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Does My Cat Have a Sense of Time? The Surprising Answer!

Time is a mysterious concept that we use to keep up with our daily lives. We don’t know how it started, or whether it even started at all, but we sure do live by it. Don’t worry, we aren’t getting too far into all that, but have you ever wondered if your equally mysterious kitty has any sense of time?

This may come as no surprise, but cats do have what seems to be a limited concept of time. We know that they can learn and distinguish between different time intervals but only when limited to a few seconds. They are also able to pick up on time in some other ways.

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How Do Cats Keep Up on Time?

Research is pretty limited when it comes to an animal’s ability to understand the concept of time. However, a new study from Northwestern University has discovered some of the clearest evidence to date that animals can judge time.

The brain’s medial entorhinal cortex was thoroughly examined, and researchers found a set of neurons that had never before been discovered. These neurons turned on like a clock when an animal was waiting. Research is still heavily limited when it comes to cats and their true concept of time, but there are a few factors that do play a role:

Their Internal Clock

Just like we do, cats have internal clocks that allow them to recognize normal wake and sleep cycles. They are also capable of picking up on their body’s cues when they are feeling hungry, thirsty, or tired, which are biological needs.

Being in tune with natural needs helps give them an idea of how much time has passed between these various activities.

tortie point Siamese cat in bed
Image Credit: Sari ONeal, Shutterstock

Environmental Factors

Cats are capable of picking up on the typical night and day cycles that they observe in their environment. Cats can tell when it’s daylight and when nightfall hits.

By nature, they are crepuscular hunters that would come out during both dusk and daybreak to hunt for prey. They are aware of time in the way that they are aware of the night and day cycle.

There are also plenty of other environmental factors that can be picked up on. It could be certain noises that occur during certain times of the day, like when a rooster crows in the morning, or when the mail is delivered.

Scottish fold cat sitting like a human
Image Credit: zossia, Shutterstock

Your Daily Routine

Your daily routine and that of your household will play a significant role in how your cat processes time. This can be related to every aspect of your day like when you wake up, when you feed them, when you leave for work, when kids go to school, and so on.

Cats thrive on routine and can even become highly stressed when this routine is interrupted. You may even notice a difference in behavior if something is out of the ordinary with your normal daily functioning.

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Final Thoughts

Cats may not be able to tell time as we can, and they certainly have no use for a watch, but they do have a limited concept of time. Though research is a bit limited, we do know that they have an internal clock, can pick up on things in their environment, and also get used to daily routines that help them navigate through life and know when to expect certain things throughout the day.