While Snowball may not remember what dress you were wearing yesterday or the last American Idol winner, cats surely can prove to have a good recollection of events important to them. There are many testimonies to this if owners of cats watch their feline friends closely.
A cat's recording of events seems to be particularly relevant when associated with pain or pleasure. These two opposite feelings seem to leave an imprint in a cat's mind.
Cats' Memory of Painful Events
Let's take a look at how painful or stressful events remain vivid in a cat's mind. For instance, the majority of cats will go absent without official leave upon seeing their owners grab their carrier. This is because cats have quickly learned to associate (thanks to memories) the carrier with something unpleasant like being carried out of their familiar territory.
Cats may be become tense upon going to the vet. Most cats will remember that is the place full of dogs that bark, and nurses that stick thermometers up their behinds and puncture them with needles. Your cat may also hide under the bed upon seeing you open that pill bottle ready to throw that nasty-tasting tablet down the cat's throat.
Cats may also remember that uncle Joe dislikes him or her and will never forget getting pushed away from the couch when they tried to approach him purring. Abused cats may seem to remember, through fear, owners that mistreated them or hurt them.
Cats' Memory of Pleasant Events
Good memories are obviously much more pleasant to cats. Your cat will remember that when you come home from the market (which cats perceive as your "hunting session") you will bring home some great canned goodies and that when you turn the can opener very likely some tuna juice will follow.
Your cat will also remember that Aunt Rosie loves to exchange some nose kisses and that nice little pats and scratches on the ears will follow. Cats that are leash trained will remember that the leash is something positive that allows them to get some fresh air and see the chirping birdies.
"Imprinting," a term familiar to breeders, is closely related to memory. Imprinting is the process of handling small kittens (even days old) for the purpose of getting them socialized and familiar with humans. Intense bonding can form when the kitten is handled during some crucial phases of its life. When done properly, imprinting will cause a cat to accept humans and trust them throughout their lives. Isn't this, after all, a great example of how cats remember?
While most cats demonstrate a good ability to recollect events and associate facts with happenings, it may seem challenging to prove that cats have long-term memory. However, I can attest to that from personal experience.
My Persian cat years lived with my parents and me in Italy for a good five years. Upon getting married, my hubby got orders to move to Germany with the Army and my dear kitty had to come with us. We spent a good three years in Germany for the whole length of the assignment and then we were sent back to Italy.
It was hard to believe, but when she came back to her home in Italy after three years, my cat went straight to her water bowl under the table in the kitchen. Uncertain if this was a coincidence or not, I had to believe again when she headed right out to the balcony to go potty and went inside the covered box that had been left as is when we left. She also remembered her favorite sleeping spots, and occupied once again that nice area right where the sun rays hit the couch.
She was utterly comfortable, which further proved that she remembered well. I knew from experience that when we moved into a new, unfamiliar home, she would cry and hide under beds and refuse food for the first days. Here instead, it was as if she knew she was back to her home sweet home. Sometimes I wonder if perhaps she was able to pick up her old scent left around in that building after those long three years.
She further surprised me when I went to what once was my old room and opened my jewelry box to pull out an old chain necklace I used to drag around to play with her. She perked her ears straight up and left her soft couch ready for a game full of action, just as in the old days.
Cats are surely remarkable and fascinating animals to study. Just when we think we know them so well, they will surprise us with their smart acts suggesting a higher-than-expected intelligence. I am sure cats have both short-term and long-term memory, and that if given the opportunity, they may be able to prove it, whether you believe it or not.
JenM on September 01, 2020:
Thank you for this article! I believe all of what you wrote to be true! They might have bad short term memories at times hahaha but they are extremely smart and they fascinate me all the time. My outdoor cat knows the sound of my car, even before I am fully parked, she will run and wait on the sidewalk or the stairs for me. I don’t like her being an outdoor cat, but she is almost 13 and will not stay inside no matter how hard we try. She has never liked other cats and they all sure know it, so what do they do? They sometimes won’t leave her alone (they think it’s playing) when she comes in so she will want to go right back out. Poor thing. Lily a tough girl. She is my oldest cat and one year younger than my youngest daughter.
I came across this article because I have to bring my Toby to the vet tomorrow because he needs a checkup in order to be prescribed his cat food that has been literally saving his life after a bladder obstruction last year. He is a scaredy-cat when it comes to leaving, like almost all cats are. I just don’t like having to bring him out and stressing him out like this because of a ridiculous “law” that says he needs to be checked to get his $50-120/mo wet and dry cat food. They told me it was a lifetime issue and he has to eat this food forever. He can never go back to his old diet because the crystals will come back. I know it to be true because shortly after his procedure where they emptied his bladder, he ate a little of his old food by accident and slight symptoms came back. So now they all (3) have to eat the expensive diet so there’s no risk in that happening again. But why not tell me about this year “law” beforehand so I could have orderEd his food and not almost run out of it and have to stress about getting an appointment during this already stressful time. These vets are all money hungry I think because I was told by chewy that if the get puts “life/forever” on the authorization they would never need approval and I will never have to wait a month for their food. Why would I want to spend that much on cat food if I didn’t need to?
Sorry for the rambling. Basically, I was just seeing if cats really did remember the cat carrier and what goes with that. Deep down I already knew. Thank you though for a great article!!!
Joyce Moyle on August 01, 2020:
My cats was29and 39there was my babys and love them very much.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 31, 2012:
Jason, did your cat come back? I really hope he does!
Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on August 30, 2012:
Cool! This proves my suspicion cats have phenomenal memory. I thought so when my cat went bonkers when he heard me pick up a toy I had put away. He did not even see it and he only heard me picking it up...nothing else. It had been over a year that said toy was used since I had moved and it was put away. I was floored that he remembered the specific noise, which to me was no different than a set of keys I normally pick up.
