Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 2, 2023 by Crystal Uys


Many pet guardians leave the TV or radio on when they’re not home. They hope that the background sound will prevent pets from feeling lonely, and provide some stimulation at the same time. Leaving the TV on can be beneficial if it’s used in the right way, but it can also be detrimental. Whether or not to leave the TV on really depends on your cats and your lifestyle.

Many pet guardians leave Animal Planet on for their pets under the assumption that it may make their pets feel as if they had company. I believe that for most cats, this may cause more stress than benefit. Cats are territorial animals, and hearing other cats on TV may trigger inappropriate behavior, including redirected aggression against other cats and/or inappropriate elimination and marking behavior. As much as we love Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell (as you can see from the photo above, Ruby REALLY loves the show!), the sound effects on the show are distressing to many cats.

If your TV is on all day when you’re home, leaving it on while you’re gone may be calming for your cats since it mimics what things are like when you are there. However, if they’re not used to having background noise all day, you may be better off leaving the TV off. If you decide to leave it on, choose channels that provide fairly consistent programming without too many loud sound effects such as explosions and loud music. You may be better off playing classical music, which has been shown to reduce stress for cats.


For the most part, Allegra and Ruby are not interested when I watch TV, but there are some things that will trigger a response. If a doorbell rings on a show, both of them will run toward the front door, expecting a visitor. The disappointment on their faces is quite obvious when it turns out that it was a false alarm. Ruby responds to babies crying with what appears to me to be distress: she starts pacing in front of the TV. Ruby also occasionally responds to movement on the screen. As far as they’re concerned, the best thing about TV is the warm cable box.

Do your cats respond to TV?

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81 Comments on Do Cats Respond To or Watch TV? The Surprising Answer…

  1. A cat is like a little child. Leaving your cat alone with the TV on is like leaving your child alone at home watching Tv, with the difference that the cat doesn’t understand what is going on. If those beings appearing on TV are really there if they are harmful..
    I wouldn’t do that with my cat, but I will definitively try to play very soft classical music on the background to see how he reacts.

    • I had a female cat who loved to watch hockey on TV. Boston Bruins of course. We have a 70″ TV and what she really liked to fo is chase the puck around the ice on the screen. She would leave the room or just not watch until the puck was “in action”. That’s what she was interested In. Not so much the score, the players and certainly not commercials, but just chasing that damn puck! It was funny but made it a little difficult for ME to watch the games. I didn’t mind, she loved it. Needless to say I was frequently cleaning my TV screen.

  2. I adopted an 8 yr old female cat from a foster home, 3+ mos. ago. Jules is a wonderful cat..fantastic cat ‘manners’, very fastidious about her litter plan and never uses elsewhere..she grooms regularly, scratches only her scratching posts…etc. Not all destructive; playful, somewhat nocturnal though – playing at 4 am.! lol I’ve shared my love and home with cats for over 20 years…yet Jules is my first kitty who raptly watches tv! She lays next to me in my chair and intently watches all sorts of programming…BUT, very recently she has taken to ‘flying’ into her cat-cave when ‘suspensful’ background music plays…and I swear she seems to also anticipate impending danger in some scenes…like when someone is quietly checking out their home for intruders…and just before the ‘boogy man’ appears she again flies into her cave. It has become increasingly an action of worry for me. I wonder, could it also be of family members’ attempts to introduce their resident very friendly doggie to her that’s causing panic/anxiety?

    • P.S. Since my original post AND aafter doing some research on feline sight and hearing and ‘studying’ Jules even more…I have discovered she cannot abide higher pitch musical instrumentation e.g., flutes, clarinets, violins…she LIKES, LOWER pitch sounds…alto, bass and baritone. She seems to prefer verbal programming and not drama, yet likes adventure. I am retired so I can monitor her tv watching. When I leave for short periods I leave the TV on Dr. Phil [yep!] and HGTV. She is MUCH MORE sensitive to TV than my daughter’s doggie who lives upstairs.

      • My year-old tabby is extremely sensitive to different kinds of music and tv. I thought that it seemed he didnโ€™t like Dr Phil, which I happen to watch a lot. Anytime the guests start to argue loudly, he either pulls up his body around him, definitely a sign he is no longer relaxed, or he just gets up from my lap and goes to the bedroom.

