How long is a cat memory
How long is a cat's memory?
How long do cats remember places and people? I will be leaving the house for about half a year in the next few months. Will my cat remember me when I come back?
Cats remember places and people, although where / who they remember and how long they change (just like humans).
Some research has been done on short term memory in cats, but I have been able to find less information on long term memory.
This article is poorly referenced, but it does contain some long-term memory statements that are claimed to be research-based:
Researchers have found that there isn't much of a difference in how the brain of a cat, human, or other animal uses certain cues to aid in the formation of short- and long-term memories. A cat's brain function has been compared to that of a two- to three-year-old child, and compared to a dog, a cat's memory is almost 200 times more retentive. Without repetitive and vigorous training, a dog's memory span is approximately 5 minutes. Cats, on the other hand, had an average of 16 hours only when the activity was beneficial to them.
A cat's long-term memories are directly related to experiencing pleasure (benefit) or displeasure (pain, fear, or threat). For example, it takes a lot of time and patience to gain the trust of an abused or neglected cat. If they have suffered physical or mental abuse by a man or child, they will associate that memory with all men and all children. The same applies to positive experiences. Whenever a cat receives affection, praise, or reward for a particular activity, it is stored in their memory as a "good cause" and they will continue to use it to their advantage.
The inevitable anecdotes
I believe I've seen cats remember me for years after prolonged interactions. An example is a roommate of mine who I lived with about 10 years ago. His cat is generally not friendly, but we got along very well and I was one of the few people who actively sought out the cat (i.e. he climbed onto my lap and sat there while I petted him). After my friend moved out, there was a year or two between visits to his new home, and when I passed his cat would still come and climb on my lap to pet. Unfortunately, over time my visits have become less frequent (I moved out of the area), and while the cat still seems to remember me, it is no longer as friendly to me as it used to be.
Here's a video of someone who claims to have been reunited with their cat over a year after leaving and roaming the neighborhood as a feral cat:
The internet is littered with similar claims. There are also a ton of unreferenced claims about cat memory that I'm not going to mention here.
However, it is fairly certain that your cat will remember you after 6 months if you interact with the cat regularly.
Whether the cat is happy to see you (first) will be a different story ... ours tend to get mad at us when we return after a few days of departure and we get the "cold shoulder" for first Day or so :)
My cats were 8 months away from me. The first day they were nervous about the new environment (one more than the other), but they didn't seem afraid of me. Within a day they played together and did familiar happy things like rolling on their backs. Purring and tail-high like a kite that beheads with everything. They even gave kisses on the second day. They slept most of the day but enjoyed the Florida breeze from the patio. The second day they played at 10 p.m., chasing each other, and interacting with me in familiar, individual ways. They slept next to us and lay on our laps all day. They will remember you.
My cat currently lives with my parents - the first time he has lived with them in their new house (5 years). He chose to sleep by the side of a bookcase he gave birth 14.5 years ago in their old house. Did he remember anything on the shelf, or is the smell of my mother's study in the new house the same as in the old house? Whatever, I think it's amazing!
I know cats have memories. I have known many cats in my life and have often observed that they "remember" me. I have seen this in cats who, for me, behave in a special way compared to other people. I knew this one cat especially ("Maggie") for most of its 22 year life (although I only had her for the last 7-8 years).
She would enjoy participating in this ritual game / fight with me (and no one would see her do it with other people). She got up on a surface covered with cloth (like a bed, but sometimes a couch) and pawed it angrily with her front paws. This would be my queue to stroke her on her sides very quickly, then she would fall on her side and the game would begin.
My goal was to touch her whiskers or stomach, and her goal was to bite me before I did (she pulled her punches so she never broke her skin). She did this after one of the early times I met her and always did it with me, although it sometimes took months or a year before I saw her again.
I agree with the statement that just like people, their memories are variable. They tend to remember people and how people treated them pretty well.
I have a cat who is not friendly at all and takes a long time to warm up to anyone. I had a living friend and after a while we broke up and didn't see each other for over a year. We were then reunited and his first time back in the house, my rude cat was all over him as if he had never left. Your cats will remember you.
We bought a jet black cat and after two weeks a friend got jet black for her too ... Chloe and Zoë. After about two months, both kittens are gone. We think they played outside and a dog chased them and they got lost. After 5 months we gave up hope and the children accepted the worst, they died. We are about to move to the country and this morning while we are having coffee, Zoë is coming! Weeping, moaning and very thin with a large cut on the thigh. She came into the house immediately without hesitation. She immediately wanted my attention. I was so excited it took me a few minutes to tell if it was Zoë or Chloe. Zoë was shorter and only had a few white hairs on her chest. It's almost 7 months later and she came back. She only lived with us for a little over 3 months, so yes, if you treat your pet well, they will remember and will come back again! I wish she could tell us what happened. :)
I was separated from my cat twice for 18 months and one more time for 25 months, every time I got home the cat interacted with me as if I had never left. I'm also almost the only person the cat would love to interact with
I think that answer depends a lot on what you are talking about. There is of course the obvious distinction between positive and negative things (extreme things are likely to be better remembered than moderate things). I'm more interested in more subtle distinctions: specifically between the 5 senses. I suppose cats remember a person for a long time, not how they look or how they sound or act. I think the cat may only remember a person by smell. For a cat and any other hunting animal, it is advantageous to remember scents for a long time, for obvious reasons. In fact, every animal should be able to remember smells well, as it must be able to identify and track pheromones as well as identify and track animal tracks.
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