Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Do the cats know that spring will come?

Because I have way too much time on my hands, I got wondering about this the other day. Since the cats were born in May, this is their first winter. Do they know that the weather will warm up again, or is it going to be winter forever as far as they know?

What about animals that are a few years old? Do they remember the changing of the seasons, or just take it day by day? What about wild animals? Do they know that spring is coming?

I mean, I'm not trying to anthropomorphize (wow! big word!). It's just that I assume that when it gets dark at night, the cats know that it'll get light again in the morning (or do they? hmmm), and I'm wondering if they have some kind of genetic memory that lets them know that spring will come, even if they've never been through the cycle of seasons before. But wait! That's kind of stupid. I'm pretty sure they never saw winter coming, so why would they know that spring is on its way?

Now I'm really confused.


Bridgett said...

I don't know. I assume that they are moment to moment with some things hardwired instinctually and some useful things stored in a longer-term memory (like "hey, can opener sound means food") that comes with exposure. I'd guess that they'll recognize spring in subsequent years but that they don't anticipate its arrival until it's here.

I wish I knew more about animal memory generally. Human memory is fascinating and tricky and I would bet that animal memory is even more so because of the anthropomorphizing (hey! I can do it too!) that observers project. As much as I like Jane Goodall, her insistence on homologizing every single ape behavior drives me insane.

kitkat said...

I wonder these things too. I wonder if my cat who was with us in Florida knows that we moved farther north or at least that we moved someplace completely different. This is why the idea of boarding my pets when I go out of town makes me sad; I think my cats will assume that they're never coming home again.

Then again, they're just cats. Don't overthink it. They don't.

rockygrace said...

I used to take my cat Rocky up to the lake with me on vacation once a year. And as soon as I got him in the cottage and opened his carrier, he knew exactly the route he had to take to get to his favorite hang-out spot. There's no doubt in my mind that he remembered the place.