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I am in a slight dilemma. I have a civilization of cave-dwelling cats, that has been mentioned in numerous questions before this one. They have human intelligence, and they don't leave the caves. I wanted to build holidays for them, but I had a slight issue. You see, due to them not leaving the caves, they wouldn't have anything such as days or weeks, I doubt they'd even have months.

Perhaps they could figure out from their Surface Hunters (The only cats in their group that go on the surface, and even then it is strictly at night and on a need-be basis), who would notice the moon changing, but the Surface Hunters are a much newer rank into their civilization, maybe only a few generations, which would require the holidays to be founded extremely recently.

The only time measurement they have is a year, due to the seasonal flooding of their caves. They also cannot have holidays based on seasonal changes, since once again, they only very recently even dared coming to the surface, and very few do so. And, even holidays not based on seasonal changes, such as when they believe they were founded, or the death/birth date of important figures, they don't have any way to track when this is. So, in other words, what could occur in a cave almost always around the same general time?

Ignore climate and habitat, since while it is based in Pennsylvania, United States, I can easily change this to any other place that gets rain during the spring. But, for answers, please state what can occur where, and what general date it occurs. Note that changes in animals that live in caves are also viable.

Also, I am asking for cats, without any technology above primitive (They don't even have tools for the most part). They have seasonal flooding, yes, but that is to track a year, not months or days. They are also nomadic, they cannot always rely on water levels in the caves since not all their caves have water.

Also, to quote KeizerHarm:

Not a duplicate; that question is about telling time, this one is about tracking dates. Technically the time-telling answers work if you do them 365 times a year, but for tracking dates there might be more efficient methods.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not a duplicate; that question is about telling time, this one is about tracking dates. Technically the time-telling answers work if you do them 365 times a year, but for tracking dates there might be more efficient methods. $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 14:19
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Dates (and, for that matter, measuring time) comes about very, very, very early in a civilization. A fairly complete date and time system would have been developed by your cats long (eons) before your Surface Hunters came to be. So what do we have to work with? The simplest thing I can think of is...

The Circadian Rhythm

Your cats need to sleep and I assume (being based in Philadelphia) that they originally evolved on the surface. This means your cats need to sleep. Cats today sleep on average 12–16 hours a day. Let's use the average for convenience: 13 hours. That means they're up and about 11 hours a day on average.

And lo, as the ancients wept through the darkness in search of light they called upon Felidae for help and wisdom. And behold Felidae did bless the ancients with wisdom, for she called the time of rest "death" and the time of searching "light". And Felidae did watch over her children, over life and over death, and behold she called this the first Day, and it was good.

So your cats are working with what we humans might call a 26-hour day, but for the moment, all we know is that they have a way of tracking days: the time spent awake plus the time spent sleeping is a day. Is it accurate? Heck no! But while sunrise-to-sunrise might be more accurate, it's not actually precise because it changes depending on your latitude, the time of the year, and your moment in history because the length of day has changed compared to days past. So, for our burgeoning intelligent cats, we now have a Day.

The Value of Religion and Philosophy

Now, while historically we might be doing this in order, religiously we're putting the cart before the horse. The overwhelming influence of religion and philosophy on calendars and time cannot be overstated.

In the beginning was the void. The void was dark and without form. Felidae did look upon the darkness and new that without life the darkness had no purpose. And Felidae wept for without purpose all is truly nothing. And her tears fell upon the void and washed through the void and separated the void from the void and filling the void and Felidae found hope.

And Felidae did breathe upon the void that was filled with her tears and the water did recede and there was space for purpose and Felidae once again found hope.

And Felidae passed her paw over the space and the space did embrace Felidae and the touch of Felidae did cause the blanket of life to rest upon the space: the mushroom and the lichen, the moss and the short grass. And Felidae smiled that purpose was growing and again found hope.

And Felidae did wish for purpose to be fulfilled and so created life that would fill that purpose: the insects withing the space and the insects within the void, the mouse and the bat, the burrower and the crawler and that which slithered upon the grass and Felidae once again found hope.

But purpose was not yet fulfilled and Felidae did weep once more. Her tears fell upon her cheeks and upon her paws and upon her tail as she curled upon and around the void. And as Felidae did embrace the void and the void, Felidae, she did close her eyes and she did bless the void and her Children, the Ancients, were born. And Felidae did breath a great sigh and her Children did know life and did know purpose and began their journey through the space and through the void. And Felidae did find hope again.

—Insert that first verse here—

And Felidae did bless the day her Children were born and did command her Children to rest upon the fifth Day that they may remember the blessings of Felidae.

