Last week I showed you how cats land on their feet after a fall and asked whether you had any strange cat science questions. One brave soul, Wajiha, spoke up and said, “I want to know how cats can figure out it’s 6 a.m. and know it’s time to wake you up. Are they smarter than we think? Can they read clocks?”
Wajiha may have been asking that question sarcastically, but there are real, rational reasons why your cat is such a reliable alarm clock — and here they are.
After sharing a home with you for even a few days, your feline friend will get to know your schedule at least as well as you do. If you wake up at a certain time to get ready for work, your cat will figure that out — not because she can read a clock, but because she can read you.
It takes a while for a cat to grasp the concept of weekends, so get accustomed to being rousted out of bed at the same time or within an hour of your typical workday wake-up time. The good news is that as your cat settles in, she’ll start to understand that you sleep later on your days off and will adapt to that schedule. These regularly occurring late-sleep days become another routine.
Humans’ sleep cycle consists of five stages, ranging in depth from barely napping to so deeply asleep it would be hard to rouse you even in an emergency. Through each stage of sleep, your respiration, heartbeat, and activity levels change, and you go through four or five of these cycles a night. Once you’re at a light enough stage of sleep to respond to your cat’s kind attentions, she’ll be right over to help you start your day.
I don’t know about you, but when I get up in the morning I’m ravenous. The same is true of your cat, especially if you feed her just after you get out of bed. If your cat is hungry and you’re starting to wake up, kitty will be happy to help motivate you to get going.
Cats are crepuscular creatures, which is a fancy way of saying that they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Their vision is best adapted for the light levels of these “in between” times, so that’s when they do their hunting, playing, and socializing.
Keep in mind that a cat who helps you to wake up when you’re getting ready to wake up is not the same as a cat who wakes you up at 4 a.m. begging for attention or food. If you’ve got a midnight wailer, Catster behaviorist Marilyn Krieger has some tips for you about how to retrain her.
Do you have a cat who helps you wake up? If you work nights or odd shifts, how does your cat deal with that? Finally, do you have any more “weird cat science” questions? Please share in the comments!
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
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