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Can Your Cat or Dog Tell What Time It Is? The Answer Will Amaze You!

Team StoryWeavers|September 23, 2021, 18:23 IST| 37

It’s five o clock, and your dog is excitedly wagging her tail and nuzzling against you. Your furry friend is hungry and seems to know that this is the hour you usually feed her. But was this performance a simple reaction to a rumbling in Max’s tummy or are animals actually able to tell what time it is?

Anecdotally, many dog owners will tell you that their dogs seem to anticipate dinnertime or the hour when they regularly go on a walk. 

Some owners claim their dogs know these important times to within minutes. They notify the owners precisely at 5 p.m. that a meal should be served. It’s like dogs are somehow able to read the clock!

So can dogs, cats or other animals actually understand time? Well, science now shows that some animals do, in fact, have a sense of time!

Breakthrough in Understanding our Feline and Furry Friends

Of course, a dog  or a cat isn’t reading a clock or holding a stopwatch! But a recent study from Northwestern University reveals that animals can judge time. 

This new study shows us with the most convincing experiments that animals really do have an explicit representation of time in their brains. 

What that essentially means is that earlier there wasn’t a good answer to the question, ‘Does your dog know that it took you twice as long to get its food as it took yesterday?’ 

But now,  we know that your dog knows that you got lazy and took a longer time to get her the food – so you better hurry up! 

How Did Scientists Prove That Animals Can Tell Time?

To test if your dog or cat can really tell if you were out too late, the researchers conducted an experiment called the virtual door stop. During the test, a mouse ran on a physical treadmill in a virtual reality environment. 

The mouse then learned to run down a hallway to a door, and after a wait of six seconds, the door opened and the mouse continued on to collect its reward.

After several sessions like this, researchers made the door invisible in the virtual reality environment. The mouse still ran to where the door used to appear and still waited six seconds before running down the track to receive its reward.

The important point here is that the mouse doesn’t know when the door is open or closed because it’s invisible. The only way he can solve this task efficiently is by using his brain’s internal sense of time. The mouse in his head knew that it takes 6 seconds for the door to open before he can continue. So he waited for exactly 6 seconds! 

But the scientists did more than watch the mice complete the door stop task over and over again. They took the experiment one step further.

What Goes on Inside the Mind 

The scientists wanted to study the brain of the mice while it performed the door stop test. By using advanced microscopy, which allows high-resolution imaging of the brain, scientists watched the mice’s brain activity while it performed the test. 

According to Daniel Dombeck, one of the authors of the study, “as the mice run along the track and get to the invisible door, we see the cells firing that control spatial or space encoding,” 

“Then, when the animal stops at the door, we see spatial cells turned off and a new set of cells turn on. This was a big surprise and a new discovery.”

Dombeck noted these “timing cells” did not fire during active running, but only during the rest duration. According to the study, the cells that are active during rest are actually encoding how much time the mouse has been resting. 

So, if you come home to an impatient pet, it’s indeed because they can tell just how long you’ve been gone.

So, can my dog tell time?

Well, not really the way we humans do. It’s important to note that the study does not suggest that animals can instinctively judge time. The mice had to be trained to the track, to the location of the door, and to the amount of time until the door opened. So it is a learned process.

Yes, a great deal of your cat or your dog’s behavior is governed by habit and repetition. Whether he’s the alarm clock that gets you out of bed at 6:15 am or the sleepy pup who has decided the family bedtime is 9:30 pm, it’s not his Apple watch that’s alerting him! And, while habit does seem to be the logical explanation, those habits may turn out to be the result of these surprising neurons that are “telling time” for animals!

About the Author

Raza has been writing since 2008, be it fiction, poetry, or articles on science, politics, and history. He believes that words can change the world, and he uses them to inspire and empower people through his writing. When he is not working, he is watching nature documentaries or playing with his cats.

Leave a Comment




August 11, 2021

Yes!! My dog too got all excited and started pushing when my school bus arrived. And in the afternoon he would remind my mom by making sounds that it is time for me to come home. Although, he got confused on the weekends! Thank you for clearing my doubts about this!