His "hearing memory and recognition of sound" is so much better than mine...lol
Jason Chen on August 27, 2012:
I had a neutered, born feral and adopted originally as a "barn cat" by my landlord, which transitioned to indoor/outdoor by following my cats home, which were originally also born feral and were adopted to be "barn cats". 17 months ago , I moved from the 20 acre property in Truckee CA where these cats and I resided to a 3 bedroom townhouse across town in a mountain resort community called Tahoe Donner. The landscape is similarly wooded, bordered by national forest land, but the lot sizes of homes are smaller and neighbors closer. Because the house was large, I decided for the safety of the cats, I would keep them as indoor only cats. The cats didn't seem to mind because they always seemed so relaxed, happy and having a lot of fun. It brings me so much joy to watch them play and be so loving to each other. However,since these cats were born feral and didn't have much human contact their first 30 days as adopted kittens (they were not going to be house cats originally), these cats, although very affectionate are not 100% trusting of me. In different parts of the house, some of the cats do not like to be handled. But all the cats seem to be the most trusting and comfortable, snuggling up to me for brushing, petting, in the my bedroom. The other night, the cat got out when he jumped on the window screen to catch a bug, and I, not knowing the cat got out closed the window ( escape point). He was unable to reenter the house and spent the night out. The next day, I made the mistake of replacing the screen window to keep my other cats from exiting the house and that night, I closed the window. What I should have done was to secure the other cats in another room and leave the window open for the cat to reenter by way of exit. The cat made an attempt to reenter but couldn't. It was a vigorous attempt because the window screen was smashed bent. I saw the cat the next day sitting on the retaining wall behind the house about 30 feet from the window escape point. I called out to the cat from the escape point window, but the cat turned it's back to me and retreated into the woods. Is the last memory this cat has of me is that I didn't let him reenter the house? This cat is the most affectionate of all my cats and one of two cats that likes my lap. Throughout the day and night, this cat has shown me, and given me so much affection, I couldn't understand why he rejected me instead of running to me. I am not sure, but his inability to reenter the house might be perceived as being abandoned and I causing harm to it . I have also read that cats thrust into an unfamiliar environment will lose memory of their owners after 72 hours and the owner will be a complete stranger and perceived as a threat. I have been calling for him day and night, first putting out food and water, then his bed and toy for familiar scent. I have gone into the woods in the early morning hours(1am-5am) , with an open can of food, kibble being shaken in a tin bowl and softly calling out his name, Van Gogh, Van Gogh, Vanny ,but to no avail. I removed the food and water, as it could attract other animals whose scent would scare the cat away. Last night, I grilled a piece of salmon as there was a light breeze, hoping the breeze could carry the scent of food to the cat. I couldn't even eat this beautiful piece of fish knowing that my cat was out in the wild; thirsty, dehydrated,very hungry and maybe injured from his aggressive attempt initially to reenter the house .
Tonight will be one week since Van Gogh got out. Tonight, I am going to camp out where I saw Van Gogh last, hoping that he sees me sleeping from where he is hiding and jars his memory, and remembers all the cuddling and affection he received when he jumped on my bed to visit and return home.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2012:
And they do, and I have another story to prove this. Two years ago, my hubby's dad got sick and we to move overseas, we took along our dogs but we could not take along the cats. So a neighbor watched over them for over a year. When we came back the cats acted happy to see the dogs, while my neighbor reported they hated other dogs!
Thomas Mulrooney from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on June 21, 2012:
Whenever it's raining and my cat comes in from outside I get a towel out to wipe her down, especially her paws so she doesn't trample mud all over the house. She now knows to hide under the table when she see's this towel, although give her some food first and she'll be too preoccupied to care that you're wiping her down.
As for fear my dad has shouted at the cat a bit and she tends to avoid him a lot. He wonders why and I keep telling him it's probably because he's shouted at her in the past, plus he can be a bit noisy generally and I don't think she likes that. She won't even come in for him when he opens the front door and she's waiting outside, only coming in for me.
Our old cat used to run upstairs as a kitten and jump into the bath, having a lot of fun just sliding around. You know what's coming, right? Someone let the cat in and my mum was filling the bath, he ran straight up and jumped into the water. Guess what? Yep, he never did it again lol.
Starmom41 on June 20, 2012:
Great hub! My cat has been with me a little less than 3 years, but she still acts scared if I leave her alone at night, or when she wakes up in the dark in a different room than me. I think she had 4 or 5 previous owners, plus spent time in an animal shelter, all during her first few years of life.
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on June 20, 2012:
Ooh, moonlake. Thank goodness he was ok! It's amazing how they remember everything, really. Mine rarely needs meds, but when they do, I have to hide it behind my back and walk casually over to them so they won't see the dropper and freak out!
moonlake from America on June 20, 2012:
We have our cat treats in the pantry in a jar. One day the cat wanted a treat. I picked up the jar and it slipped out of my hand, hit the cat. Thank goodness, he was ok. He has never forgot. He won't take treats from me only from my husband. Enjoyed your hub vote up.
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on June 20, 2012:
Fascinating hub, as I think cats are fascinating creatures. Oh, yes, they remember after much time has passed. I really enjoyed every word of this hub. Many vote and sharing! Oh, and you just reminded me that I haven't given one of my cats his antibiotics today for his gum inflammation. Dang, I dread that.
Charles on June 20, 2012:
My feline friend BANDIT and i moved to different house last year. He had only been in the house 30 minutes before he and i went out to the back yard. Before we went out he smelled the recliner were his food & water sits in. we were outside a few minutes and i went around the corner for less than a minuite, next thing i know he is no where to be sene. I looked for him all over the place yelling his name. He was gone for 5-6 hours, about 9 that night i heard a meeooww at the sliding glass door, and there was bANDIT.
jose on June 03, 2012:
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 01, 2012:
The recovery time may take some time. Try using a Feliway plug-in. Sounds like he has been traumatized. Give him time, he should warm up to you once he settles. best wishes!
Jenna on June 01, 2012:
My cat was stolen from me from a local addict 2 + years ago today someone returned him to me. He's not acting like he knows me. He's 6 and sure he was mistreated. Does anyone know how long till he remembers me and our dog. They grew up as babies together! I just want my ozzy back can someone help
tosocialsuccess from United States of A on March 02, 2012:
Nice work... Your cat seems very fidgety~
arusho from University Place, Wa. on February 18, 2012:
great hub! I think cats have great memory too!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 17, 2012:
My cats were away from my home and dogs for over a year (my neighbor kept them while we traveled overseas with our dogs)and after all this time they remembered the dogs and house as if it was yesterday!
reikieffect on February 17, 2012:
I agree with cat memory; they are so smart. One cat I had woke me up on the middle of the night with a shoe string hanging from her teeth...she wanted to play!