  3. My cat, Itty Bitty loves Big Cat Diaries. He sits there in front of the TV watching the big kitties. It’s really kind of cute and funny to watch him watching it. He seems particularly fond of the leopards. I always change the channel before I leave for work though. I’m not sure Animal Cops Houston (comes on after BCD) is appropriate for my cats since most of the animals on those shows are abused and/or mistreated in some way. It’s depressing for me, so I would think its not to uplifting for them either. The images are sometimes horrific.

    • I always tell people to not leave Animal Planet on for their pets when they leave home. I have nothing against the network per se, but so many of the shows have distressing sounds and images that could upset cats (and I personally can’t watch those types of shows, either.)

  4. My cat pays very little attention to television and I often wonder why he doesn’t feel any need to investigate all the strange sounds that come from it especially while napping. It’s as if he clearly understands TV sound is benevolent white noise. However, the handful of times I’ve put cat shows he’s watched them wide eyed for up to 20 mins. He also loves watching bird videos on my iPhone.

  5. My cat gets all wound up and violent every time he watches “Big Cat Diaries.” When I tell people this, they think I’m crazy, but he starts mimicking the behaviors of the big cats on TV. It got so bad that we had to ban the show in our house all together because he would start attacking my legs, etc. I imagine him saying something like “Hey mom, let’s play big cat diaries. I’ll be the lion and you can be the zebra!”

    • It’s not unusual for cats to get agitated when they hear cat sounds on TV, regardless of whether they’re coming from big or domestic cats. Keep in mind that cats are territorial animals. The sound of another cat in their territory can be perceived as a threat. What you’re seeing with your kitty is redirected aggression. He can’t get at the cats inside the TV, so you’re the next best victim. For more on redirected aggression read

  6. Rajah will respond to certain shows. Aladdin the TV Series being one of them. LOL! But only when Jasmine speaks and says his name. Whenever she does that, he looks up and meows. Another show he seems to respond to is The Legend of Korra. The funny thing is, I adopted him the same day Korra premiered!

  7. I have the television on in the morning. I sometimes put on Big Cat Diary or Meerkat Manor. Meerkat Manor is their favorite. They have no interest in the commercials though. I believe they are interested in other cats, and animals that appear to be moving across the screen, especially birds and mice.

  8. My cats all react when they hear animal sounds on tv. Kind of freaks them out since they are inside cats so the article makes a good point I hadn’t thought of. One of my cats gets right up next to the big screen and seems very interested when Jackson Galaxy is on but that seems perfectly logical to me. Ha! She also shows interest in movement but the others interest in TV is more likely the heat or getting between me and that thing that has my attention.

  9. My kitty loves Big Cat Diary. When I’m getting ready for work in the mornings, it’s like he knows what time it is, at precisely 7am he jumps down from his tower, comes to the bathroom where I’m finishing my make up an cries till I go turn the tv on. Once it’s on he’s front & center watching & chirping to the “Big Cats”. I leave for work and he’s in his bed in front of the tv watching away. I leave the tv on all day for him and my Jack Russell, it seems to have a calming effect on them. My JRT loves “Bad Dogs” he’s very attentive when it’s on. It’s funny to watch them, love my weirdos!

  10. My first rescue, Sweets, pays absolutely no attention to TV or radio. My most recent rescue, Pumpkin, shows very little interest in the TV except for ‘Big Cat Diary’. He will wake from a sound sleep as soon as he hears the opening music, take a seated position on the foot post of the bed and watch for at least 20 minutes before losing interest.

  11. We had a cat that would try to catch Mario when we would play and one cat would try to would watch frogs go up the screen after one series on Animal Planet back in 1999.

  12. We were watching a documentary on penguins a while back, and as they formed a procession across the ice and snow, my cat Daisy started swatting at the screen with her paws. Then as the procession reached the other side of the screen, Daisy went round to the back to look for them!
    She quite often sits on my lap when I am watching my cat from hell, and occassionally there is a small reaction, but mostly she just purrs and falls asleep!
    I dont leave the tv on for her when I am out during the day, as I know that she spends most of the day on my bed asleep anyway!

