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I am baffled by my cat pawing at the TV when it is off.

The TV sits next to the window, but as it happens at night as well as during the day, I don't think it's just interesting reflections from outside.

She doesn't paw the TV when it's on either.

We've guessed she might be pawing at her reflection but that didn't feel like the whole story. Any ideas please?

  • Have you ever noticed if the screen is statically charged when she's pawing at it? She could only be doing it when it's off because she's otherwise distracted by the action on the screen. – Carcigenicate Dec 14 '15 at 20:52
  • Static charge only happens with CRTs, due to the fact that a CRTs works by shooting electrons at the screen. Modern lcd screens use a completely different mechanism to generate images that don't involve beams of electrons. So unless they're using a rather old TV, not a very likely explanation. – Kai Jan 18 '18 at 18:52
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I'm not sure you're going to find an answer to your question. My cat paws at my computer monitor and occasionally my TV, on or off. Something about this is fun. I don't believe there is a more scientific answer. Considering the material of the TV, I can't think of anything this action would mimic in nature. Some things cats find fun are just mysteries.

Now, your reaction to your cat will likely determine the frequency of her TV pawing. If you give her attention when she paws at the TV, she now finds this an even more fun activity...I get to paw at the TV and I get attention from my favorite person. (Don't forget, negative attention is still attention.)

If you don't want her pawing at the TV, you'll need to set something in her path that is more fun to distract her. When I need to get serious work done at my computer and my kitty starts her usual walking over my keyboard until I pet her for 30 minutes, I pull out a big, plush, freshly-washed blanket. Awwww. Works every time.

Also, I have iPad sessions with my kitties where they get to play with the cat apps. They get to paw the screen all they want. It's much more interesting to chase a mouse or butterfly on a screen than to paw at nothing in a screen. However, you may not be able to stop the behavior entirely. Something about that screen is just sooo mesmerizing!

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  • I had a cat who really liked the blue screen. He could just stare at it, rapt. I imagine he'd never seen anything like it. – aschultz Jan 24 at 9:41
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I don't have a scientific basis for this, only observations of my own cats.

It could be that she knows that things are always moving around on the screen, and in their absence, she is trying to coax them out of hiding, or figure out how to bring them back.

Especially if she is bored. When my cats are bored they'll start falling back on other things that have been interesting in the past; windows, the projector screen, iPads, the bathtub faucet, the printer, that random place they chased a fly around in the past, the spot on the wall I always shine the laser pointer, etc. And cats will often paw at things to try and "activate" them or whatever, since they can't think of much else to try.

I interpret that kind of pawing as a general "I want the thing that was interesting here back again" or "I know there is something about this spot, what is it?"

Distracting them with play has always worked for me, and keeping them busy seems to decrease the behavior overall.

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My cat always paws and scratches the glass in a glass door of the room he is in, if left closed. And sometimes he paws at windows if he sees something interesting outside.

When TV is on, he is often attracted by moving images, and tries to discover them in the space behind the LCD panel.

So my guess is cats think that there is a hidden space behind glass-like LCD screen, like outside of a window, and paw to enter it.

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