Chankeylong from Banana Republic on February 17, 2012:
As for the memory of the cats, it's really good.
Two years ago my cat jumped on a working iron and got burn. Since then he run away every time he sees the iron :) Sometimes it's even useful: every time he thinks he lacks attention from my side, he pees on my shoes. And the best way to prevent this from happening is to place an iron near the shoes :) Tomas is simply afraid of getting close enough to my shoes :)
Anonymous on December 29, 2011:
I have a weird thing with cats. I used to have a male cat who was about 4 and we were fine we were living together for like 3 years. With no problems! Then out of nowhere I was sitting in the living room and he was at the other side of the room.then he suddenly came running at me hissing I jumped away. About a week after that I came into the room and he had been fine then he saw me ,hissed ,&ran away. I found out after he left the room, that he had pee himself. This cat died. So my family got a new cat a male kitten he has been with us since may 2011 about a month ago he started to act strange I was walking down the hallway when I seen him watching me , in the crouching position as if to pounce, he jumped and surprized me. He didn't jump at me straight up he put his arms to the side and legs looking like a star! And tried to jump on me. Ever since he now stalks me around the house. I will be in my bedroom and he will be watching me then I will go to the kitchen and look around he corns and find him right behind me. He doesn't look at me normal his eyes get all huge as if he is frightened. This hasn't stopped since. I also have a female cat I have had her longer then the first male cat. She has never attacked me once. Is my problem just with male cats? Or is it something else? My grandmother said it could be something with my aura that could cause the cats to react like this. I have no clue. Doe somebody know anything about this?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 28, 2011:
Webgirl, With years of owning cats and dogs I came to the understanding that cats do not understand the concept of ''medicating'', such as giving meds, giving injections, medicating ears, eyes, or taking a temperatures. For most cats it is something unpleasant we are doing to them. Unless, one dedicates a tremendous amount of time giving treats while medicating, most cats will resist such procedures. It is not your fault, this is just how cats are.
It is hard to say if this is your cat. Yes, I believe some cats will come if you talk to them and perhaps they are hungry. But from your description it looks like he may likely be your cat. Perhaps the best way to know if it is truly him would be to take him home and see if he would remember where he must go potty, where his food and water bowl is etc. I was in Italy for two years and a neighbor kept my cats for the time being. Now, that I am back, both cats remember our home, they adjusted fast and they also remember our dogs. I know this was impossible if they did not remember, they would have hidden somewhere and ran away from our dogs as they did with other dogs my neighbor had. They just felt at home.
I would not rely much on your cat's reaction to him once home as cats may react oddly when cats are away for some time. For instance, at the vet's office I worked at, if one cat went under surgery, once back at home, the other cat hissed at it, because it smelled different. We told clients therefore to get a shirt and pass it on it so it would smell again like home. I hope he is the cat you wish he is, and that you can have a chance of bringing him back home. Best wishes.
Webgirl on November 27, 2011:
Also, my other cat (Puma) has gone through crying for him, acting like he depressed, and not really being himself since Butters has left. I have kept Puma inside more and I now accompany him when I do let him outside. Puma is more attached to me and senses the deep loss of Butters. He also used to be more energetic and playful but now just lays around and doesn't do much of anything. I believe I have found Butters but dont know how to get him back. How do I get Butters back? Even if I call his name, he doesn't run back to me. Is it because he thinks I will give him medicine and get him wet again? Can he forget me, Puma, so quickly?
Webgirl on November 27, 2011:
I was given two cats, American Shorthairs, about 4 years ago. They were two brothers, one more dominant (Puma) than the other (Butters). They did everything together, played, wrestled, groomed, and occasionally fought with one another. I was told that they should never be split apart and they weren't. I fell in love with both as they are very affectionate and loving.
This past summer, Butters developed a seizure, became stiff, and wasn't himself. It seemed like he walked into the walls, couldn't jump up on the bed, or eat, or drink anything. I took him to the vet, where she mentioned to me that it might be the fillers in the dry food he has had for all these years causing him to almost be dehydrated and lethargic, causing this seizure. She mentioned another type of canned cat food and I immediately did this upon taking him home. He refused to eat, so I gave him food, water, and medicine in a eye dropper with water. I also gave him some Pedialyte with water to prevent further dehydration. He still wasn't doing well when my son accidently let him out of house. He ran under the porch and stayed there. I turned on the sprinkler so that he would not run away. I didn't realize that the water was spraying on him at the time, so I immediately turned it off. He cam out from under the porch, wet, and I tried to run after him to catch him, knowing that if he ran, he may not come back. That was August 2nd, 2011. He did not return the next day or since then. I put fliers out and have gone all over the neighborhood looking for my cat, whom I dearly love. I feel guilty because I think he left me because he thought I was treating him badly.
Now, after many sightings of my black cat, I saw him yesterday after I thought he had died. I walked up to him in a field where he was sitting, and I sat on the ground, calling him by his name. He at first tried to run away but slowly came back and was meowing to me when I was calling his name. He was a bit smaller but I could tell it was him by the way he walked. He walked into my lap and I petted him gently. I then immediately picked him up and then tried to get up from the sitting position. He started to hiss at me, scratched my hand and chest, and jumped out from my hands and ran away. I ran after him but couldn't find him. I went to all the neighbors, and they know of him. I went to the girl that also owns a black cat. She says that she has owned this cat for a long time, but yet says to me that "You can have the cat". Why on earth would she say that if she owns the cat?
My question: Could my cat have left me because he thought I was mistreating it (when I was just trying to feed it and give it water and medicine) and also got it wet by accident and gone to another house to live (or worse, lives by itself, hunting in the wild)? I know this was my cat (it came to me and was meowing when I was calling it). Also, would another cat come up to me if I was calling it by another name and meow? Thanks.
