How Long Is a Cat’s Memory?

Cats form memories just like us, but there are some major differences in how their memory works. 

Chances are you’ve probably wondered how much your feline friend remembers. The answer to this question will require you to learn a little bit about how the mind of these animals operates.

Short Term vs. Long Term Memory

Your cat has both a short term and long term memory, just like you. Short term memory, sometimes referred to as “working memory”, gives these animals the ability to solve basic problems. This includes figuring out whether or not they can jump from one surface to the next. Short term memory also helps cats hunt their prey so they can keep themselves fed in the wild.

Long term memory stores all sorts of experiences that occur over days, weeks, months, and years. Animals can access their long term memory at will when necessary or convenient. There are certain things that tend to stick in an animal’s long term memory more than others, such as traumatic events.

While it is not clear as to just how far back a cat’s memory goes, they almost certainly remember experiences from years ago. This is one of the reasons that cats can really hold a grudge.

Spatial Memory

A cat’s spatial memory refers to their ability to remember the layout of a given area. These animals have a very strong spatial memory, which is how they are able to jump around without constantly getting injured. Your feline friend remembers where everything is, so they don’t need to think very long before leaping from one place to another.

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cat on picture

What do Cats Remember?

There are certain things that we can confidently say cats do in fact remember. Learning about your feline friend’s memories could help you understand it even better.

1. Abuse/Trauma

Cats are absolutely capable of remembering the abuse they suffer from their owners. This is why you have to be careful about adopting these animals. If a cat has a history of abuse, they can be quite challenging to care for. It is important that you get a detailed background on them before making a final decision.

If a cat was abused by a woman, it might have a tendency to run away from all female humans. This is a sort of PTSD, which any of these animals can develop. Some cats become very aggressive towards anyone who looks even remotely like their past abuser.

Some cats even associate certain smells or noises with past abuse. This can explain why your cat starts acting strangely every time some particular thing happens.

 2. People

There is no question that cats remember people. In fact, they can recognize a specific person even after not seeing them for years. When your cat gleefully greets you at the door each day, it’s because they remember who you are.

While dogs are more skilled at remembering people, a cat’s ability to recognize certain humans is still pretty impressive. The average cat can form long term memories of numerous people, especially those they see on a regular basis.

3. Other Animals

Cats can also remember other cats, as well as dogs and other animals they live with. Most of these animals will go through a sort of grieving period when another cat in the house dies. They will also be able to tell when another pet has been removed from the household.

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The more significant your cat’s relationship is with another animal, the more likely they are to remember them. This could be a negative or positive dynamic. They especially remember other pets that they get along with very well.

cat family portrait

4. Their Home

Many cats that get lost are capable of finding their way home, even across a seemingly insurmountable distance. Unfortunately, a lot of these animals that get lost face many challenges that make returning home nearly impossible. They could get hit by a car, or snatched up by some predator in the area.

It is technically possible for a cat to get back home across dozens or even hundreds of miles, though unlikely. Once a cat moves to another home, it takes a little while to become familiar with their new location. It is much easier for a lost cat to make its way back home if it was let outside by its owners on a regular basis. Strictly indoor cats find it much harder to get back home once they are lost.

Memory Loss Among Cats

As a cat gets older, it begins losing its ability to retain memories. This works in much the same way as it does with aging humans. Very old cats typically have trouble remembering things that used to come very easy to them. Once a cat reaches 11 years old, it begins to experience significant cognitive decline.

How to Strengthen Your Cat’s Memory

You can help your cat maintain a strong short term and long term memory by keeping it on a healthy and nutritious diet. These animals require a good amount of protein and fats on a daily basis. Omega fatty acids in particular play an important role in one’s memory, so you’ll need to keep that in mind.

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Conclusion

  • Cats have both short term and long term memory, just like humans.
  • Short term or “working” memory helps with solving basic problems for these animals, such as hunting their prey.
  • A cat’s long term memory can go back years, but it tends to remember things that it finds useful.
  • Your cat’s spatial memory allows it to memorize the layout of its environment. This is why it can jump around the house quickly without getting hurt.
  • There is no doubt that cats can and do remember past abuse and trauma.
  • A cat that was abused by a woman might avoid all human females due to the memory of abuse.
  • Cats can also remember specific people, especially the ones they live with.
  • It’s also possible for cats to remember other cats and pets in their household.
  • It is technically possible for a lost cat to find its way back home, but doing so is very challenging for them.
  • You can help your cat maintain its overall memory by keeping it on a healthy overall diet.
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