Do cats forget their original owners when they are rehomed?

This is a good question. Let’s say a good cat owner for sensible reasons has to relinquish their cat to a rescue center such as, in the UK, Cats Protection. Let’s say after four months the cat is rehomed. They live with their new owners successfully for many years. Let’s say the original owner at some time, years later, visits her cat. Will her cat recognise her appearance and the sound of her voice? It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Cats have good memories and won't forget their original caregiver/owner
Cats have good memories and won’t forget their original caregiver/owner. Image: Pixabay.
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It is probably quite an important question because if the cat still recognises their original owner, it tells us about the cat’s mentality in living in a new home. They obviously adjust to being with their new owner and learn to connect and a bond will be formed.

But it is likely that memories of their original owner and the bond that they had with them are suppressed but they are not lost. They are simply dormant and I would strongly expect that under the scenario referred to above that the cat will recognise their original owner, both their appearance and their voice.

I base that on personal experience and general knowledge of the domestic cat which has a good long-term memory. And you will notice a large number of stories on the Internet of cats being lost for several years and even up to more than 10 years recognising their owner when they are reunited. The owner will say that their cat recognised them immediately and settled in within 30 minutes after a 10-year absence.

And if you go away on holiday for a long time and leave your cat to be cared for by somebody else, she will recognise you when you are reunited.

Therefore, if I’m right, and I’m pretty certain that I am, rehomed domestic cats are probably not quite as content as they might be if they were with their original owner; provided that their original owner was a good cat caregiver with a great bond between themselves and their cat companion.

And if the cat is rehomed a second time my guess is that she will be slightly less content than before. What I am saying is that the cat probably suffers a slightly deteriorating level of contentment with each rehoming depending on the quality of caregiving at each stage. Of course, I am speculating because we cannot get inside the head of a domestic cat with any accuracy.

And it is probably true, too, that if a person raises a cat from a kitten and that cat has known no other owner/caregiver their entire lives and is rehomed in their later years, say after about the age of 10, I would speculate that they are going to be less than content in their new home and they may never get back to their level of contentment when with their original owner.

Looking at things from the other side of the coin, if a good cat caregiver loses their cat with whom they have a close bond they will feel that loss and it will make them less content than they were before until the memory of their cat fades. This may take many years depending upon the closeness of the relationship. And when the owner adopts a new cat, they will still remember their lost cat fondly. I am generalising as I have to.

Below are some more articles about cat memory directly or indirectly.

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