Jameshank from Japan, NY, California on November 27, 2011:
Interesting hub! I never thought that cats can have memory this great.
Brian Weekes from Queensland, Australia on November 19, 2011:
A wonderful story.
I do not think I will ever have another cat or dog because of the pain of loss of previous pets, howeer your story brought back some wonderful memories.
wanzulfikri from Malaysia on November 19, 2011:
Really? Maybe wolves imprint...that's what happens in the Twilight series
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 19, 2011:
I know horse, dogs, birds and cats respond to imprinting. I am not sure about other species though.
wanzulfikri from Malaysia on November 19, 2011:
I've heard about the imprinting thing in the Twilight series. I see that cats can do that too. Or all animals imprint?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 17, 2011:
Dalene, sorry to hear your cat is going through such an ordeal. To tell the truth, cats generally do not do well in a hospital environment. There are scary noises, new smells and barking dogs. Yes, they are treated by the caring vet staff, they are in safe hands, but psychologically, cats do best in the home. But of course, this is not always possible. In serious diseases, being monitored by veterinary staff and having access to IV fluids, and other medical equipment that cannot be used at home is a must. But yes, cats can be stressed in a hospital environment and the first thing that goes away in these cases is the appetite.
You really have to evaluate the pros and cons of the situation. It really ultimately depends on the severity of the disease and need to be monitored and given IV fluids etc.
I would discuss the chance of taking over at home with your vet. I have seen cats do miserably at the hospital and recover at home, but I also saw cats continue doing miserably at home because they were simply too sick. Consider though that at the vet's often cats are left all night on their own and nobody is there if there is a worsening of the condition. Ask your vet if there are staff there overnight.
If your vet claims that ''yes, you can try home care'' then perhaps you can give it a try for a couple of days. You should see soon if there are signs of improvement. Generally, if the cat has been stressed at the vets' the first few hours may be spent hiding, but after smelling familiar smells she MAY (I use this word with caution)feel better and perhaps even try to eat. I think investing in a pheromone plug-in diffuser plugged in hours prior to her coming back may help her if she is too stressed. Also cooking some chicken or fish may saturate your kitchen with yummy smells that may entice her to eat.
Again, this is something up to your vet and up to your cat's condition. You will have to assess if you can successfully provide the same treatments the vet are providing at home. If you are given the option to treat at home, make sure you are always available to monitor her and that you can quickly drive her to the hospital should she worsen. Sending best wishes your way...
Dalene on November 16, 2011:
My cat is in Hospital for tick fever. She is 6 years old. After all the medication and drips,she still does not want to eat by herself, and the vets are feeding her with a tube. She is getting weaker by the day and they said she might go into heart failure. This was devastating news to me this morning, as they told me yesterday, that her illness has not gone over into the yellow fever, wich is the serious effect of the illness. her redblood cells does not improve. My real question is this; do you think this could be emotional stress from her side, of missing home, and maybe feels like we have abandoned her? although i visit everyday? What impact does hospitalisation realy have on a cat emotionaly? It feels like I want to go and grab her and comfort her here at home with her familiar, happy surroundings, and just take her everyday for her medication and check ups. The mother cat is also at home and is searching for her. It breaks my heart.
Grandma Jean on October 04, 2011:
I sympathize with you, catlover. I used to have a Black Lab and got that phone call from the vet saying he didn't make it, and I was devastated. Now with my cat, I would be worse than devastated because we have become so attached to each other in these 4 years I've had her. (I had the Lab for 11 1/2 years.)
catlover on September 25, 2011:
my weekend has been awful. on stuarday we got a phone call saying my dear cat tiggy had been run over. she was suck an adventurous cat. anyway, my other cat tumble is now looking for her and i dont know how longhe will be looking for her for.he just sits by the cat flap waiting for her. she was only one year old and so she was not expected to die......
nnua on September 07, 2011:
Cats are generally very smart with good memories. I think the only area where they fail is with cars:( If a cat doesn't "obey" you often it's not because they don't understand. They just think...why should I? lol
As a case in point - when I was housesitting, I was able to "order" my friend's young male cats out of the master bedroom just by pointing a finger sternly out the bedroom door and saying "Out!". They knew they were not allowed in that room. I didn't train them nor offer rewards for obeying. When they grew up, they stop listening! ^-^
These 2 male cats also had the most adorable habit of sending me off to work every morning. They live in a quiet side lane with long rows of houses. Every morning, the young cats will trail behind me when I set off to take the bus to work. When they get about 50 metres from the busy main road, they would stop and sit by the side of the road watching me until I am out of sight. That was the end of their send-off ^-^ The first time they did this, I was terrified they wanted to follow me to work! I kept stopping and shooing them back but it didn't work. They stopped when I stopped and started trotting along when I resume.
Last year I went to stay at a friend's holiday house for 3 weeks. It was easy to befriend the cats on the estate (a gated community, cats have owners). As an ardent cat devotee, I was always good for sessions of petting and the occasional kitty treat when meeting any of the cats on my walks.
2 months later I had the opportunity to revisit again. I walked past one of the houses which belong to Rookie, a young light ginger tom. Suddenly I heard a meow from the surrounding bushes. Rookie appeared to greet me and we took up as if I had never left for 2 months! Rookie had never meowed at me before since he was usually in plain sight outside the house and not hiding in the bushes. It was obviously a cat-to-human greeting, as said human with lousy eyesight was about to walk past his house without seeing him. Rookie could correctly identify me after 2 months. I should mention that I always use an umbrella as protection from the strong sun. From my distinctive silhouette, Rookie identified me, called out to me to stop and play with him.
In fact all the cats and the only dog from the estate community remembered me. I didn't have to re-introduce myself from scratch. Btw I didn't live with these cats and dogs. I probably interacted with these cats and dog about 6-10 times during the initial 3 week stay.
As mentioned above, I housesit for friends when they go away for vacation. My friend's cat Whisky could tell when I am going out (at different times). I am not exactly sure how she knows, either from a change my body language (brisk purposeful action getting ready) or getting my bag ready. My mum thinks that Whisky notice that I change into going-out clothes; I usually wear capris when heading out and lounge around at home in shorts.
