Published in the Rains County Leader on October 4, 2016:
I first heard the phrase “cat TV” from Jackson Galaxy on his show, “My Cat from Hell.” He was referring to the practice of providing a window seat of some kind for indoor cats so they can watch the outside world in safety. Kitty would have been more accurately described as being from Purgatory rather than from Hell, but since at that point we were in the process of socializing her, we cleared some surfaces, made a few furniture adjustments, and gave her access to all the windows in the main living area except the one over the kitchen sink. She has spent many happy hours, perched on her Kitty condo or on various pieces of furniture, watching local wildlife and passing neighbors.
I am aware that cat TV has evolved along with the rest of the world as it has become more centered around the electronic world of cyberspace, but a recent Facebook post cast a new perspective on the feline entertainment. A series of fifteen photos was titled “Then vs. Meow – How Technology Has Changed Cats’ Lives.” The first photo was a two-panel cartoon. The first one showed a cat sleeping on top of an old-fashioned television set –a warm three-foot cube that was perfect for cat naps. The second pictured a cat draped uncomfortably over the top of a modern thin-screened model that was not made for napping.
Many years ago, I had a cat who had an interest in watching television, at least when the weather forecast was on. For those of my readers who are too young to remember, the radar in those days was a round screen with a radial arm that swept around the circle revealing any storms that might be in the area. The map was a non-digital wall map the meteorologist had prepared in advance, and he used a long pointer to draw his viewers’ attention to various features. When T.J., my cat, heard the sounds of the weather report, he would run from wherever he was and plant himself in front of the screen. When the radar was on, he would rotate his head in a circle, following the sweeping arm, and when the map was in use, he would stand on his back legs and paw at the pointer. Sometimes he would jump on top of the set or go around behind it looking for the toys that he couldn’t quite reach.
Kitty hasn’t shown any interest in the weather, but she does occasionally show an interest when David flips to the NatGeo Channel. Being a modern girl, though, she seems more interested in my laptop and my cell phone. More than once I have had to correct my work in progress after she walks across my keyboard, and once I found her frantically pawing at my phone as Siri asked her over and over how she could help.
One of my cousins has several cats, and to say they are spoiled would be a great understatement. She frequently posts videos of her fur babies playing with a new toy or watching a new nature video. One Saturday a couple of weeks ago, Kitty was being particularly rambunctious, running from one end of the house to the other, up and over anything in her path. I wondered how she would react to some digital cat TV, so I Googled bird videos for cats – it’s amazing how many there are – and set one to play on my laptop.
At the sound of the first chirp, Kitty’s ears perked up, and she hopped onto my ottoman to investigate. She sat watching curiously for a few minutes, but unlike my cousin’s cats, she didn’t settle down with her paws crossed in a ladylike posture. Instead, she began stalking the birds on the screen. First, she took a closer look by standing on the keyboard. I don’t know what she hit, but she managed to freeze the program, and I had to close it and restart it. I tried a squirrel video the second time, but when she began scratching the screen trying to reach the furry critter, video time came to a quick end.
Thankfully, the brief movie break served the purpose of settling Kitty down. Once the screen went black, she jumped up onto her Kitty condo and took a nap. Since then, she has seemed content with cat TV outside the windows. If she becomes bored with the programming and wants to venture back into cyberspace, she’ll have to gather up the pennies she sometimes knocks off the dresser and buy her own laptop.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos