How far back do dogs memories go?
How Strong Is Your Cat’s Memory? (Facts, & FAQ)
Cats actually have incredible memories! They can remember a person’s face for up to 10 years! And kitties become seriously attached to their humans, so in case you were wondering, yes, your cat remembers and misses you when you’re gone for a few weeks, and they absolutely mourn when a trusted companion drops out of their life.
Cats also have fantastic associative memories — they’re great at linking positive and negative experiences to both people and places. And, of course, after a move, they’re notorious for showing up at their old home, sometimes thousands of miles away, demonstrating the strength of their place-related memory skills! Read on for more information about cats and their stunning memories.
Cats, just like humans, have both long and short-term memories. Cats mostly use their short-term memories to solve problems, often situations involving obtaining access to food. And anyone who’s ever been around a cat can tell you these creatures have serious abilities when it comes to getting hold of supposedly well-locked up cat food — feline short-term memory is a pretty powerful problem-solving machine.
Cats also use their short-term memories to recall where they most recently found prey and where and when their food bowl most often appears. Feline short-term memory encodes and recalls events experienced and information learned within the past 16 hours and then uses that data to solve problems.
Feline long-term memory is often tapped when it comes to remembering people and experiences. It’s a long-term memory that’s responsible for a cat recognizing a returning loved veteran or student after a long period of separation. It’s also what’s behind the tendency some cats have to avoid certain types of people or react negatively to particular environments. It’s also the reason particular cats respond to certain noises or smells by becoming extremely stressed.
Feline long-term memory links people, sounds and environments to positive and negative experiences. Cats are more likely to remember individuals they associate with pleasant experiences such as being fed and getting petted. Long-term memories can stay active forever. It involves the types of memories we can actively direct our brains to recall.
Moments high in emotion that result in memorable consequences tend to be the ones cats, and humans remember the most. And while clarity of recall does decrease over time, long-term memories fade in order of impact, with truly traumatic or comforting memories perhaps never disappearing entirely from a cat’s psyche.
Do Cats Remember Other Cats?
Yes. Cats form strong bonds with other household pets, such as dogs and other cats. If a cat dies or is rehomed, it’s quite common for the remaining cat to become withdrawn and sad due to grief related to the sudden loss of a close buddy. We also know that kittens constantly exchange scents while nursing and playing — scent being how cats identify family members.
Kittens who grow up together probably remain able to discern the other by smell for some time after being separated, but no one knows how long this ability to identify a littermate by scent continues. Cats probably have strong, lasting memories of other animals who they form deep bonds with over time.
Do Cats Remember Places?
Absolutely. Cats have an uncanny ability to find their way back home when lost or after a move. Howie, a cat in Australia, was sent to stay with friends while his family went on vacation. He escaped and found his way back home, a trek of more than 1000 miles.
And then there’s Holly — a cat who ran off in Daytona Beach, Florida during a road trip and was given up for lost. Holly somehow found her way home, walking more than 200 miles to her family’s home in West Palm Beach. Scientists aren’t entirely sure what allows cats to remember places so well and navigate to them so efficiently, but they suspect it has something to do with cats’ ability to read the earth’s electromagnetic fields.
Do Cats Have Memory Problems?
Yes. Cats can end up with memory problems due to disease or age. Cats who have brain tumors often show signs of cognitive decline. And diseases such as hyperthyroidism can cause symptoms resembling those associated with feline dementia. Cats who’re going blind or having trouble hearing frequently start to exhibit behaviors often seen in cats suffering from cognitive difficulties.
But a sizable number of cats simply begin to experience cognitive problems as they age — feline dementia occurs relatively frequently in cats over 10 years old. About 1 in 3 cats will exhibit at least 1 common dementia-related symptom by the age of 14. And at least 50 percent of cats older than 15 have symptoms associated with cognitive decline.
No one knows what causes feline dementia, although there’s some suggestion of an inherited component. What veterinarians do know is that cat dementia is a disease in which the feline brain progressively degenerates, resulting in the development of one or more symptoms associated with cognitive decline.
Memory problems in cats, however, don’t manifest in the same ways they do in humans. Instead of forgetting where the car keys are, cats suffering from dementia and other forms of cognitive decline tend to become easily disoriented and exhibit serious behavioral changes. Some begin to lick themselves excessively, go to the bathroom in inappropriate places and refuse to engage in their favorite activities. Others begin to sleep during the day, staying awake all night. Refusing to eat and excessive vocalization are other common symptoms.
Is There Anything I Can Do to Protect My Cat’s Memory?
Good food, lots of exercise and tons of mental stimulation are the keys to great feline health, including good long-term cognitive function. Food puzzles encourage cats to use their curiosity to solve fun problems and are a wonderful way to keep your cat’s brain sharp. Food puzzles, games and plenty of feline-human interaction are critical when it comes to preventing feline cognitive decline.
There are also supplements that may decrease your pet’s risk of experiencing cognitive decline. There’s some evidence that cats suffering from memory loss benefit from getting extra vitamins E and C, selenium, beta-carotene and carnitine. Some veterinarians suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial.
Cats should never be given human vitamins or supplements, and a good consultation with your pet’s veterinarian should be your first stop if you suspect your cat is having memory issues. The veterinarian can provide an accurate diagnosis and give you medically sound advice regarding treatment options, including nutritional supplementation, if appropriate.
Cats absolutely remember people, environments and events. They recognize the faces of those who treat them well and with love for up to 10 years. Cats also form strong negative memories and will avoid people, sounds, environments and situations associated with traumatic moments in their lives. Kitties form strong attachments to people — they not only bond deeply with their humans, but they remember the good times spent with their favorite people.
