Do cats ever forget their owners?
Do Cats Remember People?
Do you ever leave to go to work and come home wondering if your cat even remembers you?
With how aloof she can be, you might sometimes question if she even knows you.
The Dodo reached out to Dr. Jacob Hawthorne, a veterinarian and founder of Thank Your Vet Organization, to find out the answer to whether or not cats remember people, including their owners.
How long is a cat’s memory?
Adult cats are typically thought to have excellent memories when compared to other companion animals.
“It is common for cats to remember you even if they haven’t seen you for years,” Dr. Hawthorne told The Dodo. “It is important to note that kittens will typically have worse memory recall compared to adult cats, which is a similar thing that happens in human babies.”
Do cats have short-term memory?
Short-term memory refers to your capacity to store information for a short period of time.
When it comes to short-term memory and your cat, cats do have short-term memory and are known to recognize and remember humans (as well as other animals) even after only one interaction.
“Cats’ short-term memory is thought to be longer than other species, such as dogs, but the exact length requires further studies to understand,” Dr. Hawthorne said.
While we might not know what the exact length is, it’s widely suggested that a cat’s short-term memory can last as long as 16 hours, which is significantly longer than the average span of 27 seconds seen in most animals.
It’s also been found that cats use their short-term memory to remember things of importance, like where they hunted the night before or where their new food bowl is located in the house.
Like anything else in your cat’s life, she’s very selective and finicky — even with her memories.
Do cats have long-term memory?
Long-term memory refers to storing information over a long period of time, like years.
When it comes to long-term memory and cats, cats are typically thought to have an even better long-term memory compared to their short-term memory.
A cat’s long-term memory will come in handy when out on a hunt and needing to find her way home, or when seeing a person again and already remembering whether she likes them or not.
Do cats remember their owners?
Since cats are typically thought to be much more independent and self-reliant compared to other companion animals (such as dogs), some people believe that cats don’t miss their owners when they’re gone.
But this isn’t necessarily the case.
“Some cats won’t instantly run up to you when you come home, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss you or remember you,” Dr. Hawthorne said. “This will depend on your cat’s personality and friendliness, but it is thought that most cats do miss their owners when they leave, and we do know that they will remember their owners because of how strong their memory is.”
So while your cat might not always show you that she misses you, just know that deep down she’s totally happy you’re home.
Do cats miss their owners? Signs your cat misses you
While for dog lovers, it’s often easy to tell how our furry pals are feeling (wagging tails, face licks and enthusiastic bounding — ahem), it can be a much bigger challenge to gauge those of our feline friends. Cats are subtler creatures and while going about their sometimes independent lives, it can be difficult for pet parents to know how they’re really feeling behind those stealthy, elegant exteriors. So it begs the question — do cats miss their owners when they go on vacation? And how do you begin to tell if your cat is missing you? Well here we’re exploring exactly that — signs your cat’s been missing you (that your house sitter can keep an eye out for), along with ways you can combat feline separation anxiety — let’s get into it.
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Do cats miss their owners? Here are the signs…
- Affection when you get home
- Extra purring when you get home
- Unusually ‘bad’ behavior
- Physical illness
- Jumpy behavior
- Reduced appetite
Affection when you get home
When you next return home from a longer trip away than usual, pay close attention to how your kitty acts around you. While a dog’s reaction to the return of their pet parent can be a little ‘in your face’ (in the best way possible, of course), your feline friend’s reaction will be a whole lot more subtle. So, if you come home to a kitty rubbing their face against your leg and following you indoors, outdoors and even to the toilet, you can bet they’ve missed your company!
Extra purring when you get home
When you leave your kitty for hours at a time, what noises and movements do they make when you return home? Well next time, keep an eye out for your cat’s reaction and you might notice extra purring and stretching — they’re sure signs they’re happy you’re home. And if your feline friend is making these efforts to show they’re happy to see you, be sure to give them some TLC right back!
Unusually ‘bad’ behavior
If your kitty is missing your company, they might turn to destructive behaviors to pass the time. These include toileting outside of their little box, knocking objects over and scratching at furniture more than usual — all signs they’re feeling pretty unhappy. So, do cats miss their owners if they’re behaving ‘badly’? Not always — it’s important to keep an eye out for other signs of separation anxiety and to note how long they’ve been separated from you for. Context is key here, and any major changes in behavior should always be discussed with your veterinarian.
You’re probably familiar with the phrase ‘sick with worry’ — well unfortunately, when our feline friends are seriously missing us, they can get physically sick as well as feeling pretty down mentally. If your cat isn’t used to your absence, the stress they’re under may cause them to be physically sick, or to have diarrhea. While you won’t be able to predict whether this nasty symptom will occur, there are ways you can combat separation anxiety in cats — scroll down for a few suggestions.
As a fellow feline lover, you’ll know that our kitty’s behaviors are pretty subtle, so it can sometimes take a keen eye to notice behavior changes. So, if you’re welcoming a pet sitter to care for your furry family while you’re away, ask them to watch out for signs of agitation like crying, unfriendly behavior, extended alone time, or maybe even clinginess to anyone they know better.
If a furry family member is seriously missing their pet parent, there’s a chance that feline depression will develop. Signs to look out for include a combination of lethargy, loss of appetite, no longer grooming themselves, excessive meowing, tucked tales and laid-back ears. So, do cats miss their owners if they’ve got any one of these symptoms? Not necessarily — it’s important to look out for all of these behaviors, alongside advice from a veterinarian and a diagnosis if the symptoms persist.
If your cat is missing you while you’re away, they can become restless. The signs to look out for include aggression towards people and other pets, more vocalization than usual and changes to their eating habits.
While our kitty pals are more often than not cool, calm and collected, jumpy behavior is a sign that your cat is missing you, and may even have separation anxiety. More on edge and watchful than usual, they’re likely to become scared and startled by noises and human behaviors that they usually wouldn’t flinch at. While our feline friends won’t be huge fans of loud noises in general, the time to worry is when they’re startled by noises they’re most likely used to hearing (like the sound of sirens and people walking past their home).
Some cats may tuck themselves away if they’re feeling scared or unhappy — tight spaces help them to feel safe and out of harm’s way, so it’s a way of coping if they’re missing pet parents. But do all cats miss their owners if they seem to be sneaking off? Not at all — you should observe your kitty’s (or ask your pet sitter to observe while you’re away) behaviors that go alongside the hiding. There’s a high chance they’re simply being playful, or enjoying their much-needed ‘me time’!
Sadly, feline separation anxiety can lead to a reduced appetite, which can — in some cases — become dangerous. While a reduced appetite is a sign they’re missing pet parents, it’s important to keep an eye on any other unusual behaviors, as a lack of appetite can also be a sign of poisoning or toxicity of some kind. If you’re worried, get advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible.