Screen time isn’t just for humans anymore, but do our pets want a bar of it? We’ve shown some of YouTube’s best movies to the most discerning critics.
We’re celebrating our shaggy, slippery, slobbery pets all week on The Spinoff. Click here for more Pet Week content.
At The Spinoff, we love nothing more than drooling over the TV screen after a long, hard day in front of the computer screen. We love screens so much, we’ve already done a whole week about them. But it turns out it’s not just us humans who love a little screen time. Over the past few years, sites like DogTV and streaming giants like Amazon Prime and Spotify have all offered content to make pets square-eyed and square-eared.
But do our pets actually want to watch TV? And if so, what genre or series do they prefer? We sat our cats and dogs in front of screens to bring you the following (extremely mixed) bag of reviews.
Watched cat link CAT GAMES – CATCHING FISH 1 HOUR VERSION
This underwater thriller is an old favorite in our house, one that was especially enjoyed by Link’s older sister, Zelda (RIP). Link, on the other, wasn’t so easily hooked on the virtual iPad game of catching fish, choosing instead to lie in front of it completely still, his eyes darting back and forth like he was at a tennis match. I found the video quite relaxing in the background, but I will say that the splashing water made me have to go to the bathroom.
Around the eight-minute mark, Link made a lazy lunge toward the iPad, a single toe bean resting on the side of the screen. If he was about to begin his digital fishing journey, all hope was dashed by a deafening advertisement for Jared Leto’s next vehicle, Morbius. The tranquility completely vanished as Leto grew fangs and hair. Link immediately looked away at something, anything else, in our apartment and refused to look back – The Leto Effect. Two stars. / Alex Casey
Stanley the dog was watching… not really anything
My mother is obsessed with screens. All day she stares at a medium-sized one, occasionally glancing at the small one she always has in her hand or in her pocket, then usually switches to a large one at night. It’s annoying because it distracts her from more important things like cuddling me, feeding me, and generally showering me with constant attention.
The only good thing about her obsession with the screen is that she usually keeps me out of it. Other than that one time she made me watch this TV show (it was actually pretty good, I admit) I can usually go about my business dozing off and chewing on things I shouldn’t while she’s distracted. But one afternoon, she lured me over to her desk with some cheese (gouda, I think it was – very good), sat me down in front of the average screen, and seemed determined to make me look at this.
There was music playing, a genre I believe they call ambientand a picture of a park or a path or something. Honestly, it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen, so I pulled away and resumed my usual position by the window watching the cars go by – that’s entertainment.
Then, would you believe it, she dragged me to the cursed screen to watch some birds chirping. I tried to escape but she held me tight and then on the screen appeared a pair of french bulldogs who moaned and creaked. I cocked my head at that, I admit – those snub-nosed, squeaky bastards give me goosebumps – but I still squirmed. Anyway, she gave up after that, but it was weird. / Stanley (via Alice) Neville
Che Linton the cat watched Video for Cats to Watch: Squirrel and Bird Show
To me, the title “Squirrels and Birds Extravaganza” sounds delightful. I grew up without a screen so, in all honesty, I’m a complete newbie when it comes to the world of film criticism. The film, which I would describe as a cat-on-the-ground documentary, began with gripping POV shots of a fluttering bird and a busy squirrel. I rushed over to the Beatrix Potter-esque creatures poking around the silver screen, alas to no avail. I guess that’s what they mean by movie magic.
Despite producer Paul Dinning’s best efforts, the experience was frustrating. Naturally, I was curious about cinema, but I’m not stupid – squirrels don’t live in Aotearoa. After two minutes of pleasing my mom, I started staring at the wall, hoping and praying that she got the message: I was done. She threw the screen desperately into my field of vision. I went back to the cookies I had been ignoring all day. They tasted horrible, but anything to put a stop to that. She placed the screen next to me once more. What does she want from me?
I pleased him one last time by jumping onto the screen, which was greeted with predictable cackles. I gave her my best stink eye before slipping away into the night. / Charlotte Muru-Lanning
Watched cat link Cat TV ~ Mice in Jerry’s Mouse Hole
If Catching Fish would let Link say privately on his blog that, and I quote, “Vigil would provide more underwater thrills with fewer Leto interruptions”, then Mice in the Jerry House Hole would get an instant certified new rating on his rotten tomatoes. Immediately, he was thrilled by the scene of a real mouse going back and forth between his house. Link even went from a lazy side to a weird mermaid pose, ready to catch the titular mouse in the Jerry Mouse Hole.
Things got even more interesting when I removed the iPad, as Link continued to tap on the carpet and peer under it, looking for his beloved mouse and Jerry’s house. After five minutes, he realized that the mouse was not in our house at all.
He looked at me with huge eyes, watered with betrayal, and uttered a familiar phrase to cat owners on Twitter around the globe. “In jail for mom,” he meowed. “Prison for mother for a thousand years.” / THAT
Pickle the dog watched… mostly me
When I chose to bring a small dog into my home, I should have guessed that his favorite place in the world might be my lap. Either on it or in close proximity to it, and at the very least within sight of it. Wherever I am, you’ll find Pickle there. If I’m in bed, so is Pickle. If I bring the wheelie bin, Pickle just has to help me. If I’m in the bathroom, Pickle’s there to take notes. Although I have three young children, I have never experienced neediness like that exhibited by this beloved little Shih Tzu and Bichon cross.
I resigned myself to the fact that my dog Pickle is now like my anxiety, still there; whether in my stuff or hidden quietly in the background. Obviously I adore him and I’m extremely grateful to have someone who loves me unconditionally (I remind you, he joins me in the bathroom), but sometimes a girl needs a little break from all that adoration.
I wasted no time in propping the iPad up on my bed and putting Pickle in front of it. We started with the first search result – Relax Your Dog TV – 8 Hours of Relaxing TV for Babies Creek Dogs. My head was swimming at the thought of dogs being entertained for a good eight hours by this audiovisual sorcery. I mean, I would have been happy with eight minutes, but what I got was zero seconds.
We tried a few more videos; I won’t bother to link them as they also failed to divert Pickle’s attention from me. Turns out beautiful abstract designs, languidly morphing from pattern to pattern and set to a delightful ambient soundtrack is no competition to me, sporty bed hair and warm crossbread crumbs around my mouth. Slow motion dogs frolicking around a farm to soothing music were treated with the same indifference.
My last attempt to divert Pickle’s attention involved a digital tennis ball; the direct result of Alex springing up in a group chat that Link rushed to the screen the moment she started playing it. Turns out Link isn’t Pickle and Pickle isn’t Link. For the duration of this showing, Pickle shook things up looking at my reflection in the mirror instead of looking at me directly.
Even now as I write this with a laptop perched in my lap where my lapdog would rather be, it won’t surprise you at all to know that absolutely nothing has changed since dog videos entered our lives. And you know what? It’s actually OK for me, because honestly look at it (look at me).