My experiences tell me, with certainty, that domestic cats have a first class long term memory. Isn’t this an indicator that cats are more intelligent than given credit for?
Memory is an important factor in intelligence. Reasoning relies on memory. Long-term memory is about a file of experiences which can be called upon to assist in resolving current problems and in making decisions.
The ability to recall data in people must be correlated with intelligence. Life experience is very important in wise decision making and wise decision making is a sign of intelligence.
On television, almost all the quizzes which are considered to be measures of a person’s intelligence are in fact measures of a person’s ability to recall facts.
Obviously a cat is going to store data in long-term memory which is suitable to his/her lifestyle and to improve his chances of survival. This is often different information to that which we store.
My experiences relate to a cat’s ability to recognise a person visually, through scent and sound many years after first knowing the person but with no contact with the person in between the initial interactions and the current one.
I visited the Flick’s home near Dallas, Texas, USA, twice. The period between the visits was, I recall, about 2 years.
When I arrived the second time Zach immediately remembered me visually and through my scent. How do I know this? Well, his behavior was relaxed with me as if I had only been away a day. He clearly knew me. If I was a stranger he would have behaved in the way cats normally behave with strangers, somewhat cautiously, at least. In fact Zak is quite a cautious and reserved cat, the evidence being that on my first visit it took a while (the entire 10 days of the visit) for him to get to know me.
There is no doubt in my mind that he absolutely knew me after a two year absence. That has to be because of a very good long term memory.
My second experience happened a day ago. I was staying at my girlfriend’s home where I had lived for about 6 years or more. I met a stray cat who I fed while I was living there. I had not seen this female tabby cat for about a year. She certainly recognised me by my voice and appearance as she was very friendly with me.
Cats must also have decent short-term memories because they rely on the degradation of the scent of feline urine to decide when a cat was there. As we know cats spray mark territory. As strength of the scent of urine degrades cats are able to tell how long ago it was deposited thereby helping to work out where the other cat is located.
It appears that cats are able to compare the strength of the scent from previous days which means they are able to store the scent in their memory.
As mentioned Zak was able to memorize my scent over two years. I am sure he would still be able to remember me now, 6 years later. I miss the boy. He is such an impressive cat.