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How Good Is A Cat’S Memory? What You Need To Know!

Every time your cat sniffs around the spot where you placed their favorite toy or rushes to you after a lengthy separation, the cat exhibits its exceptional memory. Cats have excellent memories, as any cat owner can tell you, however even most cat owners underestimate the cat's memory.

For instance, cats have excellent memory that may endure for years. Even cats possess episodic and spatial memories, similar to our own! The fact that your cat experiences memory loss and dementia as it ages is more evidence that its memory operates similarly to ours.

To understand more about a cat's memory, continue reading "How Good Is a Cat's Memory? What You Need To Know!" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org).

How Good Is a House Cat's Memory?

A domestic cat’s memory is astonishingly strong, which is a key distinction between domestic and feral cats. In fact, scientists have identified memory-related genes in domestic cats that are absent in their wild counterparts. According to a study by Brauer and Call (2018), domestic cats have been found to have better memory than their wild counterparts, which suggests that domestication may have played a role in the evolution of cats’ cognitive abilities.

It seems logical that domestic cats have excellent memory. Domestication has made cats dependent on humans for food, housing, and affection. Without a strong recall, housecats would be unable to know their owners and may scratch or bite them.

Regrettably, scientists have been unable to measure the memory of a domestic cat. We do know that certain episodic memories can last for months and even years. A study by Vitale Shreve et at.(2020) found that cats are able to form and recall episodic memories, which involve remembering specific events and their contexts. This may explain why cats who are separated from their owners and later reunited exhibit excitement.

Hence, cats who are separated from their owners and afterwards reunited exhibit excitement, but mistreated animals never develop a like for humans.

In certain situations, cats’ memory is 200 times superior to that of dogs. For instance, cats excel in recalling information about their food and prey. In contrast, dogs exhibit superior recall for humans and non-food-related objects. In a study by Udell et al. (2019), cats were found to have superior memory when it comes to recalling information about their food and prey. In contrast, dogs were found to have better recall for human-related and non-food-related objects.

How Long Can a Cat Remember a Person?

Most new individuals are quickly forgotten by cats. On average, cats remember a person for only 16 hours after meeting them for the first time. The majority of first encounters are stored in your cat’s short-term memory.

As you are now part of the cat’s long-term memory, the cat is more likely to remember you after interacting with and feeding it. It is yet unknown how long cats can retain long-term memories, although their recollections of their owners may endure a lifetime.

How Long Does a Cat Hold a Grudge?

Cats don’t keep grudges as humans do. Although they may identify negative memories with certain persons or locations, they do not act out of retribution. Instead, cats will go the additional mile to prevent the unwanted memory from being repeated by avoiding the connected area or person.

Yet, cats can experience unpleasant feelings that linger for an extended period of time. Typically, a traumatic event may haunt a cat for years, which is why so many mistreated cats are agitated and aggressive towards humans — they have a traumatic memory that compels them to act out of self-preservation.

Just as it is hard to determine how long cats remember humans, it is also impossible to determine how long they may harbor resentment. If the memory is sufficiently severe, such as frequent mistreatment, the cat may retain it for life.

Yet, if you accidently tread on your cat’s tail once, there is generally little cause for concern. If the majority of the cat’s interactions with you are favorable, it will likely forget the negative episode quickly, especially if you provide a treat or food as an apology.

A Comment About Cat Grudges

It is essential to emphasize that self-preservation is vastly distinct from vengeance. Cats lack the insight and self-reflection required for vengeance. No matter how angry the cat is, it cannot behave maliciously. Instead, cats will behave aggressively to defend themselves or prevent the same negative incident from occurring.

Do Old Cats Lose Memory?

Similar to humans, many animals, including cats, endure memory loss as they age. Several studies have demonstrated that older cats have a deterioration in cognitive function, including memory and learning capacity. Sometimes, a senior cat’s memory loss might lead to inappropriate behavior, as they no longer recall as much as they once did.

Among the symptoms of cognitive deterioration in older cats include spatial disorientation, roaming, abnormal sleeping patterns, blank stares, etc. These cognitive impairment symptoms resemble those of Alzheimer’s disease in people. The illness is poorly understood and frequently affects cats older than 10 years.

If your cat exhibits indications of cognitive impairment, take it to the veterinarian immediately. Although cognitive impairment cannot be treated, the veterinarian can rule out other probable reasons of the cat’s new behavior and treat them if possible.

Do Cats or Dogs Have Better Memories?

Whether dogs or cats have superior memory is context dependent. When food is involved, cats have the superior memory nearly always. Dogs, on the other hand, have superior episodic memory, allowing them to recall individuals and events better than cats.


Cats have quite decent recall, particularly when it comes to food. If you are responsible for feeding your cat on a daily basis, he or she will not forget you!

Therefore, as explained in How Good Is a Cat’s Memory? What You Need To Know!” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), it is doubtful that your cat would forget you easily if you engage and play with it often.

This is not the case for novices. Cats are unlikely to recall newcomers after the initial encounter due to the fact that the individual will be kept in the cat’s short-term memory files, which only last a day.

Similarly, as cats mature, they may forget faces and surroundings. Similar to humans, cats have considerable memory loss as they age, which frequently causes them to act out. You don’t need to be concerned about your cat forgetting you till it reaches an advanced age.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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