Discover the Top 15 Animals With Short Attention Spans

Written by William Mullane
Published: October 13, 2023
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We have all enjoyed a chuckle at the adorable dog walking across the lawn when, in the blink of an eye, “Squirrel!” Off goes the pup that will then maintain the chase until “Car!” Food, frisbee, bone — nearly anything can distract a dog. Still, many people might not realize that there are reasons for their limited ability to focus and the short attention spans of many animals, some of which are critical for survival. This is true for countless creatures, so let’s discover the top 15 animals with short attention spans.

Check out these 15 animals that have infamously short attention spans.

1. Fruit Flies

A fruit fly on a green piece of fruit

Fruit flies enjoy just about any type of fruit.

©Jordan Lye/Shutterstock.com

Since they are so tiny and frequently seen buzzing around in a sort of scattered daze, it’s likely, not surprising to learn that fruit flies have about the shortest attention span in the animal kingdom. These insects are distracted by just about anything in their surroundings. Nevertheless, fruit flies provide plenty of vital services, including human research. Scientists commonly use fruit flies to understand focus-related disorders such as autism and ADHD.

2. Goldfish

goldfish in aquarium

Despite their short attention spans, recent research has shown that goldfish have better memory than previously thought.

©Darko Cvetanoski/Shutterstock.com

Most types of fish are distracted in a heartbeat. However, goldfish, in particular, have such short attention spans that their memory only lasts for mere seconds at a time. Their short memory makes them easy-to-maintain pets. Moreover, goldfish are commonly used in many scientific studies that focus on learning as they quickly forget previous activities. Speaking of studies, however, it was recently discovered that goldfish can remember certain things for as long as five months! Nevertheless, their attention spans are still minuscule.

3. Squirrels

Douglas Squirrel

Various types of squirrels thrive in locations all around the world.

©Randy Bjorklund/Shutterstock.com

With seemingly never-ending energy, squirrels have an immensely high metabolism, making them search for food constantly. Alongside their incessant foraging, food and shiny or moving objects quickly distract these loveable rodents. This combination is why you can look out your window at any given time of day and see one leaping from branch to branch or darting frantically across the road.

4. Parakeets

Animal, Bird, Love - Emotion, Budgerigar, Pets

Parakeets or “budgies” will frequently groom one another.

©iStock.com/Werner Baumgarten

Native to Australia, parakeets, also known as budgerigars or “budgies,” are gorgeous, colorful birds known for their energy. There is no shortage of entertainment for them in their homeland down under. However, domesticating these delightful creatures means providing a plethora of mental stimulation. Keeping your parakeets happy and healthy requires frequently changing or rotating toys, talking to them, and providing plenty of space to fly. This is because their extremely short attention spans cause them to get bored quickly. And a bored parakeet is a sad parakeet.

5. Dogs

Despite being adorable and social, dogs are distracted easily.

©Paulconwall / CC BY-SA 4.0 – License

While beloved by most, any dog owner can tell you they have been charmed and annoyed by their fur friend’s lack of attention. Dogs are notorious for being easily distracted by sights, smells, and sounds, no matter where they are, but especially outdoors. Their short attention spans can make training them a challenge, as dogs can rapidly lose focus and begin sniffing anything nearby.

If you want to keep your dog’s attention, positive reinforcement can be a tremendous difference-maker. You can keep your dog’s focus and motivate them by offering simple rewards for good behavior. It’s also good to prevent overwhelming your favorite pet by breaking training sessions into short periods.

6. Cats

Pets, Sleeping, Domestic Cat, Toy, Cute

Providing your cat with interactive toys can help strengthen their focus.

©anastas_/1391797125 via Getty Images

Our feline house guests are well-known for their lackadaisical attitudes and propensity to wander off without hesitation randomly. Like dogs, cats are tough to train as they quickly lose focus and even the most minor movements, sounds, and smells can easily distract them and draw their attention away from their immediate surroundings.

Since cats are fiercely independent, giving them interactive toys and trinkets to encourage long periods of engagement can improve their focus. However, keep in mind that routinely changing out their toys is crucial to preventing boredom.

7. Mice

Pet Mice

Due to their high metabolism, mice need to eat frequently.

©Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

The mouse — the housecat’s arch nemesis, is not only adorable but also highly social. While these attributes make mice fun pets, anyone who has spent time with them has noticed their limited attention spans. Their inability to focus quickly results in boredom. This is part of why they seem to be endlessly running and playing. If you have a pet mouse, providing them with plenty of exercise toys, such as a wheel, is essential.

8. Hamsters

Best Animals For Kids

Hamsters have short attention spans to help them stay aware of their immediate surroundings.