  13. My cat has only shown interest when a video game called Don’t Starve is being played. There are birds in the game that sound just like real birds. She actual jumped on to the TV stand & hit the screen before anyone realized she was going to do it. Needless to say we are now working on mounting the TV to the wall so it is out of her reach.



  15. We experimented by playing a video for our very playful cat, Bruno, called Winter Birds. He was very interested! Now, if we are watching television and there are any trees or animals anywhere, he jumps up on his perch (which, er, may be in front of the tv now) and watches. Is that bad? We don’t do this when we aren’t around.

  16. my kitty hotel where i leave my cat when i’m travelling use the dvds with nature sounds during the day to stimulate the kitties and the cats watch them and bat at the screen. I think that’s okay. It’s birds and stuff. I agree if i’m watching cat from hell there can be some screeching and yowling that is more distressing for kitty.

  17. Several of my cats have been tv watchers. I swear one would watch the weather in the a.m to see if she would spend the day out or inside. My current one will watch for 1/2 hr at the time. His favorite movie was the Grinch that stole Christmas, his eyes pop wide open and his head goes back during certain sound effects almost as fun as the movie to watch.

  18. When I watch My Cat From Hell my cat does become jumpy. I started cuddling with her while watching the show. Now when my cat hears the show she comes straight to me for cuddle time. Growing up with dogs I didn’t really understand my cat until I found this show. I love this show it’s shown me how to properly take care of my cat and how to be a better cat guardian.

  19. A couple of things here. They do know that when NCIS or my local news comes on it s Mommy’s on the couch response and they come down and sit with me. I have a couple who like football, some who like baseball, but what really gets their attention is if I am watching a show on the laptop. They are glued to it. I don’t know if it is the resolution that they can see it better of if they are “bigger” than the screen.
    True on the classical music..there’s some rock I play and they will look at the speakers like OMG what is she listening to?

  20. One of my cats does absolutely nothing around a tv, but my other one when I would watch AP Meerkat Manor…would stare at the tv….

  21. One cat loves animal planet esp shows with birds

    Had to block the warm cable
    Box when someone( i know who)barfed
    In it

  22. I don’t know about the TV, but my cat chases the words that “fall off” my computer screen when the banner on the screen saver wraps around. It’s so funny….

  23. Happy, my 8 year old Bengal, LOVES sitting in my DISH receiver where it’s warm. He does respond to cat noises on TV sometimes. He tries to look behind the TV to see where he thinks the cat is. Mostly he doesn’t pay attention to it.

  24. My cats both watch TV but one watches way more than the other. Chesney will watch for hours just like me. Lol. Her favorite shows are Finding Bigfoot and any cat or dog show on Animal Planet. She will watch regular shows like Castle, with me too. Squeak watches much less but if she is bored she will watch whatever I have on TV at the time.

  25. My two senior ladies have no interest, my 6-month “kitten” (he’s gigantic already and I feel like he’s actually a dog in a cat’s body) was actually really interested in the downhill skiing events during the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi!

  26. Olive likes to watch dog shows. Chester is more interested in watching the screen of my computer while sitting on my lap, while Ralphie has not discovered TV yet but seems to enjoy my iPad.

  27. I have 3 kittys. At night when we go night night, I have to tuck 2 of them in and we watch cartoons until we fall asleep. When I leave my home, I make sure that both tvs are on cartoons. They seem to be happy when I get home and do not have the ignoring stage because mommy left the house.

  28. My 2 watch anything that has animals or sports. Goofy my 5 year old Siamese mix loves How to Train Your Dragon. He hates commercials. His mom loved the ice skating and he was more into skiing. Both sleep while we’re not home . never left TV on for any of my animals. I have to clean nose prints off the TV every day. They have their claws so when they start touching the screen I have to chase them off the stand. It can be a challenge, but so very entertaining!!

  29. We have four girls who all watch My Cat From Hell with mixed reaction. If I am with them, they are all laid back and calm. If I walk out and leave them alone, I find them staring at the set and a little agitated. I wonder if it’s an “alpha-safe” thing. Or maybe a cat thing ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The rest of the time, they basically ignore it.

  30. I had a cat that REALLY responded to the TV. It was a PBS show on birds or something and he was watching intently making his noises, and I turned away and heard a BAM! He had attacked the TV trying to get to the bird. Fortunately, the TV’s back then were very big and were not going to budge when he hit it. However, if this had of happened with one of today’s thin TV’s, he would knocked it over or caused it to fall on top of him!

