cat with a clock

Do Cats Have a Sense of Time?

How do cats perceive time? This is a common question asked by many cat parents who would have entertained the thought of whether their cat is missing them. When you leave your cat alone for a long time, you are sure to wonder if it might be thinking that you won’t come back – this only happens when you are at school or work, or maybe you just dashed out to get some supplies. What about pet parents who leave their cats for a whole week while on vacation?

To find nearly accurate answers to these questions, you need to get a good understanding of how the entire feline population views time. It is common knowledge that canines understand time to a great extent, but the question for this write up is, how do cats perceive time? Continue reading to find out more.

British cat

Do Cats Have a Sense of Time?

Can cats tell time? The answer to this particular question may be in the affirmative; cats do have a sense of time, but not in the same way as humans. Theirs is best described as a sense of routine or structure; in fact, they appear to enjoy their world when they have the same things taking place at a similar time daily. When the talk is about reducing feline stress to the barest minimum and maintaining their overall happiness and contentment, consistency will play a huge role. Naturally, any routine that your cat is used to will be permanently anchored in its head as events happening at certain times.

For instance, a cat that normally gets its meals at 5 o’clock is bound to notice when the food is served an hour late. If your cat happens to be among those felines that are predisposed to sensitive stomach problems, it may well throw up bile, and it is all thanks to how supper efficient and accurate the cat’s internal clock is designed to operate.

According to reports from expert, Portion-fed cats that get two meals daily – one at 6:00 am and the next one at 8:00 pm may likely anticipate their next ration in advance. Your pet cat might wake you up at 5:30 am because it has perceived that mealtime is imminent. For the ensuing minutes, your cat’s stomach will be busy releasing gastric juices, hydrochloric acid, and bile which are meant to act on the meal to digest it.

Now, assuming that your cat fails to get its morning meal till 7:00 am, chances are that it might vomit yellow bile between 6:00 and 7:00 am – upon meeting no food, the hydrochloric acid already secreted in anticipation of food and will then start irritating the cat’s tummy. The onus is now your kitty to get rid of some of the accumulated acids by throwing up to put a stop to any further stomach irritation.

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How do Cats Know What Time it is?

If you have ever questions if your cat has its own interpretation of the numbers on the face of a clock, we believe an unequivocal ‘no’ will suffice as an answer. The long and shorthand of the clock is something that the cats can’t understand.

The possible explanation for cats doing things with precision is because of their internal clock, which is known to be always accurate. Thanks to their body clock, they can’t help but know the exact time things are supposed to happen. They are also known to be adept at sensing several other customary indicators or pointers of time – this can come in the form of nightfall, daylight, or even bird song. However, if you are still curious to know whether cats can read the hand of the clock or not, you can try changing the current time – you will observe that this won’t make a difference to your pet cat.

Are Cats Creatures of Routine?

Whether cats are creatures of routine is yet another common. If you have ever wondered why your cat is always precise with timing, it’s to do with your own routine. Once they have accurately marked when certain events take place, they will quickly adjust to it. And if you have a waking-up schedule that you maintain every day, your kitty will be adept at figuring it out in no time, since they are efficient at reading people. Once your cat masters your schedule, it might even take the place of your alarm clock by waking you up way before the alarm beeps. Even a cat that has only shared space with you for a short time would still be able to understand your schedule. With that said, it becomes glaring that they are actually good at measuring time.

What’s more, despite being able to attune to an established schedule or routine, the cat’s concept of exactitude may be less than what is perceived as perfect. But of course, we believe that they understand time in their own way. Aided by their high intelligence, felines can quite easily add all they have perceived together and come up with the time. Though they don’t actually glance at any timepiece or wear wristwatches, they are equipped with a good perception of time.

Lovely red cat on wooden tableCan Cats Differentiate Between Separate Time Spans?

So, it has been established that cats come equipped with a body clock. But does that mean these critters are capable of making a distinction between the duration of time or spans of time like three hours vs. three minutes?

According to findings from a behavioral study that was targeted at gauging the behavioral characteristics in two groups of felines. The first group got separated from their human family for three hours, while the second group was only estranged for thirty minutes. From the onset of the observation until the end, the two sets of cats exhibited almost similar behavior, except for some mild restlessness observed in the half an hour group. Generally, there was no sign of anxiety or stress.

However, once they were reunited with their human families, the 30-minute group didn’t display much affectionate behavior, it was the three-hour group that was stretching and purring for long. The explanation behind this experiment is that, while cats may not miss you in your absence, they are well capable of understanding when your absence is a protracted one. They can equally distinguish between long and short spans.


  1. Matt Soniak, 4 Facts About Your Cat’s Brain, PetMD

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