August 7, 2021

I don’t have any pets but I am very excited to read these types of fact . Thank you byjus

Gayathri .n. manoj

August 7, 2021

Intresting ?


August 3, 2021

Yes!! It is a true fact I knew about that because my cat ? come on our lunch time and start her tail wagging and her mewing

Skanda Samarth Srikantapuram

August 2, 2021

Helpful and fun to read ??


August 1, 2021

Yes a cat and dog can tell time by wagging their tails


August 1, 2021

Yes a cat and dog tell time by wagging their tails

Atharv Katiyar

July 31, 2021

Nice fact thankyou for telling ?

Manjila khatun

July 31, 2021

I like it
i am 14 years old

Sneha. D

July 31, 2021

Yaa ?
Our Zimmi(our dog name) also does like this and it’s exciting to me when I have learnt about this fact…!!

Anuradha Singh

July 30, 2021

Very interesting facts

Kristi Verma

July 30, 2021

I am having a pug dog and he is only of 1 month and I don’t know that he reads time or not

Aryan chavhan

July 29, 2021

Yes!! My dog too got all excited and started pushing when my school bus arrived. And in the afternoon he would remind my mom by making sounds that it is time for me to come home. Although, he got confused on the weekends! Thank you for clearing my doubts about this!

Nivedita Aswal

July 29, 2021


Sharmili Mukherjee

July 28, 2021

I have a dog in our house and I have also observed some kind of behaviour in it…

Arjun Ajith

July 26, 2021

Yes pets can tell time .i have heard many about pets who barks when it’s to eat


July 25, 2021

Nice fact

Shiv sasane

July 25, 2021

Thank you

Aditi Raj

July 25, 2021

Yes,!! It is right. My dog too started me when breakfast time, school time….. I am very confused for this. Thanks you for clear my doubts. ????


July 25, 2021

Yes it’s true,my dog do the same thing . Not only for food but also when I go to my maternal grandmother’s house every day so I observed her and even my sister told that she (my ?) always wait for me by sitting on the stairs.
And I was just like ? really.
And one thing more I love animals so much ,even I rescued them ,and I want to become a vetenary doctor ? . I can’t see any animal (mostly dogs) in trouble ?. I love my dog very much ????? I’ll never leave her . I hate those people who beat animals

Hariom Pandey

July 25, 2021


Sada jhodia

July 25, 2021



July 25, 2021

I love it….??

Dhairya Pardeshi

July 24, 2021

Yes! It’s correct my dog also bark on me when I am sleeping and it is getting late for school and also get crazy when I comes at home from school and he get confused when there are holidays please clear my doubt…..


July 24, 2021

Amazed to know!


July 24, 2021

Great point

Sidhi Dalal

July 24, 2021

I really like to know that the dogs and cats can also tell us an accurate time with they need a meal or want to go for walk.

Rishitha puligundla

July 24, 2021

Even my pet to waiting for me when I go to school thanks for sharing such type of good thing about dogs

Deekshitha GN

July 24, 2021

Dogs have a sense of time but don’t understand the ‘concept’ of time…….


July 24, 2021

Wow! It’s excellent ?

Diya Nair

July 24, 2021

Amazing ?


July 24, 2021

Thank you for such interesting secret .?‍♂️


July 24, 2021


Arya Mokshmar

July 24, 2021

I’m not having Cat or dog but I’m having a parrot. He is 30 Years old and my parrot talks and he can easily tell the time.


July 24, 2021

I am 9 years old

Anuja. J

July 24, 2021

I don’t have any pet but i am very excited to read these types of facts and thank you byjus

Mourosi Pal

July 11, 2021

Yes!! My dog too got all excited and started pushing when my school bus arrived. And in the afternoon he would remind my mom by making sounds that it is time for me to come home. Although, he got confused on the weekends! Thank you for clearing my doubts about this!


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