What Do Cats Think About All Day?

Cat Thinking 2

Do you ever sit at work and wonder… what is my cat doing right now? What is she thinking about? If you’re like most cat owners, you probably have! We all wish we were able to get into our pet’s brain and see what they really think. While there aren’t any magic tools that would allow that to happen, we have the next best thing… advice and information from professional cat behaviorists! We’ll find out the answers to some of the cat-related questions you’ve likely wondered about but have been too afraid to ask. 

What Does My Cat Think About All Day?

If only cats could talk, right? Actually, maybe that wouldn’t be the best because, if your cat is anything like ours, they probably wouldn’t ever stop talking. But getting a little insight into their minds, and trying to figure out what they’re thinking about all day, can help anyone be a better pet parent. 

According to the director of the animal behavior clinic at Boston, Massachusetts’ Tufts University of Veterinary Medicine, Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, cats are definitely intelligent enough to have their own thoughts. Structurally, the feline brain and the human brain are very similar. Both of us have four lobes in our brain’s cerebral cortex (frontal, occipital, parietal, and temporal), and both of our brains are full of both grey and white matter. In addition, each region of our brains are connected together in the same way, and we use identical neurotransmitters to send data.

Also, as much as we can tell, cats receive and process input from their five senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, and sound) the same we humans do as well. That means it is fairly reasonable to assume that they think the same way we do. They also have both a short-term and a long-term memory, so not only do they think, but they also remember.

While that doesn’t tell us exactly what they think about all day, it does tell us that they are likely to have relatively complex thoughts and feelings about things. So, next time you see the Queen of the Castle sitting, looking like they’re staring absentmindedly out the window, remind yourself that she’s like doing the same thing that you do when you’re lost in thought. 

Do Cats Get Bored?

While it might seem like all cats do all day is lay around the house and nap (and that really is most of what they do, as they’re nocturnal animals), they definitely love a little adventure. This is especially true when you take into account that cats definitely have thoughts about things, even if that thought is “gee, I’m bored.” 

Indoor cats absolutely get bored. Many people choose to get cats because they’re seen as more independent pets that need less attention. However, while they may not need to be walked or let out every few hours, that doesn’t mean that they don’t need attention.

Cats who are left alone for too long without enrichment or intellectual stimulation will not only become incredibly bored, they will also get lonely. Providing them with that enrichment, especially when you’re gone, is essential to ensuring their mental wellbeing and physical health.

So how can you tell if your pet is bored, when your cat seems totally content just chilling with you when you’re home? Here are a few of the more obvious signs that you might be dealing with a bored cat, and that you should take action.

  • Suddenly eating all the time or refusing to eat
  • Sleeping much more than normal
  • Over-grooming themselves (you may notice bad patches)
  • Issues with using the litter box
  • Destructive behavior
  • Moping around/seeming depressed

If you notice any of the above, start by making an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any physical ailments. If your pet gets a clean bill of health, it’s time to start to add some enrichment activities to your cat’s life. Good activities that are easy and inexpensive to implement are food puzzles, areas of the home that are designed to encourage climbing, access to windows, and plenty of available toys. There are even television channels meant specifically for cats! 

Are Cats Smart?

Because dogs are often seen as the intellectual species, cats don’t get enough credit for the intelligence that they also possess. This can often be chalked up to the fact that cat brains are physically smaller than dog brains, which is a fact that many dog owners have grabbed onto and love to throw in cat lover’s faces. However, as you should remind them, brain size is not always a reliable indicator of intelligence.

In fact, cats are very smart!  One fact that clues us in to their intelligence is that their cerebral cortex (the part of the brain that is responsible for problem-solving, decision-making, memory, planning, and language-process) actually has more nerve cells than ours does! That means not only can they think faster, they also can process and act faster. That’s why they go tearing across the house after a fly that you didn’t even see, and often catch it before you even knew it was in the house.

The problem is, the difficult thing about researching cat intelligence is that they often aren’t super interested in cooperating with research scientists. While cats are trainable and can follow directions, they just don’t want to. Previously, this was part of why people assumed they weren’t smart when, in fact, they’re just really super stubborn (imagine that, right?). However, the studies that have been successfully performed shows that they perform at least as well as dogs do when their cognition is evaluated. Take that, dog people.

Does My Cat Think I’m a Bigger, More Hairless Cat?

Now that we know our cats are smart, let’s take that one step further. 

Do our cats know we’re humans (or, at least, different than us) or do they think we’re just larger, more hairless cats?

According to some experts, that’s exactly what they think! While we can’t ask them what they think, we can assume from their behavior that they think we’re just bigger, weirder, clumsier cats. When it comes to the way they socialize with us, they don’t alter their behavior in any way that would show they think we’re any different from them. 

Think about all of the common cat behaviors that they do with us - purring, head bunting, communicating with their tails, kneading us, etc. Each of these behaviors are commonly seen in the way that cats interact with other cats, not with other species. To take this just one step further, it is likely that cats don’t just think we’re other cats, they treat us like they think we’re their mom. We can hear you awwing from here. 

Our cats are much more intelligent than we give them credit for. The unfortunate part of how often they seem to be misunderstood and characterized as aloof and uninterested in our attention and affection is that it can cause them to become lonely and bored much easier than dogs do. Don’t underestimate your cat, and do provide them with plenty of mental stimulation, especially when you’re gone. Not only will you develop a closer relationship with them, you’ll also increase their quality of life significantly. And isn’t that the point of owning a pet in the first place? It’s more than a fair trade off for the unconditional love, affection, and head bunting they give us while we’re lucky enough to know them.