How Much Does Your Cat Remember?

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Just like elephants, it turns out that cats have a good memory. According to research, cats remember a lot more than we thought they could.

Cats, like other animals, may appear as though they know exactly how to live in the present moment. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t remember things from the past. Can your zen-like kitty recall events and lessons? It turns out that, yes, your feline friend’s memory is stronger than you probably think.

A Memory Test for Cats

According to research that was released in the science journal Behavioural Processes, cats do remember things quite well. In an experiment that used several containers of food, researchers tested whether or not cats would remember “what” information and “where” information, even after 15 minutes had passed and the kitties were distracted by other things. Sure enough, the felines proved that they were able to both retrieve and use information from a previous experience.

Related: Top 5 Puzzle Games for Cats

However, kitty memories may tend to be better when there’s food involved. In another study published in Animal Cognition, cats had to watch a person hide an object by placing it into one of four boxes. Then the cats were forced to wait anywhere from 0 seconds to a full minute before they could find the object. Most kitties started showing difficulty locating the object after 30 seconds.

Long-Term Memory

In addition to short-term memory, cats also display the capability of having long-term memory. In fact, their long-term memory may be more resilient than their short-term memory. This is why your kitty might not be fond of a particular person simply based upon her past experiences with them.

Related: What Your Cat Really Thinks of You

Experts have even found that felines could beat canines when it comes to their memory, as a cat’s memory is roughly 200 times more retentive than that of dogs. Basically, a dog’s memory will only span roughly 5 minutes if you don’t provide repeated training as reinforcement. Kitties, however, will have a memory span of roughly 16 hours, but only if an activity benefits or interests them.

Memory Might Decline with Age

Just as your memory might not be as strong as you get older, the same could be true of your cat.

In a study that was published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers found that kitties can have good spatial memory. Basically, the kitties were able to remember which cups they’d already eaten from. But younger cats made fewer mistakes than their older counterparts, so experts think that memory might decline as felines age.

Understanding Your Cat Better

Having a clearer understanding of your cat’s ability to remember things will help you better comprehend your pet’s behavior and needs. For example, when a cat’s companion (human or animal) passes away, she might grieve the loss as she recalls her friend, and her behavior might change as a result. On top of that, there are feline instincts/memories that are ingrained in your cat and can also help dictate her behavior. And the way you treat your pet is important because she will be able to recall those interactions and either grow to trust you or fear you.

You may have already known that your kitty is good at learning and remembering things, but now researchers are confirming what cat owners have been observing through their daily interactions with their pets.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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