There’s never been a better time for television. Once upon a time the best shows would take a hiatus for the summer. You’d spend the months of June and July watching reruns and knowing that when school started again, you’d be back to the grind but with new episodes of Family Ties to show for it. But now after you finish a marathon of Difficult People, you can move right on to Transparent, Documentary Now, Drunk History, or Last Man on Earth. One good show ends and another begins – over and over again. Or you can happen upon a series you missed the first time around and binge watch it in a weekend, suddenly enamored with a show from 2012.
These days, though, I’m watching a lot of oversized teacups, where little birds come to snack.
Let me backtrack a bit.
One morning Avon and I were curled up in bed, and I pulled up a home video of him on my computer. He was immediately enamored by his own image. (Smart cat. He is adorable.) He pawed at his face, and turned his head quizzically at the sound of his own voice. I was amazed, because none of our other cats have ever held the slightest bit of interest for anything on a screen. It was as if they couldn’t make out the images at all – like people who were unable to see anything in those Magic Eye posters in the 90’s.
Encouraged by his interest, I did a quick search for “videos for cats to watch” on YouTube, and there was a huge line-up.
Avon watched in amazement as birds flew in front of him. He tried to catch them with his furry paw, and even walked behind the computer trying to find them.
After that, every night as I got into bed, ready to check my email before sleep, Avon curled up in the crook of my arm as if to say, “Okay, time to watch our movies.” We’d watch birds on tree stumps, birds on tiny picnic tables, birds on dirt paths… Until we were both tired and ready to doze off.
One night David and I were relaxing in the living room and decided to pull up the YouTube app and watch videos for cats from the comfort of the couch. Jezebel was in her hammock, taking a nap as she’s wont to do.
When the birds onscreen started flitting, flying, and chirping, she looked over in amazement.
“I didn’t know you had that!”
Apparently, all of these years it wasn’t that Jezebel couldn’t see what was onscreen. It was that none of it was interesting for her. She turned 16 years old this year, and yet we’re still learning new things about her.
We moved the coffee table closer to the TV, so that they would have better access. She perched in front of the screen, ready to grab any of the birds at will. She stood on her hind legs to bat at them, did her best birdcall, and hunkered down to hide when she decided a sneak attack was the best course of action.
Avon stopped watching the birds to watch Jezebel instead. He looked stunned. He’d never seen this side of her. He walked over tentatively and touched her face with his paw and meowed, so confused by her reaction.
Now whenever we turn on the TV, she turns eagerly to face it, ready to watch her movies. (There are videos for cats with other animals, but Jezebel is more engaged with small birds than she is with squirrels, eagles, or swans. She particularly likes the crisp videos by Paul Dinning.) And when the red YouTube screen comes up, you can visibly see her excitement as she realizes that we’re going to start her shows.
With most things if Avon gets too rambunctious, Jezebel leaves. (He’s 2 and she’s 16. The age difference doesn’t always work in her favor.) But with her videos, she’s resolute. She will not leave. He may try to put his arm around her and play. But she stands firm.
“I am not leaving. My shows are on.”
Not only does it add interest to their everyday life, but Jezebel’s mood has seemed to improve. She gets excited watching it play out, and she’s engaged with what’s happening. It’s like when humans watch a show and laugh, cry, or worry for the actors on screen. She’s totally immersed in the story playing out in front of her.
When David and I walk in to put on Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyer in the evenings, she hops onto the perch that’s now in front of the TV and looks at the screen eagerly. Often we just put on one of her shows instead, knowing there’s no way that our excitement for seeing the opening monologue could possibly match hers for seeing birds grabbing seeds and flying off.
The films are surprisingly relaxing for me and David, and even the kitties stop their fighting to bond over them. The sounds of chirping and drizzling rain are quite peaceful, and I imagine in the snowy months it will be nice to see signs of life.
So if you have kitties of your own, trying watching videos for cats. You may just see a new side to your favorite furry companions.