The Quora.com question in full: ‘We are holding onto a cat for a friend who is in jail for a couple of months, we don’t know how long he is in for, will his cat remember who he is when he takes her back?’
My answer in full: YES!
I’d better add some more words. From personal experience and from years of reading about domestic cats lost for years, it is quite clear that cats have a good long term memory. They remember the sound of your voice, your scent and your appearance even if their eyesight is not as good as ours under good light conditions.
The best evidence comes from stories of cats reunited with owners after they’ve been lost for many years. On being reunited they immediately pick up the relationship where they left off, say 10 years earlier. It is quite remarkable. Two months is a blink of the eye in terms of cat memory.
I recently read a story of a cat who was scared of people with northern accents. Once again this points to memories of perhaps years ago when the cat was abused by their first owner, a person with a northern English accent.
It might be wise for cat guardians to understand that cats have decent memories. It can affect how we care for our cats. If for whatever reason you put your cat through a bad experience such as shouting at her or him under specific circumstances, they’ll remember it. Although they’ll forgive if you make up. If you continue to reinforce the bad experience you’re likely to end up with a broken relationship.
Dogs are the same, of course. How many videos have we seen of military personnel returning from duties abroad to their homes where they are greeted ecstatically by their dog? There are thousands of them.
In 2017 the Daily Mail online reported on a cat, Snow, who successful played the ball-in-cup game. He could figure out under which cup the ball was hidden after the cups had been shuffled around. Snow is an American Curl purebred as far as I can tell.
There is no reason why cats and dogs should not have good memories. Their physiology is very similar to ours.
P.S. During the coronavirus pandemic, there is argument that says that some offenders currently in prison should be released early because they are at risk of dying of the virus in prison which are potential incubators of the disease.