Your cat is sitting in its favorite spot, staring off into the distance. It looks just like it’s contemplating the mysteries of the universe—but is it? Figuring out what cats think about all day isn’t an easy task. There aren’t very many good ways to open a window into a cat’s thoughts. Brain scans and studies can give us some hints, though. For example, we know that cats don’t have a “Wernicke’s Region”—the section of the brain that helps humans think in complex language. So cats probably don’t think in meows and purrs.
But what do they think about?
Living in the Moment
The first part is the easiest—cats love to live in the moment. They think a lot about their immediate surroundings. That means that if your cat is working out a puzzle or playing a game, it is probably very focused on whatever it is doing. When cats are relaxing, they’re probably enjoying the moment much more than we do. They can pay attention to the soft couch, the warm blanket, or the view out the window without intrusive thoughts crowding in.
Do Cats Think About Past Events?
We know that cats have long memories. They can remember past events and learn from them. But there’s not much evidence to show that they spend a lot of time thinking about their memories. As far as we can tell, if your cat is chilling out, it’s probably not replaying last night’s events. Instead, cats probably think about past events only as much as they are reminded of them in the present. Smells, sights, and similar situations might remind cats of things that have already happened, and they might have an emotional reaction to that. They also use memories to problem solve and figure out solutions to tricky problems.
Do Cats Self Reflect?
Humans spend a lot of time just reflecting. We think about our past circumstances and behavior, our present self, and what we wish for the future. We beat ourselves up about embarrassing situations and mistakes. As far as we can tell, cats don’t self-reflect like that. They aren’t self-aware enough to analyze the past and present to make a picture of themselves. That kind of self-reflection is probably beyond them.
Do Cats Miss Their Owners?
There’s a lot we don’t know about cats, but we do know they miss their owners. Many cats experience separation anxiety when they spend too long apart from their owners. They might also miss other pets or people around them that have passed on or moved away. As your cat learns to navigate life without their missing friend, those feelings will fade, but the memories won’t go entirely. Your cat will always be able to recognize something with a loved one’s scent, and that can bring back memories.
Even though we can’t be sure what your cat is thinking about, there is a lot we do know. Knowing how much brain space cats spend on enjoying the moment tells us that it probably isn’t too bad inside a cat’s head. Cats can experience separation anxiety and miss their owners, and we know that they have long memories. All of these have an impact on what your cat thinks about. But when your cat’s staring off into space, it probably isn’t trying to contemplate its place in the universe.
Featured Image Credit: Ria Peene, Shutterstock