"There is a mystery about the birth of those kittens. There were seven. One, a white kit -- and it is painful to think how beautiful a cat he would have been -- she pushed out of the nest, and it was found dead a couple of days later ... And she pushed out another, too, a little tabby. I left it for half a day, cold and unfed, thinking I must stop my sentimentality, grieving about nature's choices: if she had thrown him out then who was I etc. but I could not bear it, hearing his feeble mews, and I put him back among the others, and there were six thriving kits. Susie, then, had an ambiguous attitude to those kittens. Seven, she had clearly thought, were too many, and even six were. She had not been prepared to mother more than five kittens, and certainly when the six were rampaging around my room one could see her point.
I am saying that this cat could count, and if she was not thinking one, two, three, four, five, then she knew the difference between five and seven. Most scientists would dispute this, I'm pretty sure. That is, as scientists they would dispute it, but as owners of cats, probably not. It is interesting, watching a scientist friend talk about cat capacities that he would officially deny. His cat is always in the window waiting for him to come home, he says, but wearing his other hat, says animals have no sense of time, they live in an eternal now. He may go on to say that if he is not expected home, the cat is not there, but this takes him into regions he finds intolerable."
Doris Lessing, The Old Age of El Magnifico