July 2008 Issue

Can Your Cat Tell Time?

It's probably not the alarm clock that your cat is reading. It's more likely that environmental clues lead the way for her behavior.

You have to get up at 6:00 a.m. during the week. But you donít even have to set your alarm, because your cat comes in and licks your fingers or jumps up and purrs on your chest just before the wake-up hour. Thatís a pretty nice way to wake up, actually ó unless it happens to be Saturday morning and you were planning on sleeping in. But weekday or weekend, your old-faithful feline is there just the same, licking your fingers and purring on your chest just before 6:00 a.m. How do cats do it? Do they really sense what hour it is, or is it something else? Alas, this is one of the many enduring mysteries about cats, says Larry Myers, DVM, PhD, of the Auburn University School of Veterinary Medicine in Alabama. "Some of what appears to be cats telling time is entrainment. Itís routine reinforced. Cats very quickly become aware of when human family members wake up, eat, go out and come home," says Dr. Myers, whose 18-year-old female cat wakes him at 6:00 a.m. daily for breakfast (hers, not his).

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