Do cats remember their owners? Amazing feline studies and stories
Do you ever wonder if your cat remembers you when you are away? Or if they miss their previous owners when they find a new home? Cats may sometimes be independent and aloof creatures, but they can also form strong bonds with the people in their lives.
Here, we’ll explore the fascinating subject of cat memory. I’ll present some studies that show how cats remember their owners and some true stories of cat loyalty.
How do cats remember their owners?
Cats have two types of memory that help them recognise their owners and other familiar things.
- Short-term memory is recalling information for just a few seconds or minutes (such as where they left their toy or what they ate for breakfast.)
- Long-term memory is the capacity to retain and retrieve data for weeks, months, or even years (such as who their owner is or where they used to live.)
Short-term memory in cats
Cats rely on different cues to recognise their owners, such as:
- Facial features
They also associate their owners with positive experiences like food, play, and affection.
Did you know cats pick up on their owner’s tone, name, and body language and respond appropriately? For example, my cat knows when I call her name; she’ll get a treat or a cuddle. She also knows when I say “no,” she has to stop scratching the sofa.
Long-term memory in cats
Cats also use their sense of smell to identify their owners and other familiar animals. They have scent glands on various body parts, such as their cheeks, paws, and tail base.
By rubbing these glands on objects and people, cats mark them as their own. Have you ever noticed how your cat rubs its head on you and sniffs you when you get home from work? In doing this, they create a familiar and comforting scent on you that they’ll remember.
How long do cats remember their owners?
How long cats remember their owners is a complex question that depends on several factors, including the cat’s age, the length and quality of the relationship, and the emotional toll of the separation.
But, according to some research and anecdotal evidence, cats may retain their owners’ names for weeks, months, or even years.
Studies on feline memory
According to one study, cats can recall past events and at least some related information, much like dogs.
The study showed cats could recall the specifics of when and where recalling these memories as humans daydream.
Their research leads them to believe cats may have much longer memories than previously believed, with more studies on the way.
A further study revealed that cats can recognise their owners’ voices even when they are not physically present.
The researchers played recordings of different people calling the cats names and observed how the cats reacted.
They found that the cats paid more attention to their owners than strangers’ voices but did not vocalise or move their tails.
These findings suggest cats have a long-term memory of their owners and can distinguish them by sound alone.
Do cats miss their owners when they are away?
Cats miss their owners when they are away, but not in the same way humans do.
That’s because cats have challenges understanding time and distance – they may not always realise how long their owner has been gone or where they are. Instead, they may feel anxious or bored without their usual routine and stimulation.
Signs of tension and separation anxiety in cats include:
- Searching for the owner around the house or in places where they usually spend time together
- Sleeping on the owner’s bed or clothes or snuggling with objects that have the owner’s scent
- Losing appetite or interest in food
- Becoming more vocal or quiet than usual
- Grooming excessively
- Showing signs of depression or anxiety
- Developing behavioural problems such as aggression or litter box issues
Stories of cat reunions
Many inspiring videos show cats reuniting with their owners after long periods, such as soldiers returning from deployment or travellers returning from vacation. These cats often display joy
and affection, such as purring, meowing, licking, and hugging.
Of course, not all cats react the same way when they see their owners again.
Some cats may act indifferent or even hostile, especially if they have been rehomed or neglected. This behaviour may be due to stress, fear, or resentment.
Cats may also forget their owners more quickly if they have cognitive decline or dementia, which affects their memory and behaviour.
How to help your cat cope with your absence
You can do a few things before and after leaving to help your cat cope better without you. For example:
- Set up a calming pheromone diffuser. These products, clinically proven to reduce cat stress and separation anxiety, mimic the natural pheromones that help kittens bond with their mothers, helping your cat feel more secure. I suggest the Feliway brand – it’s vet-recommended and has a high success rate for most cats.
- Leave some of your worn clothes or a blanket with your scent for your cat to snuggle with while you’re gone.
- Provide plenty of toys, treats, and hiding places for your cat to keep them entertained and comfortable.
- Consider getting a friend to visit your cat for attention and care or hiring a pet sitter.
- When you come back home, greet your cat warmly and gently.
- Give them some time to adjust to your presence and smell.
- Reward your cat with praise, treats, and playtime for being well-behaved while you were away.
Do cats remember their owners when they die?
One of the most heart-breaking questions cat owners may face is whether their cats remember them when they die. Losing a loved one is never easy, and we may wonder if our pets will miss or forget us when we are gone.
The answer is unclear, as cats may react differently to losing their owner. Some experts believe they form attachments to their owners and may experience grief and mourning when they lose them. But others argue that cats are too independent to form these emotional bonds.
Stories of cat loyalty
I have read some fantastic stories of cats who have shown loyalty and devotion to their owners even after dying. For example: Toldo, a cat who lived with owner Renzo in Montagnana, Italy, was saved as a kitten. Since then, Renzo passed away, and Toldo has brought little gifts daily to his grave.
In Indonesia, a cat stayed by the grave of her beloved owner for an entire year. Thought to be homeless at first, the cat continued to return, playing and sleeping on top of the grave.
Enong waited for his owner to return long after the man from China died in his home due to a gas explosion. The cat, severely hurt by the explosion, refused to leave the area and was taken to a local animal shelter for treatment.
How to help a grieving cat
A grieving cat clearly remembers and misses their owner. You can help your cat resume a more comfortable and happy life with these tips:
- Keep the cat’s routine as normal as possible.
- Provide plenty of comfort and attention.
- Offer toys, treats, and enrichment activities.
- Consider getting another cat or pet for companionship.
- Talk to a veterinarian if the cat shows signs of illness or distress.
Cats are amazing animals with remarkable memory abilities. Having read these fascinating studies and true stories of loyalty, you’ll likely agree that cats can remember their owners for a long time.
Thankfully, negative experiences are not so quickly memorable to cats – particularly those with cognitive issues.
They tend to remember the positive aspects of their relationship with their owners, such as trust, bond, and affection.
As a cat owner myself, I always try to make sure my cat feels loved and secure, whether I am with her or not.
Remember, a happy cat is a loyal cat!
(Article source: Pet Helpful)