The question is whether domestic cats recognise their mothers by which, for the sake of complete clarity, I mean their feline mothers!? It’s an interesting question and Google is finding answers which state that cats don’t recognise their mothers. I disagree with them.
Firstly, it is a known fact that mothers teach their offspring how to hunt. It is observational learning and it is also a known fact that kittens and some adults learn from their mothers and related adult cats far more efficiently than they learn by observing non-related adult cats. Because of this, I believe we are able to strongly argue that kittens who are learning through observation recognise their mother and closely related individuals. And this is due to a visual recognition combined with the call and the scent of their mothers and related adults.
Cats have a polygamous mating system. Males mate with many females and many females accept males to mate with them which causes uncertainty about who the fathers are of the offspring. It is said that males are unlikely to attack the kittens of any female they have mated with. That statement indicates that the males recognise the females they have mated with which I guess is common sense. If males recognise the mothers of their kittens, it is reasonable to state that cats recognise their mothers.
Secondly, I am sure every cat owner would respond positively if I asked them whether their cat recognised them visually. I know my cat does. He’ll see me from 50 yards away and recognise me by my appearance. This happens almost daily when I return home after buying the newspaper. He then confirms his visual recognition of me by recognising my voice and the words I say to him. And of course, he further confirms it is me by my scent when he sniffs my hand before I pet him on our reunion.
So, my cat is recognising me using three senses: visual, auditory and olfactory. You don’t get a more comprehensive method of recognising another sentient being than that.
It is also important to state that domestic cats recognise their owners even after many years apart. There are numerous stories which indicate this because there are many stories of cats lost for years and then reunited. Years ago, I used to leave my cat in a boarding cattery while I went on holiday. I don’t do it nowadays. I don’t go on holiday! It’s one big holiday 🙂 . But back in those days after two weeks away, when I walked into the boarding cattery without knowing where my cat was and I called her name I was told by the staff there that she immediately recognised my voice and as I approached her pen, she immediately recognised me visually. That’s after a two-week break.
I am confident in stating that domestic cats can recognise their owners after a long period apart. If they can recognise their human owners, it is strong evidence to support the argument that they can also recognise their feline parents. Especially as cats treat us the same.
For me, it all points to one conclusion namely that domestic cats do recognise their mothers. Fathers are a different kettle of fish as they mate and then bugger off. Not much of a connection between offspring and father.
I welcome alternative opinions in comments. This is an open question and I have given my viewpoint.
SOME MORE ON MOTHER-KITTEN RELATIONSHIP:
When a mother cat attacks and kills her offspring without trying. Is neonatal isoerythrolysis nature’s mistake?