do cats have a concept of time

As with dogs, cats have a limited concept of time: they can learn to distinguish between different time intervals but only when these intervals are limited to a few seconds. Thinking back into the more distant past is probably beyond their abilities.

Does My Cat Have a Sense of Time?

do cats have a concept of time

Researchers note that because there has been little research on cat cognition, it is difficult to determine how cats perceive time. Getty.

Given the paucity of research on cat cognition, let alone feline time perception, it is challenging to provide a definitive answer to this question. So we have to draw upon other animal cognition models.

“It’s not apparent that much research has been done on cats’ perception of time,” Liz Stelow, a veterinary behaviorist at the University of California, Davis, tells Inverse. Stelow says cats draw upon environmental cues like the sound of the car in the driveway or kids walking home from school as a signal to wait by the window for their owner’s return — but that in itself isn’t a confirmation that cats have a sense of time.

However, experts believe that cats, like the majority of other mammals, most likely have a general sense of time passing.

“As far as we know, cats may not have an exact, down to the second, same sense of time, but they do have several different rhythms that may help them appreciate the passage of time,” Katherine Pankratz, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, tells Inverse.

Most mammals can approximately measure a “elapsed interval of time,” such as the amount of time that has passed since an event, according to experts in animal cognition.

“The idea that an animal can tell when Ive been gone for five minutes versus five hours, right? Thats not really in dispute,”Jonathon D. Crystal, Provost Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, tells Inverse.

Different Perception Of Time

Our feline friends’ long-term memory is incredibly remarkable, even though their short-term memory may not be the best. Cats are able to easily adjust to a new environment at their own pace because they can recall past knowledge and apply it to their current situation. They are able to decipher information about “what” and “where,” but they might not be able to recall “when” particular events occurred in the past. According to PetMD, cats typically retain emotional content and significant memories for extended periods of time. For example, your cat is able to recall where her food bowl and litter box are.

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.

Can Cats Tell Time As Well As Humans?

do cats have a concept of time

The evidence on time perception is insufficiently clear to say whether cats or humans can tell the time. Getty.

But it’s more difficult to determine if cats can tell time as precisely as people can. There are a few different ways to approach this question.

The first way: determine whether cats have better or worse “temporal perception” based on how fast they see the world, i.e., in frames per second (yes, like a camera’s frame rate). Inverse consulted Kevin Healy, a zoology researcher at the University of Galway, to discuss whether cats perceive time better or worse than humans based on his prior research. Smaller animals and predators tend to have faster time perception, but that’s not the case with cats.

With a frame rate of 55 as opposed to our 65, Healy claims that humans can perceive time a little more quickly than cats.

The second way to answer whether cats can tell time as well as humans has to do with whether cats have episodic memories, which are memories of specific events in time. The ability to form episodic memories may be central to what cognition researchers call “mental time travel” — the ability to mentally project forward and backward into time. It’s long been thought humans are alone in our ability to mentally time travel, but that might not be the case after all.

Daniel Dombeck is an associate professor in Northwestern University’s department of neurobiology who has researched time perception in mice. He says it’s “unlikely” humans have a unique gift for mental time travel, though it’s probable humans can remember farther back in time and in greater detail than rodents.

“We cannot say that animals understand time the same as humans,” Dombeck tells Inverse. “Rodents, for example, have representations of time in their brains, and neural activity patterns have been observed that suggest that they too can imagine different past or future events.” ”.

According to Crystal, in order to demonstrate whether cats have episodic memories, tests that rule out alternative theories, such as a biological rhythm informing them when it’s time to eat, would need to be carried out, which is challenging.

Although Crystal prefers to use the term “animal model of episodic memory,” he states that “there is no doubt that many animals have the content of episodic memories.” ”.

A 2017 study found that cats indeed contain “episodic-like” memories, but the lead researcher on that study, Saho Takagi, isn’t sure whether cats really need episodic memories for time perception.

“My research has shown that cats form episodic-like memories, but it is difficult to prove whether or not they do mental time travel with current technology,” Takagi says.

In conclusion, more research on animal cognition is needed before making a firm decision. Ideally, this research will focus on cats.

Takagi continues, “A lot of research has demonstrated that animals can sense time intervals, but I do not think that this results in animals having the same sense of time as humans.”


Do cats know how long you are gone?

Cats might not know how many hours you leave them for, but they do know when you’re away. They can get lonely, bored, and anxious. There is also a study that shows that smaller animals with higher metabolisms may process time more slowly. This means that cats may perceive time differently than people.

How long does a day feel for a cat?

A week in cat time is a week – seven days. Unfortunately, there is no way to measure a week or even a day in cat time, at least not using our way of measuring time. A cat measures time by natural events, such as dawn and dusk, and human routines, but they don’t seem to know one day from the next.

Do cats know when their time is up?

Cats May Understand Their Body’s Natural Progression They may also have an innate understanding of what their bodily changes mean, including those indicating their final days are approaching. For instance, they might not be able to tell exactly what’s wrong with them and what they need to fix it.

What do cats think all day?

Primarily as we found out, cats think about their needs as hunger, thirst, need for love and attention, and desire for playing and sleeping. Cats are pretty straightforward in their thinking process, but still, they have memory, and they, like us, have dreams. Cat’s mind is still a mystery.