Now let's look at the life around your Cats

OK! Now we have days and weeks. For months let's look at the life cycle of the Kentucky Cave Beetle. As it happens, their life span is approximately one terrestrial month. Rounding a few numbers and playing with the averages, what we have is a month of 28 days, which is as inconveniently divided into 5 as our month is into 7, but it does give you a "season" of 5 months.

  • Day = one wake + one sleep cycle.
  • Week = 5 days
  • Month = 28 days
  • Season = 5 months

As for hours, let's ignore the dew claw

Cats have 4 claws on each paw if we ignore the dew claw. So, 8 hours of life and 8 hours of death. 16 hour days.

And the coolest thing about this is that this dating system conflicts enormously with what your Surface Hunters find outside. They'd see the moon. They'd see sunrise and sunset. And those periods of time would be completely at odds with their own dating system — with the exception of months! Cool!

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    $\begingroup$ Despite this not being upvoted much, I think this is the best answer! Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 22 '20 at 21:14
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Why don't they have holidays... based on the flooding of their caves?

Your question seems a bit backwards to me - you seem to think we have holidays because we have calendars, so you are imagining that your cats would invent calendars (thanks to the surface hunters discovering the day/night cycle) and then would invent holidays, for some reason.

I would argue it's the other way around! We have holidays to celebrate regularly-occurring events, and we invented calendars to track the events - it might even be historically the case that the calendars were invented to track the holidays.

Your society already has a regularly-occurring event: the flooding of the caves. It seems like a very important event, that would be relevant to how the cats feed themselves and live! Is it not? And either way it would be a good marker for a cat's life, it seems pretty natural to me they'd count their lifespan in how many floodings they'd seen and such. Now you might think they cannot predict the flooding, and that may be the case but it doesn't prevent a holiday. For example, if the flooding is absolutely unpredictable then they can have the holiday when the flooding starts. But more likely the flooding is associated with a physical cycle that would have precursors - an increase in humidity, the increase or decrease of certain bugs or micro-organisms, a variation in various smells... What does the flooding indicate? Does it destroy the cat's crops and chase away the game, or does it bring food the cats live on for the rest of the year? This kind of question could determine whether cats mark a holiday with the arrival of the flooding, or the some precursors that announce the upcoming arrival of the flooding, or the height of the flooding, or the end of the flooding... Or all of these.

In terms of day/night and other cycles discovered by your surface hunters I find it doubtful those would result in holidays after only a few generations. Either way, the holidays would be associated with something actually important to the society. Maybe the surface hunters would have noticed migratory patterns of their prey and learn the cycles associated with that, and maybe that could lead to specific holidays the surface hunters celebrate. Maybe even holidays the whole society celebrates if those patterns impact them (like there's a Mammoth Season now, everybody loves the arrival of Mammoth Season. Maybe the surface hunters also track Snake season and Vole season and Birdie season and have little celebrations to mark the transition, it matters to them because they need to switch tools and such, but Mammoth season is the big party everybody participates in).

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  • $\begingroup$ No, I am not saying whatsoever that we have holidays because of calendars. They DO have holidays for seasonal. And I know for a fact that they would not result in holidays after a few generations, I believe I stated that, so it likely would not happen. And, surface hunters have been around for such a short period that holidays would not exist for events on the surface, since very few things on the surface occur annually AND affect them. I'm not sure if I am misunderstanding your answer, but I think there's some confusion. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 22 '20 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ I guess I misunderstood your question, sorry. But I guess I don't really understand your question to begin with - you seem to ask what natural temporal cycles your cats could be exposed to that would give them a measurement of time... in a scenario where you posit a seasonal flooding pattern that does give them a notion of the year. So presumably you're asking for something more than that. Are you looking for a specific frequency? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 22 '20 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'm looking for a way they could measure things like months and days. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 22 '20 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ What donc you mean, "things like", do you mean actual months and days? Any sub division of a year? Subdivisions on the order of magnitude of a tenth and a hundredth? $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 23 '20 at 5:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay I hope you don't feel I'm being argumentative; I find your question interesting and I am genuinely disappointed I misunderstood it and wasn't able to be helpful as a result, and the questions I asked are to better understand what it is you're looking for, in case I can make a better answer (though in practice I think the people pointing out circadian rhythms and tidal effects on water levels might have the best answer) $\endgroup$ – Oosaka Oct 23 '20 at 9:09
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Your day counter is the easiest to solve:

  • When the hunters return it signals the next day.
  • Or it that isn't often enough, there's a notable temperature shift. When it stops getting colder and starts getting warmer again, that's the next day.

