Most of you will probably answer this questions with a resounding “yes!” After all, our cats all seem to know exactly when it’s time to eat, and most cats aren’t shy about complaining if meal service is slow. This innate sense of timing when it comes to mealtime suggests that they have a distinct way of perceiving the passage of time.

There are several factors that contribute to a cat’s sense of time.

The circadian rhythm

Just like humans, cats have an internal biological clock known as the circadian rhythm. This internal clock regulates various bodily functions, including sleep, hunger, and activity levels, based on the time of day. The circadian rhythm helps cats maintain a sense of routine and predictability in their daily lives.

Feeding time

As we already mentioned in our introduction, anticipation of mealtime is the most apparent sign of a cat’s ability to tell time. Most cat parents notice some behaviors that suggest that a cat is ready for meal service, whether it’s staring at the empty bowl or vocalizing their desperate need to be fed, right this minute! Even if meals aren’t served at the exact same time a day, cats still seem to have a keen sense of when it’s time to eat, most likely through a combination of their internal clock and hunger cues.


Daily rituals

Cats are creatures of habit who thrive on routine. Most will have a set pattern they follow every day. While such a routine driven life may seem boring to humans, it helps cats feel safe and confident. In fact, routines are so important to cats that having them disrupted can even impact their physical health.

Cats may have a preferred time for grooming, playtime, or seeking attention from their humans. This suggests that cats have a mental awareness of the passage of time and associate specific activities with certain hours of the day.

Environmental cues

Apart from their internal clocks and routines, cats also rely on environmental cues to gauge the time. Changes in lighting, temperature, and sounds can provide cats with hints about the time of day. For example, the sound of birds chirping in the morning might signal to a cat that it’s time to wake up. These external factors serve as indicators that help cats align their internal clocks with the external world.

Human influence

Cats are highly perceptive creatures, so their routines will develop around their humans’ schedule and household routines. If a cat observes her human engaging in certain activities at specific times of the day, she will associate those actions with the passing of time. For example, a cat will learn that his human leaves for work in the morning and returns in the evening. This human influence further reinforces cats’ understanding of time and helps them synchronize their activities with their humans.

While cats may not possess the same comprehension of time as humans, they have one big advantage over us humans: even though cats can tell time is passing, they never feel like they’re running out of time!

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4 Comments on Can Cats Tell Time?

  1. They eat at 11:30 and at about 11:20 they enter the office with in your face attitude. When we go out shopping and return at 11:00 no problem, they are laying around about the same place as when we left the house. One day we didn’t return until 1:45. They were both in the kitchen complaining loudly as to where was their LUNCH!!!! They get a little snack after Wheel of Fortune ends at 7:30 and Lucy sits and stares at hubby around 7:20. Her ears are twitching back and forth when she hears the final music. Even when Wheel is not on during the weekend she still starts her glare at 7:20. Lucy is in charge of the evening snack and Lily is in charge of the meals. I think we are being ganged up on.

  2. Miss Kiki’s internal clock was way off this morning. She was washing my face at 3:30 this morning. Usually she waits until 4-4:30. They pretty much know when feeding time is, 5:00. They know when afternoon feeding time is too. But what really makes me laugh is night time snacks. Kiki will sit on the arm of the couch and Lulu on the coffee table. Both watch the tv because they know at 9:00 it is usually turned off and they get treats.

  3. I think cats do know the time except when they mess with the clock for then they are all mixed up. I love my cats for they always make me laugh. These guys don’t wake me unless they are serious hungry.

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