  31. My girl kitty cats like to watch other animals or cartoons, however the boys cats don’t seem interested.

  32. It just appears to me to be another part of their jungle gym they call a home. Occasionally they respond to something on the screen, but for the most part the tv stand is just something to walk across, or use as a stepping stone to jump to the nearby mantle

  33. My cat Sabrina occasionally watches TV. She was really into this episode of Nature as you can see here:

  34. My cat loves his Video Catnip videos, especially the squirrels. I have the player and TV set to shut off in 2 hours after I leave. He watches regular TV too, but when I turn on the video he runs up to the TV because he knows what’s coming.

  35. My youngest cat watches tv all the time. She loved the Olympics. She also very intently watches The Walking Dead! I have no idea why she’s so enthralled by zombies!

  36. I have purchased two DVD’s, one is The Purrfect DVD (their favorite)the other is Feline Frolics. I also have a DVD that is just aquarium. They love these. As soon as I turn it on, they all run up to the bedroom, and find a cozy spot to settle in. (Only thing missing is popcorn). The videos have birds, squirrels, mice and lots of cat friendly critters, at 20 second intervals (attention span?) So they don’t get bored with it. The chirping brings them running, but you can change to music too because it gets annoying. My cats that squabble will lay next to each other during “movie” time. I put it on when we leave or when they are fighting too much. Its awesome. Only thing is, I had to put something in front of the TV because my Bengal kept trying to jump at the squirrels! They like music too, for extended time we put on radio. They enjoy soft favorites ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. I recorded the Kitten Bowl when it was on. It was 3 hours long, and I knew we wouldn’t be watching it in one sitting. I put it on one evening, and my youngest cat saw it and was glued to the tv. This happened every time I put it on. I didn’t notice any aggression after she watched it. She had a look on her face like she wanted to play with all of those kittens. My other cat had no interest in the program.

  38. My cat loves watching animation movies and tv-shows. She actually watched Ratatouille all the way through… I missed the move since I was watching my sweetheart watching it… ๐Ÿ™‚

  39. My cat Missy loves tv. Shes is 11 months old now. She loves the show Too Cute, and Nascar racing. She gets up in front of the tv and chases the cars. Frankly she will chase anything she sees. I recorded her chasing Vanna White when she was turning the letters, on Wheel of Fortune. Now that she has gotten older, she isnt as interested in Too Cute anymore, or tv as much as she was. However, when she hears the click of it turning on, she comes running from nowhere to jump up and watch it for awhile. I have never had a cat who watches tv like she does.

  40. My cat YoYo (Siamese-Himalayan crossbreed) would watch the screen with rapt attention whenever a hockey game was on.

  41. Two out of my four kitties respond to TV. My big boy, Crash, likes to lay on the woofer and feel the vibration. He especially loves loud shoot-em-up sci-fi movies, probably because that is what he grew up with. My other kitty who responds to TV picks and chooses what she likes. She really enjoys the occasional episode of Breaking Bad, I think because mommy enjoys them so much. It is hilarious to watch her watch TV… moving her face back-and-forth and actually tracking the movement on the screen. But the funniest time I can remember, was watching a special about leopards. Whenever the baby leopards started making baby leopard miaows and mews, Betty Luxe responded the same way I have seen many people describe above: she went all around the TV – behind it, around the side, underneath it, on top of it; looking for the leopard cubs. Eventually, she must’ve decided the cubs were inside the TV, and she rubbed her face on it until the mewing and kitten sounds stopped. I get such giggles out of it that I kept that leopard program on my DVR until I ended up switching cable providers and had to turn the equipment back in.

  42. During the Olympics my Ollie was interested in the ice skating. My othe cat Kallie is always sleeping in top of the flat screen tv, I’m pretty sure all the dat hair is not good for it but oh well!

  43. I actually do not let my cats watch Animal Planet unsupervised. There are a lot of shows on there that I don’t think they should watch. I’ll program my TV with different shows — select movies that I think they’ll like, etc.