Cats have the smarts!!!
Paul Cronin from Winnipeg on September 01, 2011:
This is a Great hub all cat lovers can surely appreciate. I' always amazed at how our cats seem to know certain actions mean certain things. One of our cats is actually like a dog, always greets us at the door when we come home, and also runs to our aide when she thinks we are being threatened! This latter one is real hilarious sometimes, we'll be horsing around and someone will scream, Bubbles will come running and sometimes has even jumped at and bitten (not too hard) who she believes is the naughty one! I love cats, and I love this hub. Voted Up and Awesome!
lilash84 from TX on August 21, 2011:
very interesting read...
rhys on August 07, 2011:
my cat, Ozzy was sitting on the top of the chair which is touching the kitchen worktops. My Dad said to my cat'Don't you dare go up on the worktops' With that, Ozzy placed his paw on the worktop, while still staring ate my dad, he straight away placed his paw back on the chair as if he was purposly trying to wind up my dad. Ozzy is just over a year old now
lejonkung on July 21, 2011:
Great hub! voted up and awesome! I have some hubs about cats aswell, check them out if you want to!
Alex on June 21, 2011:
I'm sure a lot of your cats will remember you guys. I wonder if it depends on the cat, though, like people (how some people are good with faces and names, etc.) But they seem to remember things pretty well. I went out of state for college for a year and had to leave my cats at home with my parents and sister. One of them (our only boy cat) would only cuddle with me--right on top of my chest with his head laying on my face lol. I'm a guy, too, he was always my buddy. Even when I went off to school, he didn't cuddle with the rest of the family and would sometimes apparently go in my room and cry. I came home and went to a school closer to home after that year, due to homesickness (mostly for my cats). He seemed friendly around me, but didn't get back into laying on me right away. He soon got on my bed and lay up against me, and eventually eased into laying on my chest again. Now for the last few years he's been crying so that I'll lay on my bed to cuddle (bossy little guy). I'm the only one he'll lie on even today. The rest of my family is jealous. I think he was initially apprehensive that I might just be there for a short time, or was upset that I had left. Didn't last too long though. So if you get home and your cat doesn't seem friendly immediately, it might be just an initial apprehension at seeing a "new" face after all that time or maybe a little punishment for leaving, but generally it seems they forgive pretty quickly. My other cats are all affectionate with me too, but he's always been my little buddy so his moods were most prominent to me.
Marie on June 14, 2011:
To the people wondering if their cat will remember them:
I would have faith that they would remember, especially if you've had your cat for a while before separation. I've had my cat since he was a week old (we fostered a mother cat and 5 kittens, and kept one of the kittens). 8 years later I was going to college and I was worried he wouldn't remember me. But even though I'm gone for months at a time he definitely still remembers me. His skittish around strangers, but whenever I come home he's glued to me. He knows who I am right away. ?
jacobsterling from New York on May 15, 2011:
yes cats are really smart!..
but pigeons are the best in terms of memory...nice hub..very useful ^_^
applejuic3 from San Diego, CA on May 10, 2011:
cats are extremely smart and i definitely think they have great memory. i have 3 cats myself and they are all incredible and very unique.
sam19392 from United Kingdom on May 03, 2011:
thanks for such informative article. It was very useful to me.
Sp Greaney from Ireland on March 18, 2011:
Yes, they seem to remember the nice people from the horrible people which just shows you they are a good judge of character. :-)
aleida_77 from Los Angeles on March 07, 2011:
Cats do have great memory. They are special animals. Thank you for the excellent hub.
Tina on February 28, 2011:
I adopted a cat (Bradley) 4 months ago from the Humane Society. His is 3 years old. I already have 2 other cats at home that we have had for 6 years and they are both around 7 years old.
Bradley had been found wandering the streets with a bite wound on one of his back legs. We don't have any other histoy on him. When we brought him home we had a hard time with him scatching or biting us when he didn't want to be touched. But over time we learned his body language and he settled down with us. He became my super loveable cat.
However, he was too rough with the other 2. Our other male cat is very passive...and Bradley would stalk him and corner him. Bradley didn't know how to play without using claws and would leave scratches on our male cats muzzle area. It's like he was never "taught" how to play with others properly. We started to notice a change in the personalities of our other 2 cats...and not for the good.
So we made the hard choice to return Bradley to the Humane Society 2 days ago. It is breaking my heart! I love him so much. But I understand this needed to happen...so I'm worried about Bradley because all he knows is one minute he was sleeping happily on our bed, and the next minute he was in a cat carrier being taken back to the place he was before. Last time he was with the Humane Society for 3 months. It is totally possible that could happen again and I am worried how this will affect him.
Will he remember us and wonder why we abandoned him?
Will that affect his ability to love his next human?
I don't want to be the one resposible for breaking this beautiful cats spirit...
Cordial Cat on February 27, 2011:
I think people underestimate our pets too much. When my nephew came to visit after being away for a whole year, I didn't expect my cat, Valentine to even care that this little two year old was around, let alone remember that he had existed in the first place. But when I had my nephew sitting on my bed, my cat, Valentine jumped up on the bed next to him and laid down, as though it were something he did every day. Now, Valentine is not a shy cat, by any means, so it's not surprising if he's nice to a stranger, but to jump up and lay down next to a two rowdy two year old? Now that was saying something. I really think my cat remembered him, even though he had changed since we last saw my nephew, and was laying close to something familiar. It was a very sweet moment.
dpatullo741 from UK on January 13, 2011:
I feel each and every pet animal is sensitive, loyal and has good understanding.
josh266 on December 20, 2010:
Yes, my cat has xclnt memory.
Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on December 14, 2010:
Alexadry, this is a great hub. You've made it easy for cat and 'non cat' people to understand just how amazing these wonderful animals are. I have many cats now, and over the years and they are just as you 've said...I once moved from my home to another area for a while; I took my kittie w/me..when we returned, she ran to all her familiar places and acted as though time had not passed. Your answers here to other hubbers are very intuitive and I believe you have a great understanding of cats. Thank you!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 19, 2010:
Are you coming back soon? I think after three months there are high chances he will remember you. My cat has not seen me for up to six months and when she saw me she was not too excited (looked a bit offended) but I know she remembered me because with strangers she just goes to hide under the bed...
Billbenblue on November 18, 2010:
I'm a student studying abroad in Italy. I've been gone three months, and I'm worried to death my cat won't recognize me when I come home. He's 7, and I've had him since he was just a little over a week old. Will he remember me when I come back? I know you've this question millions of times, but he's getting older and I'm sure that plays a factor when it comes to memory just as it does with humans, so I'm curious (and hopeful).
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 03, 2010:
Arner, I am sorry to hear about what happened. It would probably have been best for his sister to see him once they put him to sleep. It appears that cats understand the concept of death and come to terms with it. By not sniffing death, she may think he mysteriously came amiss and is looking for him. At least, this is why at the vet we often recommended other dogs and cats to come witness the death of their best friends.
Anyhow, it is difficult to say how long she will be looking for him. If you have his ashes, she should get a sniff of them to accept his death. I would think that time forgives everything and she should come to accept he is missing within the next month or so but it is really hard to estimate. She may still have flash backs every now and then when she sees something that reminds her of him. I am very sorry for your loss,try not to comfort her too much and try to move on with a positive attitude, she may feed off your feelings. best wishes!
Arnar on October 31, 2010:
This weekend has been really bad for me and my cats. My cat had four kittens two years ago and I kept two of them, brother and sister. They became unseperable almost immediately. They were a duo, everlasting companionship. They were everywhere together, slept at the same spot, comforted eachother if they were scared of something, cleaned eachother. Just everything, they did it together.
Over the last month or so, the brother had been going to the vet because of urinal problems. He was having problems with it. Yesterday I took him to the vet yet again and they found out his bladder was full of blood and his kidneys were severely damaged. There was nothing they could do. They gave him just a few days to live, but it would be in pain and weakness.
We decided it was best for him to just sleep. The long sleep.
The sister is a very small and nervous little girl. She was so attached to her brother, like he was to her. Now she is looking everywhere for him. She smells him and searches. She cries, calls out to him. She plays with toys that always interested him and made him come out from his hideout. But he doesn't.
I feel so bad for her. A perfect brother and sister duo has been ruined.
I wanted to ask you guys, how long do you think she remembers him and how long will she search for him? It pains me that she is in such pain and sorrow. She doesn't know what happened. She constantly searches for him and looks at me with this questioning look. I try to tell her that I am so sorry.
This is horrible..
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 16, 2010:
This would be an interesting experience. I would think that they should. You may not be able to tell right away, but once at home observe them carefully. If they seem to remember where their food bowl was, were they slept and where they went potty very likely they did remember, so they should remember you as well...Best wishes!
George on October 15, 2010:
I had to move across the country for about a year and take care of my grandmother with cancer. Sadly we had our cats with us for the 7 years of their life but couldn't take them with us because the grandma was allergic. We had been able to give the cats to a society that would care for them the rest of their life, a saimese cat society. All three of them were sisters and they didn't want to split them up since they got along so well.
What im wondering is if i come back soon after the year will they still remember me? I would be devastated if they didn't.
JenniferAL on September 11, 2010:
It takes patience to understand your cat and most people don't take the time. I believe cats have long memories, and I have always had a cat in my life.
2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on August 28, 2010:
We both think that cats have long memories - but it is hard to prove.
MY Poor Cat on August 18, 2010:
Well he has been around his brothers and me for his whole life, im hoping that will be enough. Fingers crossed!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 17, 2010:
This may be hard to say, I do not think they did enough studies on this, yet, my female Persian remembered well the home she went back to after 3 years...
MY Poor Cat on August 16, 2010:
One of my four cats is about to move away for ten months. Will he remember me when he comes back home? Will he remember his brothers?
Zippity on August 01, 2010:
My 16 lb. cat was found as a kitten under a truck downtown. Does he remember that life? As an adult he developed baldder crystals and had a $500 surgery. Now he eats a special costly "prescription diet." Then quit eating while I was away for 2 weeks and became emaciated to 10 lbs. The vet said he was three days from death. (The cat, not the vet.) We had to feed him by pumping mushy food through a tube into his stomach. (The vet, not the cat.) (I'm kidding! Hey!) $2,500 in vet bills later (not kidding!)he is fat and playful and loving as ever. Does he remember his illnes? Does he know I saved his life? Does he care how much that cost me?
cats123456789 on July 27, 2010:
i have four bengles and they also seem to remember things. when the oldest and the father of three sees my cousins he remembers them because he lived at their house because we got him on vacation. also they all know the scent of theirsister and daughter who we gave to said cousins because when she is brought to my house, they are friendly even though when they meet other cats outside they are usually unfriendly on their teretory except with the cats of my frieds
cats on July 13, 2010:
As far as I have seen cats have a very good memory, when my daughter was young she played with a cat, and when she came back few years later the cat remembered her and came to play with her
sarahsherlock on July 01, 2010:
A great hub about something I have always wondered over. I love cats and would be lost without my little feline companion.
TopHubs2010 on June 26, 2010:
Great Informative Hub, thanks for your well done work, I did this website to have info about Cat Scratch Disease :
Cat Scratch Disease
kidsklamotten on June 16, 2010:
I can tell you that cats remember things! Especially bad treatment. We had a neighbour who used to bother our cats. My cats always avoided his presence!
Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on June 10, 2010:
Another great hub! I have posted a link to this one as well, on my cat blog, 'A Cat's Tail' on blogspot.com
tom hellert from home on May 28, 2010:
cats are great i have only had the pleasure of "knowing - because you never own a cat" Missy was 12 when she died of breast cancer she was my wifes by far and then there was Max- he was 16 when he died but i still see him around the house- EVEN BEFORE WE HAD GOTTEN NEW CATS a third Siamesse and a grey tabby pound cat- extra skiddish but he still loves my wife the best- and let me tell you when we do certain things or when they do certain things we have TRAINED EACH other grocery day- darcy- siamesse#3 digs into the bag with cat food or treats at night before my wife goes to bed she feeds them until then they patrole the couch like sharks and when she was visiting in CT they did the same to me jumping ip on the couch getting in my face and mmmmmeeeeeooowwwwaaaawwwaaawww I went to the kitchen to get water and they went BANANAS when I didn't stop to feed them even pippen who is rare to say anything-was meowfing me up and down right now way past their bedtime Darcy the siamesse is getting bold getting on the couch meowing at my wifeshe's falling asleep- so it will be a while unless he jumps on her there he goes she is up to feed and they both charge the kitchen meowing in protest how dare she wait this late....LOL this is better than cable sometimes good day
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 23, 2010:
How long has she been away? You can tell she remembers you if she tends to be wary with strangers and acts friendly towards you upon seeing her again, best wishes!
fefe on May 19, 2010:
i had to move my cat away ...my mom hate them ...and im afraid she will forget me if i return her back home??
stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on May 01, 2010:
We love cats. God Bless
Rachel B. on March 30, 2010:
I've always thought my cat had a great memory, so now it's nice to see that others have noticed our feline friends' ability to remember events from long ago as well. If only my cat would remember that I don't like waking up to meows at 4am! She's worth it though!
Tony Sky from London UK on December 27, 2009:
Very enjoyable and interesting read which confirms the fact that yes, they doo have memories especially in my experiences of caring for them all my life...unfortunetly for me though, they never forget!! lol
Magick Stories on October 05, 2009:
I agree cats have excellent memmories. The cats on the farm know when we're near them they are going to get some one on one attention that they love to share us.
robertsloan2 from San Francisco, CA on September 03, 2009:
Cats are very smart. They understand English. They even occasionally try to pronounce it with hilarious results. "Raururr!" is an attempt to say "Robert!"
I used to have a little female named Hecky who was the first pregnant cat I ever had. I loved her dearly and was overjoyed at her pregnancy. So I fussed over her and gave her lots of attention and then the night she was ready to have her first litter, she decided to do so on the 500-page manuscript of my first SF novel.
Hastily I moved the cat, closed the drawer with the novel, put a wooden box where the drawer (thankfully a bottom drawer) was and gave her pillows and blankets. She was content as long as I was nearby.
She started having contractions and some friends were over. We watched her have the kittens. She purred at me and appreciated the Lamaze petting I was giving her, gently pressing with her when she contracted. It seemed to make her feel better.
The first one got stuck -- it was a huge newborn and I think she gave birth about a week or so late because it was also very well developed (as I found out later). Poor kitten was breech. Rear end came out and tail spinning, feet kicking, she tried to climb back in. Hecky got up and scraped around the side of the birthing box yelling my name.
There was no way I could get a vet for her at 2 in the morning, so I dared to do what seemed obvious -- gently take hold of the kitten and pull. Pop. Out came Fuzzy, the biggest kitten she ever delivered. She had five more with no problems.
I kept up the Lamaze petting all the way through the process and then discovered that I had a six pound wife and kids. She immediately decided that I was their real dad, her date out there in the back yard had nothing to do with them. I wanted the kittens that much so obviously I'd just wished them into her or something.
I wound up kittensitting and handled them from birth. She did not reject the human-handled newborn, she just washed her and then washed the kitten goo off my hand. For weeks every time she needed a break she dumped kittens in my lap, till they were so mobile that she carried 24 out of six kittens patiently into my lap to get a break.
I got the nickname Pernicious Kittenmonger and found local homes for them all online. She got pregnant again because I hadn't had the money for her neutering.
She started getting contractions, walked into the room and screamed my name stamping her tiny feet -- she refused to deliver without hubby holding her paw and doing Lamaze petting. I loved that cat so much. She did get neutered eventually but I'll never forget helping her with the first litter -- and her refusal to have any more without me in attendance.
They did all grow up to be unusually sweet tempered, human loving little cats too. I found out the accidental way that early handling doesn't hurt them one bit.
David Fallon from Pomona, CA on August 27, 2009:
indeed, cats have very GOOD memories, at least in my experience
annabelle on July 27, 2009:
thats pretty weird terry. yeah i think cats r smart and can remember.
terry on May 31, 2009:
my two siamese are as different as night and day. They were birn 3 minutes apart. They look alike byt act differently. When I bought them, my sister lived with me. Thet lived the two of us consistingly.One tragic night my sister had a heart attact, and I screamed and cried as I tried to give her CPR. The ambulance, and police department syrens were loud and there was commotion with them getting into the house. I had a double door entrance and they ha d to pound it ipen. There was yelling and commotion when the rushed inside with a rolling stretcher. My cats were running everywhere. I chaesd them to put them in another room . I kind of threw them on the bed and slammed the door. I am sure they heard the yelling and suffering as they trie to revive her outside the door. My sister died afier an hour. I called friends and followed the ambulance to the hospital where I was there for hours. The cats were still locked in the room . Friends came home with me, and I let them out of the room. Iley were glad to dee me , and they searched the house looking for her. Through the tears everytime a syorm comes and there is thunder, ot people scream in a story on television they sit streaight up with ears back, and look at the door to the house with terror in their eyes, and I live in a different house. Is it possible that they are reminded of that night? These are well loved cats, spoiled-- and I do not have any other reference to their fear. When I mention her name they rin through the house loke thry are looking for her. nine years later. Is all this possible
terry on May 31, 2009:
my two siamese are as different as night and day. Is all this possible
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on January 21, 2009:
I think they're smart too. I also don't get some dogs. I was south of the border with a family and they moved to a new house, left the gate open on purpose so the dog went out a few blocks away and came back in the gate. I know since I went for a jog by the beach, go figure.
Maybe he left his scent there? Even still, I think felines have better memory.
Read more Read less
Pet owners love to boast about the cleverness of their furry companions. Dog and cat lovers, in particular, seem to relish unending debates over which animal is "smarter." Dog owners often cap their arguments with the fact that dogs have the ability to perform tricks, while cat people counter with the claim that their pets are too intelligent to perform on command. In truth, such methods of pet comparison are futile animal-world versions of mixing apples and oranges. Dogs are pack animals, motivated by a strong need to follow and please the pack's "top" dog (or a human master) in order to receive praise. The solitary cat answers to no one and is motivated by the need to survive. And while trainability may not be the feline's forte, cleverness and adaptability certainly are.
