Kitty TV: Shelter cats get a digital window to outside world

LYNNWOOD — Binge-watching has gone to the cats. What’s up with that? It’s part of…

LYNNWOOD — Binge-watching has gone to the cats.

What’s up with that?

It’s part of a cat enrichment program at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society in Lynnwood. The shelter, known as PAWS, is seeking donations of flat-panel TVs so cats can get screen time.

Cats in homes have the luxury of looking out windows, a favorite pastime when not napping.

In older shelters such as the Lynnwood PAWS, cats are crated in windowless rooms. Napping even gets old after a while.

The TVs provide a digital window to the outside world — of birds, squirrels and other eye candy for cats.

“This stimulation engages a cat’s brain, which can help to prevent boredom, loneliness and even depression,” said Rachel Bird, PAWS animal behavior specialist. “The TV encourages the cats to listen and look around, and many cats will approach the front of their kennel to investigate, which helps to make them more visible to adopters.”

The shelter doesn’t have a budget for cat entertainment electronics. Lynn Jefferson, the PAWS web and graphic designer, is on a mission to outfit every room with a TV. At least nine TVs are needed. She has three, including one that came from her home.

She found a 47-inch TV for sale on Facebook for $25.

“When I met with the couple in the Target parking lot and told them what it was for they said, ‘Just take the TV,’” she said.

The first screen, installed in the main cat viewing room, was a hit.

“Immediately after turning on the TV mounted above the cat cages, cats could be seen in their cages watching the TV,” Jefferson said. “The bird and nature sounds also bring a soothing peaceful atmosphere to the room while potential adopters walk through and interact with the cats. It’s a win-win situation for all.”

Employees in nearby offices said the sounds of chirping birds were soothing.

Jefferson said donations don’t have to be smart TVs.

“For only $35, I can turn any older TV into a cat video cinema experience,” Jefferson said. “All I need is a player, HDMI cable and a USB flash drive.”

Newer shelters, such as the PAWS Cat City in Seattle, have colony rooms and “catios” (cat patios) where felines mingle with others of their ilk and can see outside. The proposed new PAWS building for cats in Snohomish County was delayed by COVID-19 but will be outfitted with such amenities when it opens.

The Lynnwood PAWS dogs don’t need screen time.

“Dogs get to go outside, sniffing, walking, and taking breaks in the play yard,” Jefferson said.

There’s lots of video content for cats.

Pluto TV bills its Cats 24/7 channel, launched in 2017, as “the first channel by cats for cats.” Shows include “Cats Gone Wild” and Khloe Kardashian kitty talk. It also has Dogs 24/7.

The Birder King YouTube channel has videos of little critters that last eight hours, so you can leave it on while you’re out. The Cat Entertainment channel has videos and cat games for use on an iPad or tablet and even a laser-pointer game.

PAWS cats already have their favorite shows.

“They really like the birds flying in and out, and the squirrels,” Jefferson said.

The cats don’t get to stay up until 3 a.m. watching squirrels scurry up and down trees.

“We make sure the TV is shut off at night so the kitties also have quiet time to relax,” Bird said.

If you have a TV to donate, contact Jefferson at [email protected]

Andrea Brown: [email protected]; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.