Cats are well-known for being independent and seem to be fine when we leave them home alone for a few hours. But do they really know how much time has passed? As a pet owner, you might wonder if your cat can tell time. Our feline friends seem to know when we are coming home and when it’s feeding time. But do cats really know how long we’ve been gone? And, in turn, do they understand the concept of time?
Here’s the answer – yes, cats do understand time! However, they don’t experience time in the way humans do. According to anthrozoologist John Bradshaw, cats probably do not categorize activities by when they happened and they have a general sense of the rhythm of the day. So just how do cats sense time?
Although our feline friends may not have a strong short-term memory, their long-term memory is truly impressive. They can recall what they have learned in the past and adapt these to their current environment – that’s why cats can adapt to a new environment easily at their own speed. They can decode details regarding “what” and “where”, but may lack the ability to remember “when” specific events have happened in their past. Important memories and information with emotional content tend to be remembered by cats for longer times, PetMD explains. For instance, your cat can remember the location of her food bowl and litter box.
A feline’s recording of events seems to be particularly relevant when associated with pleasure or pain. Another interesting fact is smaller animals live in a slow-motion world. A recent study published by Animal Behavior shows that body mass and metabolic rate determine how animals of different species perceive time. Time seems to pass more slowly for smaller animals with faster metabolisms.
Have you ever wondered why your cat wakes you up at the same time every day? Cats are good with schedules. Your cat wakes you up because she is a creature of routine! Cats get used to having certain events occur at the same time each day, including play time and meal time. If you wake up at a certain time to get ready for school or work, your kitty-cat will figure that out as she can read you. She will know your schedule, even if you are sharing a house with her for a few days. So in that sense, cats do measure time, The Conscious Cat explains. They can become our alarm clocks and will wake us up before our alarms.
If you have an established routine, your feline friend will be more attuned to it. However, their real concept of the exact time is less than perfect. Cats, of course, have some sort of understanding of time. They are intelligent enough to add all the clues together and guess what time it is.
While they do not wear watches or look at clocks, cats do have the concept of time. Dr Pete Wedderburn explains that cats are good at picking up on some regular indicators of time, including daylight and bird song. They have an internal clock which is very accurate, and they just know when it’s time for things to start happening.