Cat Behaviour, General Care For Your Cat

Can Cats Tell Time?

Are you ever curious if your cat can tell the time?

I am. That is why I attempted to try to find out if cats have a sense of time, and here are a few stories that I managed to collect from fellow cat lovers.

They Came, They Waited, And Then They Left

The first story is from a person, Jane, who had been feeding stray cats for 7 years. There was once a time when she regularly fed 9 cats around her home, and the original timing was 6 pm every day. However, there was once when she went one hour early (at 5 pm) because she had to attend a dinner party later in the day. To her surprise, all 9 cats were already present. This sparked her to do a not-so-scientific experiment to try to find out if cat can tell or sense the time so that she is able to cater to their needs better.

First, she tried turning up before 6 pm after at least a month of turning up at 6 pm consistently and recorded the number of cats that were already present and waiting when she reached the area.

When she turned up at 5 pm, all 9 cats were already there waiting.

When she turned up at 4 pm, about 6-8 cats were already waiting for her.

When she turned up at 3 pm, only 1 cat was waiting for her.

Then, she tried turning up after 6 pm after at least a month of turning up at 6 pm consistently and recorded the number of cats that were already present and waiting when she reached the area again.

When she turned up at 8 pm, all 9 cats were still waiting for her.

When she turned up at 9 pm, all 9 cats were still waiting for her.

When she turned up at 10 pm, around 5-7 cats were still waiting for her.

When she turned up at 1.20 am (due to unforeseen consequences), there was still 1 cat waiting for her. This was already 7 hours and 20 minutes past feeding time.

Jane hypothesized that cats can sense time, but they are not able to tell time. The cats she fed should know that someone was going to feed them at a certain time in a day, but they could only knew vaguely when that ‘someone’ would turn up, and hence they offered a buffer time of around 2-3 hours before and after the actual feeding time.

“This tells me something very important.” Jane was really serious when she brought up this to me. “It tells me how actions speaks louder than. I can’t tell them that I will be early or late by how many hours. I can’t even find excuses for not feeding them, such as when I am sick or when I am really busy, because I know that they will be there and will keep waiting for me.”

Common Experiences of Cat Owners

There are several experiences that are really common across cat owners that support the hypothesis that Jane had made.

1. Cats will wake humans up on time in the morning, especially if they are served breakfast.

  • If the cat is in the same room, the cat will wake the human up by nudging (for gentle cats) or nipping (for the not-so-patient ones).
  • If the cat is locked outside the room, there’s bound to be scratching and pounding noises to remind their humans that it is time to feed them.

2. Cats who are kept indoors all day will pay attention to the door every evening (when we return home from work).

  • When owners return home, they often find their cats sitting near the door and looking at them. They may or may not come up and seek for snuggles, but they will definitely be somewhere that they can get a clear sight of the main door.
  • Similar to the story of Jane, cats can be observed sitting near the door even if there are fluctuations in the return timings, as long as it is not too extreme.

3. Cats who have access to outdoors via cat flaps or other means will return home at around the same time every day for their meals.

  • Some families will let their cat out for some periods of time, and wait for their cats to return automatically. These cats may not leave the house at the same time each day (it depends on whether they want to go outside to play) but they will return home at around the same time seeking for food.

4. People have asked if cats are able to tell time because their biological clock tells them so. So, there was this incident where a cat was found jumping between two families, staying at the first in the day and staying at the second in the night. This was only found out when one of the owners decided to give the cat a collar and a tag! (It was quite a nasty surprise for both owners.)

Some Ending Words

From these experiences, it is most likely that cats are able to sense time but are not able to tell the exact time.

Hence, please treat your cats with care. As what Jane has said, “actions speak louder than words”, especially when cats are not able to understand the meaning of our words. Doing things with routine and consistency will allow the cats to feel safer and happier.

This is especially so for those people living in the region with Daylight Saving Time. The sudden shifting of time does not interrupt your schedule, for you are referring to the clock. However, the cat would only feel baffled as the routines that he/she is used to is suddenly offset by a couple of hours.

With this in mind, I hope you are able to understand your cat better and have a happier life with him/her!

If you have any questions that you want to ask, anything you wish to clarify, or simply want to express your thoughts and feelings, feel free to leave a comment!



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