Facts about the animal kingdom

Do Cats Have a Good Memory?

Mariana Castanheira
By Mariana Castanheira, Licensed vet. Updated: August 6, 2018
Do Cats Have a Good Memory?

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Do cats have a good memory? Have you ever called your cat by their name and they haven't reacted? Are you surprised that your cat can remember how to get home, when you are sure that you have feline friends at certain distances from the home? Is it memory or instinct?

Many times we believe that animals, even those who have been domesticated, are not able to remember things that happen to them and learn from such situations. But, when you have a pet at home, experiences seem to prove otherwise. Do you want to know if your cat has a good memory? Keep reading this AnimalWised article!

You may also be interested in: Do Elephants Have Good Memory?
  1. How does a cat's memory work?
  2. Does a cat's memory help them learn?
  3. Do cat's have a good memory?

How does a cat's memory work?

As with all other animals, and with humans, feline memory resides in a specific section of the brain. A cat's brain occupies less than 1% of their body mass, but when it comes to memory, and also intelligence, the determinant is the number of neurons that are present.

In this way, a cat has three hundred million neurons. Do you know what these are? For you to make a comparison, dogs possess only one hundred and sixty million neurons, so biologically the retention capacity of cats is much superior to that of dogs.

Studies have found that the short-term memory of cats is around 16 hours, which allows them to remember recent events. However, for such events to pass into the long-term memory, they must be of some vital importance to the cat, so that they are able to make the selection and save that event for the future. The exact mechanism through which this is still done today is unknown.

The memory of these domestic cats is selective as well as episodic. That is, they are able to remember the location of things, certain people, routines, positive or negative events, among many others, because they have already lived. And, according to the intensity of the feelings of these experiences, they decide whether or not to store this information in the cerebral cortex.

As with humans, several studies have shown that in many feline individuals, cognitive ability, and therefore memories, deteriorate and vanish when they reach old age. This translates into a condition called Feline cognitive dysfunction (dementia), which affects cats 12 years and older. Of course, not everyone suffers from this.

Do Cats Have a Good Memory? - How does a cat's memory work?

Does a cat's memory help them learn?

Observation and experiences allow the cat to learn everything they need to live comfortably. How do you take advantage of things observed and lived? Through memory, they select what will be useful and what allows them to react in the most appropriate way, the next time the same situation occurs.

The memory of the cat works in this way both at home and in the wild, since from childhood they watch their mother to learn everything they need. This process of learning through memory is linked to the feelings that the cat experienced during the experience, whether good or bad. In this way, they are able to react to stimuli that relate to mealtime, such as running away from people or pets who have tried to hurt them.

This system allows the cat to stay safe from potential dangers, while identifying their owner and remembering all the positives associated with them; such as delicious food, affection and hours of play!

What the cat learns has to do directly with the benefits they can draw from this learning. If they find that it will not suit them, it is very likely to be eliminated with their short term memory. This is why it is so difficult, in most homes, to prevent them from doing things like scratching specific places. Although you can teach a cat to use the scratching post, it is not always possible to educate them.

Do cat's have a good memory?

There is not yet a study that has determined the maximum amount of memories that a cat can store. And how far back in the past they have accumulated their memories. Some research points to only three years, but anyone who has a cat can relate their behaviors to that of long ago.

However, there is still no absolute opinion on this. What is certain is that not only are they able to remember situations that may be favorable or unfavorable to them, to know whether to repeat them or not and how to react to them. Also, to store the identity of people and other pets (and feelings which are accompanied by that experience), in addition to having spatial memory.

Thanks to this spatial memory, the cat is able to easily learn the location of objects of the house, especially those that interest them most; such as their bed, bowls and sandbox. Notice what they do when you add a piece of furniture that was not there before!

Are you surprised that your cat jumps into bed a few minutes before you? A few days living with you is enough to memorize your whole routine. So, they know when you will leave, what time you get up, when you can cuddle with you to sleep, and much more!

Do Cats Have a Good Memory? - Do cat's have a good memory?

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Do Cats Have a Good Memory?