Incredibly resourceful and self-reliant, the species has survived thousands of years in radically different environments and living conditions. Even domestic cats will show a crafty, strong-willed and versatile nature.
Practice Makes Perfect
Many of the cat's remarkable mental and physical abilities are dismissed as simply instinctive. However, just as humans are born with innate communication skills but must learn over time to master a language, cats refine many of their inborn abilities through practice. The widely-held belief that they learn through observation and imitation of their mother or other cats is now being called into question. Cats do learn, but in a different way than do humans or dogs they have a special kind of intelligence.
Once attained, even if by accident or trial and error, most knowledge is retained for life, thanks to the cat's excellent memory. Even hunting techniques buried under years of neglect in the well-fed house cat's brain will be recalled with ease should the feline, for some reason, ever have to fend for itself.
Easily frightened, a cat will retain very strong memories of any incident that it considers threatening. All it takes is one face-to-face encounter with a growling dog to convince a feline that the entire canine species is best avoided forever. However, positive experiences are just as easily stored and recalled, particularly if they have to do with food or play.
As any cat owner knows, domestic felines respond well to familiar sounds, such as can openers, the rattling of their dry-food bags or the crinkly noise of a favorite toy. Many of them also have an uncanny ability to know the hour of their regular breakfast time, waking up their owner if he or she tries to sleep in.
As the feline psyche has become better understood, animal handlers have had more success in training felines to perform in film and television, once the exclusive domain of the dog. Although they won't perform for pats on the head and "good-cat" praise from their owners, some felines, if properly motivated, can be trained to do a wide variety of tricks, from opening doors and jumping through hoops to turning on lights. In what psychologists call operant conditioning, a cat will repeat a behavior for a food reward. This is best achieved if the desired behavior is fun for the cat, even more so if the person doing the training is its usual food provider. More amenable to rewards of food than domestic felines, large wildcats such as lions and tigers have performed in circuses for centuries. Sadly, there were times when unspeakably cruel punishment was used interchangeably with rewards of fresh meat to "tame" these unpredictable and potentially dangerous wild felines into performing desired tricks.
How to Boost Your Cat’s Memory
Cats are naturally curious creatures that can keep themselves stimulated and occupied. But in some cases, a kitty can become lazy and in need of brain stimulation. Luckily, this is easily done, and by stimulating your cat’s brain activity, you can improve her memory.
High-quality food can increase the capability of your cat’s brain. Macronutrients like omega 3 and six fatty acids, vitamins C and E will prevent the brain from aging and keep your cat sharp for a longer time. You can also supplement your cat’s food, but we recommend that you do so only after youвЂ™ve consulted your vet.
You can also try to teach your kitty new things in order to exercise her brain and improve her memory. And even though cats aren’t interested in learning tricks, you can stimulate your kitty by offering treats and teaching her to memorize the positive stimulus.
Keep your kitty occupied and prevent boredom by keeping her mentally stimulated with puzzle toys, obstacles, and mazes. All of this will keep a cat’s brain well working and minimize the chances of deterioration.
Cats do remember places and people, although where/who they remember, and for how long, is variable (just like humans).
There's been some research on feline short-term memory, but I could find less information on long-term memory.
This article is rather poorly referenced, but does make some statements about long-term memory that it claims are research-based:
Researchers have discovered that there is not much difference between how a cat, a human, or another animal's brain utilizes certain cues to assist in the creation of short and long-term memories. A cat's brain functioning has been compared to that of a two to three year old child and, when compared to a dog, a cat's memory is almost 200 times more retentive. Without repeated and reinforced training, a dog's memory span is about 5 minutes. Cats, on the other hand, averaged about 16 hours, only IF the activity benefited 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 long time and a lot of patience to gain the trust of an abused or neglected cat. If they suffered physical or mental abuse from a man or child, then they will associate that memory with all men and all children. The same holds true for positive experiences. Every time a cat receives affection, praise, or a treat for doing a specific activity, it is logged into their memory as "a good thing" and they will continue to use it to their benefit.
The inevitable anecdotes
I believe that I've experienced cats remembering me years after we have had prolonged interactions. One example is a roommate of mine that I lived with about 10 years ago. His cat is not generally friendly, but we got along very well, and I was one of the few people the cat would actively seek out (i.e. he would climb in my lap and sit there while I pet him). After my friend moved out, there were periods of 1-2 years in between my visits to his new home, and when I would come over, his cat would still come and climb in my lap for petting. Over times, my visits have unfortunately become less frequent (I moved out of the area), and while the cat still seems to remember me, he is not as friendly to me as he used to be.
Here is a video of someone who claims to have been reunited with their cat over a year after her cat left home and roamed the neighborhood as a feral cat:
The internet is littered with similar claims. There is also a host of unreferenced claims about feline memory that I won't include here.
However, it is pretty certain that your cat will remember you after 6 months if you interact with the cat on a regular basis.
Whether the cat is happy to see you (at first) will be another story. ours tend to seem mad at us when we come back after leaving for a few days, and we get the "cold shoulder" for the first day or so :)
Confusion is the name of the game when it comes to feline memory loss. If your cat randomly wanders off into different areas of your home -- and seems unable to find her way back -- it's probably because she's disoriented. Nothing seems familiar everything is strange and confusing and, oddly enough, new. Your cat may get a blank look in her eyes and stare off into nothing. If she gets "lost" in your home and doesn't know what to do with herself, you may hear her vocalize loudly. She might meow or yowl to get help.
It's difficult to measure memory in cats and dogs — or any animal, for that matter.
"You're asking questions about what's going on inside of the animal's head in ways that we might not be able to see," Udell said. "So we're using their behavior to try to interpret what is going on internally."
But the more scientists find out about the memory of these animals, the better, because some researchers are starting to use dogs as models for human aging, dementia and Alzheimer's disease, Udell said.
"You have to understand what dogs are capable of remembering to understand how that declines with time," she said.