Do cats have a sense of time? Or they casually go about their days, ignoring the fact that time even exists? Due to cats’ lazy attitude is easy to think they have no sense of time. But, cats do not go unnoticed to a careful observer when they leave behind small clues about their sense of time.

Cats have a sense of time. They use the sun to figure out time passing and do things like hunting or play (cats are more active at dawn and dusk). Additionally, they regulate their sense of time based on establishing daily routines, like the owner waking up, going to work, and feeding time.

Let’s see the detail on how cats track time.

Do cats have a sense of time?


How do you know if your cat can tell time? Sure, cats can’t read a watch. They do not have an artificial object that tells them when to sleep, eat or wake up. But they have a natural clock that indicates when to do certain things, such as sleep, wake-up, feeding time, hunt, play, and more.

But how?

One could argue that it is impossible. However, can you think of a time when you waked up one minute before your alarm clock went off? I remember a period of my life when I was able to wake up a few minutes before my alarm clock would go off each morning. I had ingrained habits established, and it was like my body knew what to do automatically.

The same is for cats. They build up a sort of muscle memory that lets them know when to do certain things. One of their internal alarm clocks is set to spike activity in them at certain times of the day, like dawn or dusk. You may have heard about cats being crepuscular.

It is a habit built from earlier generations of cats living in the wild. While indoor cats do not need to rely on these survival instincts, they still retain them. It is the reason why you see them running more at dawn and dusk and why they wake you up in the early morning.

But, not only. You have routines. If you work from 9-5 and come home at 6 pm after a while, cats know that that is the time when you come home. If you feed them after you wake up in the morning, they know that food comes when you rise from your bed and figure out when it will happen.

There are many things that cats can figure out from your home routines. It is how they can tell time without a watch.


We could say that cats develop a sense of time based on things that happen around them, line sunrise, the owner routines when they usually get food, and more. Their instinct plays a big role in determining time.

For example, they know if you are oversleeping, because their food is not coming and because they know that you typically are already up at a certain time. If you do not wake up, cats will try to paw you or do anything possible to make you stand up.

This is very true for my two cats. After 8 am, if I am not up, both of them are jumping all over me, and the male one uses his paw to touch me in the face until I move. When working from home, I do not even need to set an alarm clock because I know my cats wake me up around 8 am.

Cats do this for other things too. If you use to feed them at 7 pm and forget to do it, they are all over you meowing and complaining about it. You do not need to look at your watch to know what time is it.

Therefore, it is safe to say that cats have a sense of time using their body internal clock, and the environment changes and signs.


Typically, cats figure out what part of the day is based on sunlight, sounds, and smell. Even if you are not there, they can still have a good sense of time. Sure, routine helps them judge time better, but they are still pretty smart even without you running around.

If you place a pet camera at home and watch them while you are away, you can still see they sleep when they should sleep, they watch outside the window as usual, and they play regularly.

However, if you are not coming back when you should, they can start to become stressed and lose their sense of time by changing habits. For example, for part of my life, I used to come back home every day at noon, eat and leave again to only come back at 7 pm.

My cat used to wait for me at the window or behind the door. He knew exactly when I was coming back home. When I did not come home, I was told by my roommate he would get upset and start meowing complaining.

Therefore cats have a sense of time, even when you leave them, but if you do not come back, as usual, the stress can make their internal clock go wild.


Despite there isn’t a detailed study that tells us, without any doubt, that cats know how long you have been away. However, a research shows that cats realize if you are gone a considerable amount of time, evidence by the way they welcome you. If you have been away for long, you will likely get more purring, meows and other affectionate manifestations.

You could do the experiment yourself, go away for several days, and see how your cat reacts when you are back. I can tell you that when I work from home and leave a few hours only to go shopping, my cat doesn’t even care to greet me when I get back.

But I left for 2 weeks not too long ago, and when I got back, he yelled at me with loud meows pretending pets. It was visible he wasn’t happy and that he knew I have been missing for very long.

I concluded that cats know how long you are missing, even if they do not show it all the time.


That one, believes it or not, cats have a sense of time. It is not the typical sense of time derived from looking at a clock. Their sense of time is based on the knowledge derived from their senses and instinct. It is a sort of natural clock. Routine and the environment play a big part in their understanding of time.

I hope I was able to shed some light about cats sense of time. If you have any question or want to add anything, leave it in the comments below.

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