Will my cat remember me?

Will my cat remember me? People search Google for an answer. This is my answer. Based upon personal experience the answer is, yes. And you can be a long time away from your cat and he/she will still remember you.

I remember visiting Helmi Flick in Dallas, America many years ago, and meeting her cats one of whom was ZAK, a great looking Maine Coon cat (see above). We made friends over the eight day visit. When I visited again a couple of years later he remembered me and confirmed that he knew me by smelling my scent. We instantly carried on where we had left off.

Cats will remember your voice and your body odour. They will also remember the way you look. I’m sure that everyone who has boarded their cat at a boarding cattery for a couple of weeks will have experienced the way their cat recognises them on their return and is eager to be with them again.

I would like to hear anyone else’s views on this. I suppose it is quite unusual to be away from your cat for a long time and therefore it is difficult to test whether your cat will remember you.

The famous story of Christian, the lion reunited with the two guys who raised him has to make it clear that cats remember us:


We don’t know what happened when cats have returned home after many years away and the owner and cat are reunited There are quite a few stories about long lost cats being reunited with their owner. I expect that their cat immediately settled in having recognised his/her human companion and familiar surroundings.

This question is obviously about a cat’s long-term memory. You won’t be able to read much on the Internet about a cat’s long-term memory and neither will there be much in reference books (although see below). However, the cat’s anatomy is very similar to ours and there is nothing to suggest that their memory is any less good than ours.

We know that cats remember their territory very well. We are reminded that if a cat is blind we are to keep the furniture in our home in the same position so that the cat can remember where it is and avoid it. This is another reminder that a cat has a good long-term memory.

John Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense, makes a direct reference to long-term memory in the domestic cat:

β€œWithin the brain, representations of what is happening are generated and held for a few seconds in working memory before most are discarded. A small fraction of these representations, particularly those that have triggered changes in emotion, are transferred into long-term memory, enabling them to be recalled later on. Short-term memory, long-term memory and emotion are all used when a cat needs to make a decision as to what action to take.”

A domestic cat, Bradshaw states, will trawl through his long-term memory when making observations about what is happening before him and recall what happened the last time under similar circumstances before making a decision. This is clearly very similar to the way the human mind operates and why not?

We have to conclude that cats have a reasonable long-term memory. Cats also have an excellent sense of smell, reasonable eyesight and excellent hearing. Armed with these aspects of anatomy, it is common sense that a domestic cat will remember you after a long time away.

The way he/she reacts having remembered you depends upon his previous experiences with you, as stated by Bradshaw. Clearly if the experiences were not pleasant then he may give the impression that he does not remember you.

8 thoughts on “Will my cat remember me?”

  1. I can’t really speak to this from experience, since I’ve never been separated from any of my cats for longer than 3 months.

    I do remember seeing the movie “Christian”, and enjoying it so much. I think there are many examples of long term memory in domestic and wild animals after very extended times of separation from their human guardians, and animal companions.

    The joy of re-union is unmistakable.

  2. After I split up with my ex, it took me a year to get Sophie back. I was worried it might take a little time for her to warm up to me again, but she remembered me instantly and was happy to see me.

    My new cat Phoebe was 3 when I adopted her and I often wonder if she ever thinks about her previous home and owners.

    • Thanks Michele for sharing your experience which supports my ideas and experiences. I suppose it is almost common sense that cats remember us but it needs to be stated in more detail than that.

      • There’s a very touching Youtube video of a guy visiting the cat he’d had to surrender to a shelter when his new employer had a ban on pets in the housing which came with the job. The emotional bond between the cat and owner is joyful to see. Thankfully the guy’s boss relented after being shown the video and he was allowed to have his cat come live with him πŸ™‚


        • Nice video. I wish he had decided to live where somewhere else so he could keep his cat (update: I have read the last bit of your comment: great!). I have just remembered the famous lion, Christian and his reunion with the two guys who raised him. This confirms the answer I have provided.


          • I’m unsure of his nationality, but from what I recall, he was a contract worker somewhere in the Middle East and his home came with the job. Apparently he had no choice in where he lived as that was decided by his employers.

            Do you remember the video clip of a lady in Colombia being reuinted with a lion whom rescued and cared for 6 years earlier? The lion was overjoyed to see her and was hugging her through the bars and nuzzling his face up against hers.

            Long term memory is difficult for scientists to study in animals because every creature is an individual. I think for now we have to rely on these kinds of pet reunions, to give us an insight into how good a memory cats really have.

  3. There is no doubt in my mind that Samirah remembers her first owner, even tho she hasn’t seen her in two years. Sometimes she stares at me as if she’s thinking to herself, “You’re not my human,” but like the article says, she seems to remember what my relationship is with her. Thank goodness apparently most of those memories seem to be largely good ones, but sometimes she does seem skittish and confused.


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