How do cats know the time?

I have a cat.  At least, a cat shares my living space most of the time.   She has been with me for many years and like me has gradually migrated south.  I’ve yet to determine if her meow has taken on a cockney accent but she would be perfectly suited to travelling on the underground as she is supremely adept at ignoring all that goes on around her.

What I don’t understand is how she knows what time it is.   I know she’s not wearing a watch because she only has three legs and I’ve checked each of them (plus, she would fall over every time she tried to look at it) so there must be something else.

I have considered that she may be just look at the sun and think “hmmm, twenty past three, better set off back in time for supper” – a bit like Crocodile Dundee pretended to – or she may just get the old tummy rumbles at exactly the same time every day but I am not convinced this is the case.  In fact I have proof to the contrary.

I chose to work at home one day this week.   Generally it is not a good idea for me to work at home.   I get distracted too easily.   I start off early and with good intentions but soon enough I spot something really interesting, like a spider walking across the floor.   Then I follow the spider to see where it is going (it may have a family of spiders to look after or it may be going on the spider equivalent of a first date, dressed up to the nines in the best spiderware and carrying a bunch of spidery flowers).   Following a spider invariably leads to something else interesting (A newspaper from six weeks ago for instance) and before you know it you are embroiled in a long ago scandal about a B list celebrity that somehow escaped your attention.

I digress.   At 15:30 on the dot the cat showed up.   I never know where she goes before half past three.   She may be spending the day hunting  parakeets (bizzarely, we have a plague of them.   they allegedly escaped from the set of The African Queen back in the 50’s and have successfully colonised the urban jungle of West London) or she may be sleeping under the shed.

I was otherwise occupied (something to do with drawing faces on tomatoes) and told her to stop her prancing, tail high meandering around my legs and come back in half an hour.   She did that cat disappearing thing (There’s a town in Norfolk called Diss.  The only place in the world that as you approach it, Diss appears) and low and behold, as the clock chimed in at 16:00 she was back with a purr and an impatient rub of my leg.   I have no idea how she manages it.

She also understands weekends.   I don’t really expect animals to get different days of the week.  When you don’t go to work then every day is like Sunday.   Levi (for that is her name) pounces on the bed on weekdays precisely two minutes before the alarm goes off.   She can occasionally be fooled by setting the alarm for an earlier time but that’s a bit mean.    Weekends get a different treatment.  There’s generally no alarm set on a weekend and so she does some cat stuff off in cat land somewhere until she suspects we are about to wake.   Then she does her best “cat as a hat” impression and curls up around my head.

So tell me, how do cats tell the time?

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