Can Cats Tell Time?

can cats tell time

I think most cat guardians would argue that cats can, indeed, tell time. Why else would they be waking us up at the crack of dawn, pester us to feed them, or give us the cold shoulder after we’ve been on vacation?

A different perception of time

Cats probably don’t experience time in the way we do. They certainly don’t wear watches or look at the clock. Anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, the author of Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, writes that Humans categorize events by when they happened, but cats probably do not. … We have no evidence to suggest that cats can spontaneously recall memories and place those events as having happened a few days ago, as opposed to a few hours or weeks previous – something we find easy to do.” Bradshaw goes on to say that “cats have a general sense of the rhythm of the day.”

Creatures of habit

Cats are creatures of habit, and get used to having certain activities occur at the same time each day, such as meal time, play time or snuggle time. So in that sense, cats do measure time, even though they probably don’t think about time passing the way we do.That may also explain why they don’t reset their clocks when we change ours to and from Daylight Savings Time.

Night and day

Cats will also take their cues from the onset of daylight and the arrival of night time. And since they do know the difference between night and day, I believe that they also know when a guardian is away. I always tell Allegra and Ruby when I’m going away, and I explain it to them in terms of “it will get dark and light this many times before Mom gets home.” They may not understand what I’m telling them, but it makes me feel better.

Daylight Savings Time and cats

And just in time for Daylight Savings Time this weekend, Cat Daddy Jackson Galaxy has some great advice on how to prepare cats for the time change.

What do you think? Can your cats tell time?

7 Comments on Can Cats Tell Time?

  1. Catman
    March 7, 2014 at 11:59 pm (4 years ago)

    Jackson Galaxy is spot on. I have been studying Cat behavior for over 50 years and I couldn’t have said it better. I free feed my 2 Cats, so it’s my Cats wanting to go out side to the fence in back yard. They are out to smell the out door and be Cats. Eat some grass, chase a bug. Dream of maybe catching a bird My Cat follow the sun all day, from the front of the house to back. Ending up on my bed, for the afternoon West Texas sun

    Reply
  2. The Island Cats
    March 5, 2014 at 7:35 pm (4 years ago)

    Well, we know when it’s breakfast time…and dinner time! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Sue Brandes
    March 5, 2014 at 6:03 pm (4 years ago)

    Boy O boy! My cat’s sure can. They do get kind of messed up with the time changes. Jackson always has some good advice.

    Reply
  4. Bernie
    March 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm (4 years ago)

    I think they can. They see time. Does that make sense. Mine seem to know when to take advantage of me 🙂 and when to take off to another part of the house.

    My Steeler would stroll up and down they hall toward my bedroom when she felt it was time to go to bed. She didn’t stop until I would go there.

    So yes, in their own “timeframe” I truly believe they know and tell time. Just call me the crazy cat lady.

    Reply
  5. Jobi and Fisher
    March 5, 2014 at 11:14 am (4 years ago)

    I think my cats can figure out time enough to plot and plan and assume I do not know what time it is. We have a little ritual called “Treat Time!” and they all gather to get the goodies. For a few months it was really fun. I loved calling to Alice to come out of her cat cave, and the others waited for her. Now they all gather before the announcement, and they are doing it earlier and earlier. My conclusion is that whoever wants something gets to decide what time it is. I haven’t fallen for it, though…well, at least not completely.

    Reply
  6. Caren Gittleman
    March 5, 2014 at 10:45 am (4 years ago)

    We could set our watches by Cody no matter WHAT time zone 🙂

    Reply
  7. Viki Worden
    March 5, 2014 at 10:43 am (4 years ago)

    I know my kitties can’t tell time, but they do know when I come home. Generally within an hour of feeding time they start reminding me that it is time to eat. I am like you Ingrid, I tell them where I am going and how long I will be gone. I am going away the weekend of the 15th to see my daughter and granddaughters. I have a friend coming to feed them. I have a livingroom lamp on a timer, but I have decided to leave it on constant for them. I worry about them whenever I am gone for longer than just a day for work, etc. When I had my landline phone I would call and talk to them when the answering machine went off. If I wasn’t scared of electricity and fire I would leave the TV on for them too. I have never noticed my kitties being affected by daylight savings time. I will have to pay attention to this weekend and see what happens.

    Reply

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