My cat doesn't like other cats. She doesn't really like anyone that isn't part of our family. So when she sees other cats she will aggressively try and chase them out of her area. She will also do the same to dogs, if she thinks she can take them on (she is a medium-large cat). She used to occasionally go after her own image in a mirror, until she basically gets bored or realizes that the 'other cat' is behind a barrier she can't cross. Nowadays, she appears to have either given up, or realized on some level it is her (I know cats don't have mirror recognition).

However, when presented with the image of a cat, like one on the side of a food bag that is the same size as her, she completely ignores it. I would get it if she dismissed it once she realized it wasn't moving, doesn't smell like a cat, and therefore is not alive (aka, not a threat), but she doesn't even acknowledge it. And the image on the bag isn't of a cat in a field or obscured at all. It's Hill's Science cat food, which is basically a white bag with a forward facing, unobstructed cat on it the same size as an actual cat.

Her completely ignoring it makes me wonder how well she can actually see it. Can she see the details at all, or is it just a dark blur on a white background? I've seen videos of cats playing games on tablets and other 2D surfaces, but those games again feature moving objects on the screen. Given that cats generally have excellent vision for hunting, how well can they see 2D, static images? And if she can see it, do cats really have the cognitive ability to dismiss an image so quickly?

  • $\begingroup$ Does she respond to images of cats on a tv screen? $\endgroup$
    – selene
    Dec 10, 2021 at 22:13
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    $\begingroup$ Yes! And to bugs; etc. But again, those are moving. I'm more curious about static images. $\endgroup$ Dec 11, 2021 at 8:30
  • $\begingroup$ Clearly, if she reacts to TV images, the issue isn't 2D vs. 3D, or not only that. Maybe she's learned that cats that never move and never change perspective even as you move around them are not threats. OTOH, there has been cross-cultural perception research suggesting that humans have to learn to interpret photos as images of the world. That conclusion was controversial, iirc, and I don't know where the science stands at present. If that conclusion about humans was correct, interpreting static photos as reality ought to be even more difficult for cats, one would think. $\endgroup$
    – Mars
    Dec 11, 2021 at 18:57
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe, but I just started on this food because of a medical issue she had. She's never seen this image of a cat before, which is why it surprised me! I focused on 2D, static images because she can react to sculptures. Often she goes and checks them out, a bit aggressive at first until she smells them and realizes that they are made of stone or similar. She just had no reaction to the 2D images, which I found interesting. $\endgroup$ Dec 12, 2021 at 11:17

1 Answer 1


So, oddly enough, I found a decent answer in a Business Insider article, How cats see the world compared to humans by Dina Spector. She consulted with a few animal ophthalmologists, and it seems that cats' eyes and brains are more focused on detecting motion, and cannot see a wide range of color. Therefore, it is likely that my little fur-ball cannot even discern that the image on the food bag is a cat at all.

That being said, I did find this interesting article about cats responding to illusory motions, like rotating snakes. However, the sample size for this study was shockingly small. I may try and show these images to my own cat and see what she makes of it...

illusory image that appears to have circle rotating


Bååth, R., Seno, T., & Kitaoka, A. (2014). Cats and illusory motion. Psychology, 5(9), 1131-1134.


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