    My cats DO watch television. One of them LOVES the movie “Bolt” and we almost feel as if we have to watch it whenever it is on because he loves it so much. I think I’ve seen that movie about 15 times (and my cat has watched it 14 of those times)

  44. My tripod rescue does occasionally show interest. He mostly shows interest in cartoons with bright colors, but for the most part he prefers when my son and I play Animal Crossing or Mario Party. He’ll sit there and watch out character move for hours. I rarely leave the tv on as he’s shown a preference for watching the birds out our sliding glass door when it’s not cartoons or video games (which I’ve dubbed kitty tv) – he even has his own cardboard box (kitty couch) that he lounges in as he looks out. I try to not watch shows that have distressed cats vocalizing, it bothers Magick. He doesn’t seem phased by dogs on tv.

  45. One of my two cats responds to the tele, Animal planet and Eden are his fav as he loves wildlife programs he will sit and watch. If a program with birds comes on he starts stalking the tele (gets down low, slowly moves making those little hunting chirps like when he see birds out side the window) although I have seen to stalk a bison on tele b4.

  46. My girls from time to time will catch the action on the tv screen. The swivel sweeper hooked my Shayna to the point she was hoping to catch it. They know if I’m going out the radio goes on and they go off to their spots and I’ll be home later. However, when Shayna was sick and had to stay at the hospital for a few days Gabby was really lonely and didn’t want to sleep on her own (unfortunately due to my allergies my bedroom is off limits for them) so the first night I stayed out in the living room with her. Yeah, I didn’t get much sleep, so I decided that night #2 I would leave the tv on with the volume very low. I left it on an classic tv sitcom station and it worked. She didn’t feel lonely and I kept doing that for a few nights after I brought Shayna home so they could re-adjust to each other. I think the key was it was regular tv, not Animal Planet and the volume was very low so nothing really triggered anything distressing for them.

  47. I leave the TV on for my cat, though I’m not sure it’s completely good for him. There’s a thing called Petcube, it doesn’t ship yet but will be out soon. It helps to play with a pet and entertain him when you’re not at home and is designed specially for animals, I think it’ll be a nice alternative to a TV.

  48. Well this is interesting. Every time I watch TV, my 2 cats sit with me, and they really focus on what’s going on the screen.

    You would think they listen and watch, but when I turn it off, they just stay there, waiting for it to turn on again, until they get bored.

    Interesting. Very interesting.

  49. My two cats only respond to the TV when there’s something specific going on – but it’s amusing to see their ears perk up and the sudden interest they show once a dog is parking or cat is meowing on TV; they seem to be able to notice specific sounds for sure. Great article!

  50. I made the mistake of watching a programme showing popular YouTube videos. One was a famous ‘Talking Cat’. Speckle Toes my tortoise shell little girl was asleep next to me. It didn’t occur to me she’d be listening. I donโ€™t know what she heard in that clip but within a micro second she had shot over the couch and skidded face first into the wall. She would not come out for a few hours. I felt so guilty. Bad mummy!! Never again!!

  51. Mine usually ignore the TV unless they hear a screaming cat or dog barking. They dislike both. I would be afraid to leave it on if I left. What if something happened?

    • That’s why I don’t like the idea of leaving the TV on when you’re gone, Sue. You never know what might set them off. If people feel they must leave some sound on, soothing classical music is much better.

  52. Angel and Chuck will jump if there is a loud sound on the TV, but in general they ignore it completely. Once, and only once, Angel became fascinated when I was watching a show about hummingbirds. When I replayed the same show at a later date, she wasn’t interested. We leave the TV off when gone from the house; the cats are usually napping and they prefer quiet.

  53. Yes cats do watch TV, my Tiggatoo loves the Winter Olympics, especially the skiing, snowboard, skeleton and bobsleigh. He sits for ages next to me on the settee watching it. Maybe it’s the fastness he likes, i don’t know, but it’s nice and comforting.

  54. We leave the TV on when we aren’t home for both Cody and Dakota but not for companionship purposes, but for security.
    Neither Cody or Dakota are super interested in TV. Dakota has little to no interest. Cody, believe it or not, only reacted to kittens on TV once……he has INTENTLY watched baseball and football (I think it is the ball moving around and people running), and he has also shown intense interest in ice skating, (also probably due to the swift movements), or……maybe in another life he was an athlete? lol

  55. I used to always leave HGTV on when I left for a few hours, hoping the kitties might build me some new shelves. Alas…no.

