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:
“Within 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.