When The Cats Watch Mice On Television

By Bill Hall

I'm worried about cats and dogs once technology finally produces 3-D television without glasses.

That advance is apparently some time off. A patent has been granted for another form of 3-D television, but one that still involves wearing glasses of some sort. We have never been able to get our cats to wear glasses. We can't even get them to wear clothes, the little exhibitionists.

But they do watch television. So do some dogs. Actually, our two newest cats, Alfred and Penelope, are unusual in that they continue to watch television. Most of the cats we have had over the years have watched television only about once or twice. The first time or two they would see the movement or the flickering and go over and look at it nose to screen. Sometimes they would take a swipe at whatever was on screen. And then that was it. They quickly figured out it wasn't real.

But they never sat on the couch watching television the way Alfred and Penelope do. Oh, they don't watch for more than a minute or two. They have the attention span of a cat. But they do watch a bit day after day. I don't know what makes them different from our earlier cats who quickly lost interest. Maybe the earlier cats didn't care for the programs during those years. Maybe, as television programming becomes more diverse and specialized, it has finally come up with a few shows that appeal to cats.

Or maybe the newest cats are even dumber than our previous cats and prefer television to newspapers. Maybe they are nothing but cat potatoes, inclined to go through life like a lump on a couch, watching malicious talk show hosts try to push psychiatrically troubled losers all the way over the edge. Cats can be cruel, too. They may enjoy that sort of thing.

I'm not sure there is a pattern in the television watching of our current cats. It is only every so often that they stop suddenly and stare intently at the television set for a couple of minutes. But I think it is more often a news show than football. I know they don't like football. They won't even watch when the Bengals and the Panthers are playing.

And when it comes to the news, they seem to be like any other householder who doesn't pay much attention until a story of personal interest catches his eye -- a story on marauding dogs or maybe a catnip shortage.

I have also noticed the new cats pay some attention to smutty movies, especially movies with nudity. Cats occasionally display interest in human nudity. New kittens seem surprised to see us that way. It probably has something to do with what looks to them like the odd practice of removing one pelt and putting on another.

Most mornings since these new kittens arrived, when I step out of the shower, the cats are sitting there staring at me. I am not uncomfortable with that practice because it seems to be based on scientific curiosity rather than on perversion. It's kind of the difference between having your doctor ask to look at you naked in the examination room or at a cocktail party.

So the television watching by these cats may be the result of simple curiosity over nudity and other fascinating human behavior as displayed on television. But most of the time the television set holds no lasting interest for cats because they quickly perceive it's some kind of illusion.

But what happens when three-dimensional television -- without glasses -- is finally perfected? What happens when the television image becomes completely lifelike and a cat sees a mouse skitter through the inside of that box?

It reminds me of the time before we put the addition on the house -- when the back picture window wasn't so far from the front picture window and birds sometimes thought the ceiling in between was just a ledge or a tree limb. They would try to fly under it. You would hear a sickening "thunk!" and a stunned or moribund bird would fall to earth. Often you could see the dusty outline of the bird on the window.

Will we one day enter the living room and find an inert cat in front of the television set where it leaped after a 3-D mouse?

After all, these are cats, not geniuses. And in the past, the birds weren't the only ones fooled by the windows. Sometimes we would come home and see the cats at the scene of a bird crackup licking the window.



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