You might have heard of the phrase “Elephants never forget,”. This alludes to how great the memory of an elephant is. But what about other animals? Domesticated animals like cats also have an excellent memory. Research shows that cats have superb short and long-term memories mainly focused on positive or adverse events, and important locations such as litter box placements.
Thanks to their short term memory, cats remember things for seconds, minutes, or hours. S don’t be surprised if they remember exactly where you put the cat food and where prey is at night. Likewise, their long term memory offers an impactful experience, usually at a younger age, that remain in their brain for years. For example, your kitty might hate a particular smell due to a past bad experience.
On the front, this article, we’ll discuss the extent of a cat’s memory in remembering other cats, people, and even abuse.
Can Cats Remember Their Owners?
Research has been divided on this topic throughout the years, with some arguing in the affirmative while others in the negative. However, many cat owners claim that their cats remember them after they’ve been away from home for months and, in some cases, years.
This may be due to the use of associative memory. For instance, a cat may run into the kitchen when it hears the sound of an electric can opener because it has associated that sound with food, shelter, or love—since these are crucial to any cat’s survival.
A cat might also remember you by imprinting. This typically happens when kittens are taken to a new home and imprint on their new owners as their mothers. Therefore, a cat more likely to miss you when you leave for long. It will quickly remember you upon your arrival.
Can Cats Remember Violence and Abuse?
Unfortunately, many cats in shelters have experienced abuse in the past before entering a loving home. And they remember it very well. This is because abuse is an impactful experience that leaves emotional wounds and naturally moves into their long-term memory.
Therefore, triggers like a voice, smell, or even a clap can send your cat into defensive mode, with some either unconsciously attacking or running to hide. If you’re bringing a cat home from a shelter, you have to note these triggers and avoid them.
Remember, though, that even if these triggers are avoided, abused cats may likely be distrustful. Therefore, be gentle with them, give them plenty of space, and make sure there are objects around the house it can easily hide in when feeling anxious.
Don’t immediately pursue it when it runs away from you unexpectedly; instead, give it space and use toys or treats to lure it out and build trust. This may take time. So, expect a few scratches in the process, so don’t take it personally. Visiting the veterinarian should also be mandatory.
Do Cats Remember other Pets?
Research has shown that cats use two of their senses to remember other cats; namely smell and hearing. Cats can recognize the distinct smell of their companions for months or years. However, this might fade away if their companions are moved to a different environment, which disrupts their unique scent over time.
This is why mothers who are separated from their kittens may not recognize them if reunited for a long time. Although their sense of hearing is not as heightened as that of smell, some experiments have shown that kittens would be able to differentiate between their mother’s voice and other female cats and draw closer to it.
Another interesting observance is that cats notice when their feline companions are no longer with them (whether due to death ot moving to another home). Some stories tell of a cat’s change in behavior, such as acting grumpy, irritated, and having a loss of appetite—as if these behaviors were their way of grieving or missing the companion.
Can Cats Remember Location of Home, and how?
A cat’s sense of direction has been a fascinating topic for many researchers and owners alike. There has been news of cats finding their way home after being lost for days or sometimes years. How do they do this? Some experts assume this may be due to the iron in their inner ears acting as a natural compass.
Others are sure that cats can sense the earth’s magnetic fields and use them for direction. However, most people believe that cats have a homing instinct that helps them perceive direction, even beyond the use of the five ordinary senses.
One thing researchers are sure of is that a cat’s senses are powerful. This includes their sense of touch (using their fur and paws), their precise vision especially at night, their acute hearing, and their well-developed smell (with over 19 million scent receptors). These senses help cats in locating places they want to go to.
This, however, does not mean that all cats can find their way back home when they get lost. Therefore, ensure to keep your cat protected and secure to avoid this.
Do Senior Cats Experience Memory Loss?
As cats get older, they do experience reduced cognitive functions. According to research, some even risk of developing Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
If your cat is aged between 11 – 15 years, there is a 55% chance of them developing FCD, and if they are aged between 16 – 20 years, there is a higher chance of 80%. When this happens, you’ll see your cat looking lost in familiar places, as well as changes in habitual behavior, loss of appetite, disinterest in petting or walks, being constantly irritable, and many others.
To help reduce memory loss in your cat, you can feed it with food rich in omega-three fatty acids and antioxidants. If your cat is already between the ages aforementioned and showing behavioral changes like those previously discussed, it would be best to visit our veterinarian to find out more about FCD and treatments available for your cat.
How Much Do Cats Remember Summary
All in all, cats are complex and intelligent animals that recognize their environment using a myriad of specialized senses.