There's also water in the caves, and the cats notice that the water rises and falls every 12 hours 25 minutes. They notice every 29.5 days the water level peaks synchronising with the temperature peaks. They call this the month.

They line it up to the nearest day start, so some months are 30 days, some are 29 days. Month 13 has 13 days in it, then they get a flood. They call this the start of the year.

They count months of 29 or 30 days and use this for approximate measurements of the passage of the year. Within these months, they count days.

They have a holiday period of 13 days at the end of the year coinciding with the unusual month length. To prepare for the upcoming flood they cut down trees and install them in their living rooms to act as flood breaks, and because they like pretty things, they're decorated with pretty cat toys and flashing coloured lights. Since they may die in the flood and should finish their lives on a happy note, they visit family and exchange gifts. The "13 days of catmas" are the happiest time of the year.

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  • $\begingroup$ I suppose you could have tides if the society lives in sea caves, but you won't get tides in underground rivers/lakes that aren't connected to the ocean. Also, caves are extremely consistent in their internal temperature, with very little variation over the course of a day, or even over the course of a year. They might notice small temperature changes near the mouth of the cave, but not deep underground. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie Oct 22 '20 at 21:13
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maybe use the bats to determine time or day? bat goes flying out during night or afternoon and back during dawn.

so the time they spend sleeping is the morning/dawn to afternoon/night its like the equivalent of the sun, although may not as precise.

as i has mention in previous answer, OP mention that the cat cant goes out of the cave, but other animals can, since the cave is not even blocked.

also for recording the date, i suggest either just directly scratch some surface or use paint to mark it like blood from their prey, or using chalk from the mine if they are smart enough to use such thing.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer would benefit from some additional explanations $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Oct 22 '20 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ How do the bats know the time of day? $\endgroup$ – KeizerHarm Oct 22 '20 at 12:04
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm i dunno, i cant even find the reason in google, hence its this sort, but i know this from seeing how cave bat goes outside, and it more like a habit i guess, since its their usual time when they wake up and sleep, and base on OP previous questions, bats or other animals outside of cat is not restricted to goes outside, the cave is not even blocked. $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 22 '20 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre try reread again ?? $\endgroup$ – Li Jun Oct 22 '20 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ This answer is actually pretty useful, while not enough to get accepted, I can still utilize it. From what I have researched, bats do go out of the cave at night, or at least become much more active, which could be an indicator of night time for both cats waking up, and to notify the Surface Hunters to go outside. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 23 '20 at 18:16
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There's only very minimal evidence for holidays in pre-agricultural people. What holidays they do have tend to be astronomical in nature... the two solstices and the two equinoxes, generally. When agriculture is developed, you start to see holidays develop for harvest times and planting times, and so forth.

Neither of these are possible. If they were to have religion, it might well develop without the concept of "holy days" at all. Given your constraints, I would avoid adding such a detail to the story. There is no reason to believe that holidays are even a human universal, let alone one for non-human intelligences.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm aware of this, but they are of human intelligence, they do have religions, and I want to give them holidays, even if it wouldn't be realistic for them to have it beforehand. Many of their holidays celebrate seasons, historical figures, or wars as well. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 22 '20 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay This doesn't seem possible given the constraints, unless you make something up and fail to justify it completely. Which you can do. There are various NYT Bestsellers List authors who do such things after all. $\endgroup$ – John O Oct 23 '20 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Would you mind sharing what makes it impossible then? $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 23 '20 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Jay "Holidays" aren't encoded in human brains, let alone non-human brains. There is no impetus for them to develop. If the events and circumstances that cause humans to develop holidays are absent, humans would not develop this cultural trait. Nor anything else. They're not going to invent atomic clocks just so your story can have holidays. Just handwave it away if you want it anyway. $\endgroup$ – John O Oct 23 '20 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I planned to hand-wave it. Also, these cats are essentially humans in cat bodies with a few cat instincts. I also figured that there would be some cultural influence from cats on the surface that do have holidays for events such as the change of seasons (Due to prey running better some seasons than others), which I thought might introduce them to at least the concept. Besides, the seasonal flooding brings food and ties into their religion, I figured that'd cross two conditions off the list to have at least one holiday. $\endgroup$ – Jay Oct 23 '20 at 18:18
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You can place the cave system near the shoreline of body of water connected to the ocean (If googlemaps doesn't lie, there's a couple of places for it in the state), and make some tunnel systems lead to it and go underwater. Then they will inevitably notice the tides as the water in the tunnels changes its level, in addition to the floods. In addition they could've relied on their circadian rhytmes to keep the sense of time. IIRC when humans tested that, also living in the caves, they have set on a consistent rhytme that was longer than a day, something like 28 hours or so.

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