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Do Cats Remember People?

Unlike their canine counterparts, cats tend to be a bit more complex. Particularly with regards to their emotional responses and their interactions with their humans. Dogs are typically more outward and open with their emotions – they make it blatantly clear that they remember, and openly miss, their people-shaped family members. With cats it can be somewhat less clear, some would say that they lack the ability to care for, remember, and miss their people as a dog might. They can retain information, which is obvious by their ability to learn and obey commands and tricks (when they want to, of course). But, are there limits to your cat’s memory? What is the scope of their recall ability? Does it differ from cat to cat? Do cats remember people? Much like our feline furbabies, the answers aren’t always simple – in short, it’s complicated.

Do Cats Remember People

Do Cats Miss People?

Depending on which study you are reading, the answer may vary. However, there are some things that most animal experts can at least somewhat agree on, the majority believe that the average short-term attention span of felines is relatively short, while their long-term memory is considerably longer. So, does your cat miss you when you are gone? As they don’t have the same sense of the passage of time as we do, they miss us in their own unique way. They might not be searching for you the moment you step out the door, like a dog probably would, but they will start to miss the things that they associate you with – cuddles, hugs, kisses, and, of course, food. The exception to this rule would be when it comes to the person or people that the cat has imprinted on – but more on that later 🙂


Felines and Associative Memory:

Speaking of associating stuff – One thing that we can all agree on is that cats do retain memories and information, they just do it in a way that is a little bit different than our own. Instead of recalling the specific time that you gave Fluffy a treat, she is more likely to simply know that you are the treat giver rather than being able to recollect any specific instances. This is associative memory. Their short-term memory is not the greatest, however, their associative memory capabilities ensure that they do remember you, and all that you do for them – they just remember it, and you, in their own special way.


Do Cats Care for their Owners?

Remember how I said we’d talk about ‘imprinting’ later? Well, my feline-loving friends, the time has come. Felines are absolutely capable of building lifelong relationships and actually caring for their family members – both human and furry alike. In fact, many cats end up doing what’s called imprinting on the person that they associate with mothering them. When kittens are removed from their mothers, which typically happens at a fairly young age, they will usually form an especially strong bond with those they know to provide the love, food, and shelter they need. This bond is stronger than most and the cat’s interaction with this person is likely different than how he/she interacts with others.


How Long Is a Cat’s Memory?

Speaking in general terms, a cat’s long-term memory span is just as, if not longer, than that of a canine. Their short-term memory happens to be a whole other story. Most animal experts agree that cats have a short-term memory that is about 16 hours. Significantly lower than that of a typical dog. As we know now, cats are more likely to rely on their long-term associative memories.


Do Cats Remember if You’re Mean to Them?

Is Fluffy going to remember that time that the mean kid next door pulled his tail? Yes…and no. As stated earlier, a cat isn’t likely to recall specific events, but they will associate that particular person with previous mean behavior. And that will probably make them want little to no interaction with that person. Long story short? Don’t be mean to cats, they will take note and they can hold a hell of a grudge.


Scent Matters:

A common characteristic of animals is their heightened sense of smell and cats are certainly no exception. While this might seem like an irrelevant detail, your scent can be a trigger for your cat. Just like they associate us with our behavior towards them, your unique scent is also associated with you. And, that’s not all! Cats have scent glands on their cheeks. When they rub up against you, they are, in essence, scenting you, or marking their territory. This is another handy (paw-some?) trick that they use to recognize and remember you (and claim you as their own!).


In the end, Nothing is Set in Stone:

There’s a very good reason that many of the various studies contradict each other; animals, and their personalities, can be just as individualized as our own. No two frisky felines are completely alike. Most animals have their own wants, needs, likes, and dislikes, and other factors can also play a vital role in the way they interact with us. Genetics, background, and previous experiences are going to help determine the level of the bond they are willing and able to make.


Generally speaking, the way your cat is ‘wired’ means that while he or she will most likely remember people, they just tend to only do so when they need to. They have memories and attachments, they just have a different way of going about it. Keep in mind, it cannot be stressed enough that animal behavior is not gospel and none of it is technically set in stone. Just like all of the people that we have contact with, in our day-to-day lives, every single cat is going to have its own identity, experiences, and personalized reactions to those experiences. The best that we can do is repay them in the same that they do for us – accept and love them for exactly who they are. No questions asked. It won’t be forgotten.

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Categories: Cat Curiosities Cats

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