and two strangers saying their name, and they found in the study that cats reacted to their owners voice more than the strangers' voices. Thus, it's possible that your cat might understand it's you on the phone, even if it can't fully see you on the screen.
Cats not only recognize our voice, but they can also pick up on how we move. Cats use our body language to help identify us, which is why cats might recognize us better on a moving phone screen than in a photograph.
So using their understanding of their parent or handler's voice and body language, along with what the can see on their phone screen, it's possible that our cats can understand what's happening when we try to FaceTime with them.
Did you know?
We are changing our language to reflect contemporary thinking in the pet world. We now say "cat parent" or "pet parent" instead of "cat owner" or "pet owner"!
It still may not be perfectly clear to your cat, but there's no harm in trying
We don't have enough studies to know exactly what our cats see when they look at our phone screens, but they are smart enough creatures to understand some of what is going on. And science agrees. There are high-tech devices made to check in with their pets, and there are even smartphone and tablet games for your cat. So it's clear that the market thinks there is enough a cat can see on the small screen to make it worth creating products that are cat-specific, for whatever that's worth.
And if your kitty wants to interact with the tiny screens we have with us all the time, who are you to stop them? If nothing else, a good FaceTime session when you're away from your pet will leave you with a big smile after sharing a special moment with your feline friend, even from far away.
The science is not perfectly clear on whether cats can see phone screens, but some research suggests that they might be able to. There is no harm in doing a video call with your cat if it makes you feel good!
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.