©iStock.com/Michel VIARD

Like squirrels, hamsters have a very high metabolism, resulting in the frequent need for food to sustain themselves. These nocturnal animals are known for their exceptionally short attention spans, often unable to focus on any task for longer than a few seconds. Their inability to concentrate makes them easily bored, so providing plenty of interactive toys and stimulation is essential to keeping one as a pet.

9. Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Hydrangea

Hummingbirds consistently feed to keep their energy levels as high as possible.

©R.C. Bennett/Shutterstock.com

Always searching, hummingbirds use a lot of energy to flap their wings at a rate of up to 70 wingbeats per second or more than 4,000 times per minute. Their rapid movements and high metabolism result in constant feeding, which goes part and parcel with their incredibly short attention spans. While intelligent, hummingbirds must be able to seek out food constantly, so movements and sights of possible food sources quickly distract them.

10. Guinea Pigs

Guinea Pigs Squeak

Guinea Pigs make amazing pets due to their inherently social behavior.

©Rita_Kochmarjova/Shutterstock.com

These highly social animals, known for their ridiculously short attention spans, require plenty of attention and stimulation. Many love domesticating guinea pigs as they are friendly, fluffy, and cute. However, Keeping them as pets means understanding their inability to focus and providing sufficient exercise and toys to keep them occupied and healthy.

11. Ants

An ant standing on a leaf drinking water from a pond.

Ants maintain focus while in a line but get lost very quickly.

©teguh santosa kedua/Shutterstock.com

Most people know ants are revered for their tireless work ethic and relative strength. Watching a line of ants march toward their destination supports the idea that these tiny creatures can maintain steady focus. And they can! However, if you see one fall out of line, their short attention span becomes immediately apparent. Encountering even one obstacle can cause an ant to lose track of its trail within seconds. Any perceived food source also retains the ability to easily distract the ant.

12. Ferrets

Animals That Stay Up All night - Black footed Ferret

Ferrets require consistent interaction to remain healthy and strong.

©Kerry Hargrove/Shutterstock.com

Native to the continent of Europe, ferrets are small, carnivorous mammals known for their curious and playful nature. Of course, along with their happy-go-lucky demeanors, they are also well-known for their particularly short attention spans. To keep them healthy and happy, ferrets require consistent mental enrichment and lots of stimulating activities to keep them engaged.

13. Rabbits

Wild vs domestic rabbits

Rabbits are incredibly curious and sometimes hide in places they shouldn’t.

©Nadezhda V. Kulagina/Shutterstock.com

These fuzzy, adorable, playful little mammals have incredibly short attention spans and high metabolisms. During their frequent searches for food, the plethora of sights, sounds, and smells in their environment easily distracts rabbits in their natural environment. Their curious nature and short attention span can get them into trouble, so thankfully, they have plenty of speed on their side.

14. Moths

A giant leopard moth on a rock

Many moths display an astonishingly wide variety of colors and patterns.

©Radu Privantu / CC BY 2.0 / flickr – License

As the final insect on this list, moths are also notorious for their tendency to be distracted. The number of known species of moths worldwide is approximately 160,000. These creatures are essential in their ecosystem as they are vital pollinators. Unfortunately, any light source can easily distract any type of moth, regardless of their specific species. Their tiny attention spans and immediate fixation on light sources commonly result in their detriment.

15. Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent and social but easily distracted as well.

©Ari Wid/Shutterstock.com

This is likely the most surprising animal to make this list. Chimpanzees are very well-known for their problem-solving skills and ability to remember the faces of other chimps. Their remarkable cognitive abilities make it difficult to think that chimpanzees have short attention spans, but it’s true. When observed in the wild, it becomes evident that chimps routinely switch from foraging to grooming to play-fighting. This displays an inability to maintain focus.

Interestingly, a notion that is becoming accepted is that their short attention spans may result from adaption to their fast-paced lifestyle. In their natural habitat, chimps must frequently scan their surroundings and remain responsive to the elements around them. The incredible biodiversity in the animal kingdom is fascinating, and every unique characteristic can remind us of the remarkable nature of each creature on Earth.

Summary of Animals with Short Attention Spans

Animals
1Fruit Flies
2Goldfish
3Squirrels
4Parakeets
5Dogs
6Cats
7Mice
8Hamsters
9Hummingbirds
10Guinea Pigs
11Ants
12Ferrets
13Rabbits
14Moths
15Chimpanzees

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

William Mullane is a freelance writer with experience that stretches the boundaries of the typical wordsmith. A native of the Buffalo, NY area, William mostly grew up on a farm in rural Western New York. His early life resulted in a deep love for animals and an appreciation for hard work. William spent over two decades as a musician and hardscape specialist before earning a BA in creative writing. He worked as a writer and editor for several years and currently writes for Flywheel Publishing. William spends his days as a father first, writer second, and die-hard Bills fan all year round!

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