  56. I work at home, so I don’t have to worry about leaving my cat Elsie alone. But she is a HUGE fan of sports on TV — all the tiny creatures running back and forth make her really excited.

    But her FAVORITE show is the weather or news alert strip that runs across the top or bottom of the screen. She is absolutely obsessed with watching it go by, and when the buzzing sound to announce it starts, she comes running from wherever she is in the house to jump up in front of the TV and watch it.

    It’s hilarious. We just have to keep an eye on her, because every now and then she decides to either squeeze behind the TV to solve the eternal mystery of where all the neat things go when they stop, or get on her hind legs and try to dig into the screen to see if she can follow them.

  57. Katie and Waffles don’t usually show any interest in the TV, with just two exceptions.

    Katie once ran up to the TV when there were baby polar bears playing. She watched for nearly a half hour.

    And lately, Waffles has been enjoying the Olympics, especially skiing. I think it’s the small skier moving around the screen on the white snow background.

    ; )

  58. So funny the timing of your article Ingrid, Mark and I had this conversation over the weekend. Abby nor Roxy pay any attention to the TV BUT if I’m going to be away for a couple of hours I will leave it on, volume low, just to make a little noise for them…usually on Bravo’s Real Housewives…because that’s the way I live my life….okay, so it’s not but I do leave the TV on a generic channel. Mark thinks I’m nuts and I may be but it makes ME feel better.

  59. I was ever so thankful when My Cat from Hell changed the intro – the scream cat made every cat in the house jump. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have had the occasional kitten discover the sports ticker as I have watched football or basketball.

    But Mozart in the last few days has decided to sit on the TV stand and whack whomever happens to be on screen. One day it was the weather guy (I had to approve of that – top temp for the day was 4), then a basketball player, and one morning Matt Lauer. Not sure what catches Mo’s attention and he doesn’t do it every time he is sitting up there, but I am determined to get it on camera one day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  60. My two girls, 7 and 5, responded more when they were kittens, like trying to touch the ball during a football game. Now it’s mostly occasional sounds that get their attention, a phone ringing, a cat or dog or a child crying or calling. Responses range from leaving the room, looking to us, or an (annoyed?) ear flick.

  61. No I rarely watch tv when home and my cat seems to dislike it when it’s on. I leave music on low in a room where she does not sleep.

  62. Gordon isn’t interested in the TV, but I catch Jasmine watching it sometimes. The other day I was listening to and identifying bird songs on the computer and something hilarious happened. They both leaped onto my desk and went berserk trying to find the birds. They climbed all over my desk and up on it’s hutch and even squeezed behind the computer – an extremely small space. They got so excited that they even started biting each other. They didn’t stop until I turned off the computer. I had tears in my eyes from laughter.

  63. Mostly our two ignore the tv. But one sometimes reacts to fireworks and similar sounds and also shows interest in the sound of dogs.
    Both of them will prick up their ears at the sound of kittens.
    As far as watching the screen that is a very rare occurrence.

  64. Yes, but each one has their own threshold of interest. Most don’t care much about tv [not much of interest anyway] but the computer? oh yeah. I have one formerly feral indoor-only kitty that only a couple of years ago started to improve with human interaction [from me only – only took her 12 years or so] but many years ago when she would have run from the room or hidden under her best buddy cat [now deceased], when I played that VHS tape of birds & squirrels nature video, she RAN to the tiny tv on the nightstand and stood on my arm while riveted to the screen, chattering to them as she would do at the picture window. Periodically she would walk onto the stand and then peek around to the back of the tv, convinced they were in there somewhere. Of all my 11 special-needs rescues, most are oblivious to my electronic audio/video activity but there are a few who do like to park themselves between the keyboard and me, and watch the cursor move as I type, occasionally following video pictures of movement on screen.

  65. My cats will respond to the TV out of curiosity, and walk around it when the person or feature goes away. I don’t encourage leaving a TV on when the cats are home alone. The new flat screens are very light and do get very warm. Having active young cats I would be very concerned about them getting hurt. I do however leave my radio on with soft sounds music playing while I am out. This gives background noise without disturbing them.

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