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Do Cats Really Forget Their Owners? Understanding Feline Memory

When vacation comes around, bringing the cat with the family sounds like another baggage of responsibility instead of fun. Do cats forget their owners easily?

Cats use their senses to recognize a person, and all information about their owners is stored in their sensory and long-term memory.

Don’t underestimate your cat’s mind! In this article, let’s dive into understanding feline memory and how they process events and store it for later use.

Can Cats Forget Who Their Owners Are?

Cats don’t forget who their owners are because they occupy a unique space in the cat’s mind. Your cat knows your scent and voice, and it’s imprinted on their sensory memory, and the moments that the two of you shared are stored in their long-term memory.

A cat’s memory is as complex as ours is. The mind stores three types of memories: sensory, short-term, and long-term. Below, we explain each type and how it affects a cat’s memory of its owners.

Read: Do Cats See Humans as Cats? An Exploration of Feline Cognition

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory is a collection of information gathered from youth to adulthood that can be recalled and recited anytime, and it stays with the mind for years or decades. If you adopt a cat from a friend, and years later, the friend visits and your cat is amiable and familiar to the person; your cat’s long-term memory has been activated.

You may be thinking, “Oh it’s like core memory!” The truth is, the movie Inside Out has invented that concept; supposedly, core memory contains the original and unbiased record of an event that can be recalled anytime.

In an Inverse interview with Professor Simona Ghetti, he says, “Core memories are not real in that we do not record events and do not retain nuggets of clear and vivid memories that can be uncovered in their original form.” He teaches at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

:Cats also have episodic memory, wherein they remember episodes of events that they experienced months or years ago.

Read: Why Do Cats Age So Fast? Explaining the Rapid Aging of Cats

Short-term Memory

Short-term memory is a type of memory that allows the mind to memorize things for a day or less and manipulate the information to apply it in solving a situation. It’s also called active memory because it is utilized daily, unlike long-term memory.

In a new home, your cat may memorize where your new room is. It gets lost and manages to remember where the area is in a day, but the next day your cat can’t recall it anymore.

In an interview with The Dodo, Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, a veterinarian and founder of Thank Your Vet Organization, says that cats’ short-term memory is thought to be longer than other species, such as dogs. Still, the exact length requires further studies to understand.

Read: Why Do Cats Fight at Night?

Sensory Memory

Sensory memory has to do with the information gathered from the five senses of the body: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. For example, your appearance, voice, personal scent, and the soft touch of your hairless or hairy skin are stored in your cat’s mind. It remembers all these things about you through constant stimulation of its senses.

This is simplified information and can branch out to several subtypes of sensory memory. Everything you do with your cat, whenever you pet its fur or coo its name and even the perfume you use, are stored in its mind. That’s why when in a room of strangers, your cat can single you out among people because you are unique to their senses.

Do Cats Remember People?

Cats remember people depending on their relationship with them. Aside from the owner, friends and family who play with the cat are remembered because of their fun moments together. Strangers who stop by and never to be seen again for weeks and more are quickly forgotten.

Dr. Claudia Fugazza, a researcher at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, explains, “Important events, such as those related to food and survival, and events that have an emotional impact are more likely to be stored in the long-term memory.”

Traumatic events caused by a person are particularly memorable for a cat. The severity of the pain and fear the cat felt from a person will be enveloped in a file at the back of their mind that can be pulled up anytime the cat sees the person who has inflicted the harm.

Read: Why Does My Cat Hug My Arm and Bite Me?

Will My Cat Forget Me If I Leave for A Week?

Cats have good memories and are unlikely to forget the owners with whom they have bonded. Because you provide many things to your cat to ensure its survival, it has positively associated you as its parent.

They know their owners by scent and sound because it is everywhere in the home. Wherever your cat goes, on the floor, on the counter, on the bed – it smells of you. When you leave for vacation and come back a month or even a year later, your cat can still recognize your smell and voice!

Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Apart?

Cats feel emotions, particularly those that are very attached to their owners. Cats raised by humans since birth will develop close attachments akin to a parent and a child. A close bond makes the feline fonder of the owner and will show that the owner is missed.

In an interview with Dodo, Dr. Elizabeth Stelow says that there is great debate about how much cats mind their owners leaving. “Cats exist along a continuum from very aloof and unattached to very interactive and demanding.”

How to Create Good Memories with My Cat?

  • Play with your cat every day! It is recommended to engage with your cat for 30 minutes a day. You can divide it into three sessions. Have your feline running, jumping, and “hunting” that toy prey. Not only does it make for good memories, but it also strengthens your bond with your cat.
  • Capture every cute moment you can. Take a snap whenever your cat is asleep by the window, on your bed, or on your chest! You can add it to your notes and write a short caption describing what your cat did that day that led to the photo being taken.
  • Compile videos and audio clips of your cat’s unique voice. Pictures aren’t always enough! Seeing your cat move and hearing what its voice sounds like when it chirps and chatters will be memories you’ll treasure for years.


Cats possess excellent long-term and short-term memory. You might worry that your cat will forget you if you leave them at home or to someone to care for them, but your scent and voice will trigger the memories it shared with you. Even if you are absent for a year, your cat might get wary but will eventually warm up to you again.

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