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Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Away?

 
By MarĂ­a Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. February 10, 2020
Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Away?

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Among the many myths which circulate about cats, the idea that cats are contemptuous of humans is one of the most damaging. While they are more independent and self-reliant than dogs, this does not mean cats don't have an important bond with their human companions. In extreme cases, such a view can encourage unscrupulous owners to abandon their cat without a second thought to their well-being. However, a cat which has been socialized as part of our family is one which is dependent on them. This leads us to another question, do cats miss their owners when they are away? To answer this, AnimalWised looks into what cats think of humans and other aspects of their emotional intelligence.

You may also be interested in: Do Cats Come Back When They Run Away?

Do cats recognize their owners?

Cats are sensitive animals with a remarkable intelligence. As with dogs, they have developed over a long period of domestication to become common companion animals. Unlike dogs, DNA evidence supports the theory that cats domesticated themselves[1]. Perhaps this explains why cats are generally more independent than their canine counterparts. Concurrently, they have their domestic side which relates well to their human family, but also a wild side which fascinates us.

Cats relate to us using all of their senses, not just their vision. For example, a blind cat is able to recognize us due to their acute sense of smell. This allows cats to compose an image of their human family and to associate them with memory.

Additionally, felines are very attached to their routines. It is easy for them to become stressed when these routines are changed in any way. For this reason, we can see that cats can easily recognize their owners and the environment in which they live. If a separation occurs, cats can miss their owners or even other animals in the home. The extent of this will, however, depend on the individual cat as some develop stronger bonds than others.

There are many reasons a cat's routine is disturbed. We may move home, have an addition to the family, go on vacation or cause some other disturbance. Some cats will even experience separation anxiety over the short term. Again, cats may adapt better or worse to certain changes according to their individual temperament. There are ways we can minimize any upset a best we can. For example, we have an article which provides helpful precautions if you go on vacation without your cat.

Do cats miss their owners?

Cats can miss their owners and home environment to such an extent they can die when abandoned. Without the sense of security provided by their human guardians, some cats may not know how to fend for themselves and survive. They stop eating and drinking, but their practical problems can be compounded by the psychological effects and stress of abandonment. This is most likely the case with indoor cats which find themselves outside for the first time.

If we understand the importance of routine for cats, we can better understand the stress which they can undergo. Whatever the cause of disruption, it is possible the cat's references to both people and place can be seriously affected. Since cats form a bond with individuals, it is possible these effects are exacerbated depending on who is involved. Cats may have a preferred person with whom they are more likely to play and have tender moments. It is shown that this person is often the one from whom they receive the most attention[2].

While cats are not pack animals like dogs, you can see how they may miss their owners when they run to the door at their return. A cynic may say the cat is only looking for food or other resources, but this wouldn't explain why cats are affectionate with people at other times. The bond cats form with humans can be very strong and rewarding for both parties. When this bond is broken, we can see that cats will miss the affection and companionship they once shared.

We can see this evidenced not only from anecdotal accounts, but scientific reports. Once recent study showed that the most preferred stimulus category for the majority of cats was human interaction, more than food or playing with toys[3].

Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Away? - Do cats miss their owners?

How long does it take a cat to forget its owner?

Cats can remember their former owners throughout their lives. Thanks to both the strong bonds they form and their manifest cognitive capacity, they are able to fix the memory of their guardians and maintain it for years. It has even been shown that a cat can distinguish their owner's voice when compared to that of a stranger[4]. This shows that cats can miss people if they are separated or affected by abandonment. Luckily, even if they never forget their previous family, many cats are able to live happily in another adopted family.

Although cats will not easily forget, we may notice their lose certain cognitive function as they age. This is a similar process to what happens when humans age and their physical and psychological capabilities are diminished. In these cases, we may see the cat carry out certain odd behaviors. Their rest and activity patterns may be disturbed. They may lose appetite, become lethargic or even show signs of confusion. They may even forget who we are or become disturbed by our presence. Take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you see signs of cognitive dysfunction in your cat.

Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Away? - How long does it take a cat to forget its owner?

Do cats adapt to a new home?

As we have explained, cats remember their owners and can miss them when they are away. The likelihood of this and the extent to which it may happen will depend on the individual cat. For example, cats which are socialized poorly may find it difficult to form a healthy bond with people.

However, it is possible to adopt an adult cat and bond with them despite a troubled past. For this, we have to offer a positive and enriched environment. We perform different activities which they may enjoy and allow them the comfort and space to behave as they wish. For example, cats love to sunbathe and scratch, so a scratching tree placed near a window is ideal.

You will also have to have all of their basic needs met in the form of quality diet, fresh water and litter boxes which are able to accommodate the amount of cats in a home. They will also need quiet places to carry out their business, such as eating and sleeping. We will also need to safeguard their wellness by engaging a proper vaccination and deworming schedule.

If we have patience and do not force contact, we should be able to have a cat adapt well to our family. We can then develop a strong bond with the cat. Positive reinforcement is also an important factor in this process. Do not scold them, but encourage good behavior instead. We can also use soothing pheromones to help the cat to become more relaxed in our presence. You may form such a strong bond, you will find they miss you when you are not around.

If you have adopted a new cat recently, you can take a look at our guide on how to adapt a new cat to your home.

If you want to read similar articles to Do Cats Miss Their Owners When They Are Away?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

References

1. Ottoni, C., et al. (2017). The Paleogenetics of Cat Dispersal in the Ancient World. Nature: Ecology & Evolution, 1(0139).
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-017-0139

2. Vitale Shreve, & Udell, M. A. R. (2019). The Quality of Being Sociable: The Influence of Human Attentional State, Population, and Human Familiarity on Domestic Cat Sociability. Behav Processes, 158, 11-17.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2018.10.026

3. Vitale Shreve, K. R., Mehrkam, L. R., & Udell, M. A. R. (2017). Social Interaction, Food, Scent or Toys? A Formal Assessment of Domestic Pet and Shelter Cat (Felis Silvestris Catus) Preferences. Behav Processes, 141(3), 322-328.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2017.03.016

4. Saito, A., & Shinozuka, K. (2013). Vocal Recognition of Owners by Domestic Cats (Felis Catus). Animal Cognition, 16(4), 685-690.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-013-0620-4

Bibliography

1. Morris, D. (1988). Observe Your Cat. Barcelona: Plaza and Janés.

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