Screen time isn’t just for humans any more – but do our pets want a bar of it? We showed some of YouTube’s finest cinema to the most discerning critics of all.
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Here at The Spinoff, we love nothing more than blobbing out in front of the television screen after a long hard day in front of the computer screen. We love screens so much, we already did a whole week about them. But it turns out it isn’t just us humans who are partial to a bit of screen time. For the last few years, sites like DogTV and streaming giants such as Amazon Prime and Spotify have all offered up content for pets to get square eyes and ears to.
But do our pets actually want to watch television? And if so, which genre or series do they prefer? We sat our cats and dogs in front of some screens to bring you the following (extremely mixed) bag of reviews.
Link the cat watched CAT GAMES – CATCHING FISH 1 HOUR VERSION
This underwater thriller is an old favorite in our household, one which was emphatically enjoyed by Link’s older sister Zelda (RIP). Link, on the other, was not so easily hooked on the virtual fish-catching iPad game, instead choosing 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 to have on in the background, but I will say the splish-sploshing of water made me need to go to the toilet.
Around the eight minute mark, Link made a lazy lunge towards the iPad, a single toe bean resting on the side of the screen. If he was about to start his digital fishing journey, all hope was lost by a deafening loud ad for upcoming Jared Leto vehicle Morbius. The tranquility completely disappeared 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 watched… not really anything
My mother is obsessed with screens. All day long she stares at a medium-sized one, stealing occasional glances at the small one she always has in her hand or pocket, then usually switches to a big one at nighttime. It’s annoying, as 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 screen obsession is usually she leaves me out of it. Apart from that one time she made me watch that TV-show (it was actually pretty good, I’ll admit), I can usually go about my business snoozing and chewing things I shouldn’t while she’s distracted. But one afternoon, she lured me up to her desk with cheese (gouda, I think it was – very nice), sat me in front of the medium screen and seemed intent on making me look at it.
There was music playing, a genre I believe they call backgroundand a picture of a park or a path or something. Honestly, it was the most boring thing I’ve ever seen, so I wriggled away and resumed my usual position by the window to watch the cars go by – now that’s entertainment.
Then, would you believe it, she dragged me back over to the godforsaken screen to watch some birds chirping. I tried to escape but she held me tight and then up on the screen came a pair of French bulldogs who were whining and squeaking. I did cock my head at that, I admit – those squeaky snub-nosed bastards give me the creeps – but then wriggled away again. Anyway, she gave up after that, but it was weird. / Stanley (via Alice) Neville
Che Linton the cat watched Video for Cats to Watch: Squirrels and Birds Extravaganza
To me, the title “Squirrels and Birds Extravaganza” sounds delicious. I’ve grown up screen-free so, in all honesty, I’m a complete fledgling when it comes to the world of filmic criticism. The film, which I’d describe as a cat-on-the-ground documentary, started out with some enthralling POV shots of a flitting bird and busy squirrel. I darted towards the Beatrix Potter-esque creatures rummaging across the silver-screen, alas to no avail. I guess that’s what they mean by the magic of cinema.
Despite best efforts by producer Paul Dinning, the experience was frustrating. Naturally, I was curious about cinema, but I’m no chump – squirrels do not live in Aotearoa. After two minutes of humoring my mother, I began staring at the wall, hoping and praying she’d get the message: I was done. She shuffled the screen desperately into my line of vision. I returned to the biscuits I’d ignored all day. They tasted awful, but anything to put an end to this. She positioned the screen next to me once more. What does she want from me?
I indulged her one last time by leaping out at the screen, which was met with predictable cackles. I gave her my best stink-eye before slinking off into the night. / Charlotte Muru-Lanning
Link the cat watched Cat TV ~ Mice in the Jerry Mouse Hole
If Catching Fish left Link opining privately on his blog that, and I quote, “Vigil would provide more underwater thrills with less Leto interruptions”, then Mice in the Jerry House Hole would receive an instant certified fresh rating on his Rotten Tomatoes. Immediately, he was enraptured by the scene of a real mouse darting back and forth from his home. Link even rose from a lazy side slouch to a weird mermaid-like pose, poised to catch the titular mouse in the Jerry Mouse Hole.
Things got even more interesting when I took the iPad away, as Link continued to bat at the rug and look under it, searching for his beloved mouse and Jerry house. After five minutes it dawned on him – the mouse was not, in fact, in our actual house at all.
When I opted to bring a lapdog into my home, I should’ve guessed his favorite place in the world might be my lap. Either on it, or in very close proximity to it, and at the very least in view of it. Wherever I am, there you will find Pickle. If I’m in bed, so is Pickle. If I’m bringing in the wheelie bin, Pickle simply must help. If I’m on the loo, Pickle is there to take notes. Despite having three young children, I have never known neediness like that displayed by this loved-up little Shih Tzu and Bichon cross.
I have become resigned to the fact that my dog Pickle is now like my anxiety, forever there; be it all up in my business or lurking quietly in the background. Obviously I adore him and am extremely grateful to have someone who loves me unconditionally (might I remind you, he joins me in the restroom), but sometimes a gal needs a wee break from all that adoration.
I wasted no time in propping up the iPad on my bed and plopping Pickle in front of it. We started with the top search result – Relax Your Dog TV – 8 hours of relaxing TV for dogs at the babbling brook. My head was swimming at the thought of dogs being entertained for a full eight hours by this audiovisual sorcery. I mean, I would’ve been happy with eight minutes, but what I got was zero seconds.
We tried a few more videos; I won’t bother linking them because they were equally unsuccessful in luring Pickle’s attention away from me. It turns out beautiful abstract designs, languidly morphing from one pattern to the next and set to a delightful ambient soundtrack are no competition for me, sporting bed hair and hot cross bun crumbs around my mouth. Slow motion dogs frolicking around a farm set to soothing music were treated with the same indifference.
My final attempt in diverting Pickle’s attention involved a digital tennis ball; the direct result of Alex gushing in a group chat that Link lunged towards the screen the moment she started playing it. It turns out Link is not Pickle and Pickle is not Link. For the duration of this screening, Pickle shook things up by gazing at my reflection in the mirror instead of gazing at me directly.
Even now as I write this, laptop perched on my lap where my lapdog would rather be, it will surprise you not-at-all to know absolutely nothing has changed since dog videos came into our lives. And you know what? That’s actually OK by me, because honestly, just look at him (looking at me).