Cats deeply mourn the death or departure of intensely loved people, cats and dogs. And cats, just like humans, often suffer from cognitive decline as they age, but there are several things you can do that may reduce your cat’s chances of developing feline dementia, including providing tons of mental stimulation through games and puzzles.
Featured Image Credit: izmargad, Shutterstock
About the author
Cat mom to Ivy – a feisty little rescue kitten that is her one and only child. For now! Throughout her life, she has been introduced to the special love that can be found in the bond with a cat. Having owned multiple felines, she is more than certain that their love is unmatched, unconditional and unlike any other. With a passion to educate the public about everything, there is to know about felines, their behavior, and their unique personalities, Crystal is devoted to making sure that all cats and their owners know the importance of conscious living – and loving!
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Do Dogs Have Good Memories?
We have all often looked into our dog’s eyes and wondered what they were thinking. Sometimes this is practical in terms of the education and guidance we provide as tutors. Sometimes we simply want to know their perspective on the world. We know that our own memory is such an important part of daily experience, but we don’t know if the same applies to our canine companions. It is for this reason AnimalWised asks do dogs have good memories?
By looking at the long-term and short-term memory of dogs, we can find out how long is a dog’s memory span. In doing so, we can find out what our dogs remember about us, as well as how memory affects the bond between dogs and humans.
You may also be interested in: Do Cats Have a Good Memory?
- Do dogs have a memory?
- How good is a dog’s memory?
- Do dogs have long-term or short term memory?
- Can dogs lose their memory?
Do dogs have a memory?
Dogs do indeed have a memory for information. We can see this evidenced in their daily the lives. The fact that they know to go to the kitchen to wait for their food or will run to the door when they hear the leash being taken off the hook shows they remember things about the past. We can even see it in the reactions they have when they greet us. With a healthy bond, your dog will want to greet you and receive some affection because they remember how good you are to them.
Memory is also the fundamental aspect of education and training in dogs. Dogs learn by association. They know to sit because we train them to associate the action with the command. This should be carried out through positive reinforcement. If they did not have a memory, they would be unable to make this association. This is differentiated from innate behaviors which are carried out by animals instinctually and which do not require memory.
You can see your dog’s memory in action by taking a look at our basic dog training guide for beginners.
How good is a dog’s memory?
We know that a dog is able to remember their caregiver and even basic dog commands. These are learned through regular interaction and repetitive training techniques. This could imply that dogs do not have a particularly good memory as they need information to be programed into them over long periods of time. Such an approach to canine memory is a mistake because it doesn’t consider the fact that memory functions differently in animals.
Unlike humans, dogs do not have an episodic memory. This means they are unable to remember the details of everyday events for long periods of time. It is believed that only humans have the ability of true episodic memory, although some animals appear to show episodic-like memory  . This is because humans are better able to absorb, retain and engage with specific episodes and events.
A dog’s memory is based on associative learning. As the name suggests, they associate certain stimuli with different emotions and they are turned into a kind of memory. For example, your dog might survive a fall from a balcony at home, but then won’t want to go any closer to the scene. They do so not because they remember the specifics of the initial experience, but because they associate the area with fear and pain.
A similar example can be seen with a dog’s leash. It is normal for your dog to be excited every time you take them for a walk. This is because they associate the object with the pleasurable feelings which exercise elicits. Basically, dogs are coded animals based on habits and repetition, although some studies are exploring the possibility of dogs have a more complex memory  .
This type of associative memory in dogs works in their favor in the domestic environment. It allows caregivers to change associations made in the past from positive to negative ones. This is both most humanely and effectively done with the use of positive reinforcement in dogs.
Do dogs have long-term or short term memory?
Although there is much we cannot yet know about the functionality of a dog’s memory, scientific research into canine neurology has advanced in recent years. Studies have been able to prove that dogs have both short-term and long-term memory  . It does appear their long-term memory is stronger than their short-term memory.
Short-term memory helps dogs to develop an immediate action, reaction or behavior, which does not necessarily represent information that must be stored for a long period of time. It is believed that the short-term memory span of dogs is a maximum of 2 minutes, although the studies cited here imply this may not be the case.
The difference is an animal’s ability to access their memory and use it to make decisions in the present. In all animals, some knowledge needs to be stored for them to ensure survival of their species. In dogs, it is by using association they are able to remember these important things. For example, the socialization process of dogs is very important and the knowledge they glean during this time affects the rest of their lives. This is not the same as episodic memory by which they could recall specific events of the time.
It should be noted that the senses of dogs are very closely related to their memory. With such acute olfactory ability, dogs can use a smell to relate to food, a person, an environment or pretty much anything that has a perceivable scent. Hearing is also strongly linked to memory. Sight is less important for a dog’s memory as it is not as strong as these other senses.
Within this context, we can can’t say whether a dog has a large memory span. Rather, they have greater ability to retain certain long-term information, whereas their short-term memory is not particularly accurate.
Can dogs lose their memory?
Unfortunately, our dogs can suffer from memory loss. This is perhaps most commonly seen in cognitive dysfunction syndrome in dogs, a range of symptoms commensurable to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Many guardians will see behavioral and emotional changes in their dog once they enter old age. Some dogs can lose their memory to the point they become scared and even aggressive.
Some of the symptoms of cognitive dysfunction in dogs are as follows:
- Alteration of social behavior
- Delayed learning
- Memory loss
- Alteration of the sleep cycle
- Decreased physical activity
This is because a dog’s life will take its toll on their body, including their brain. While there may be other issues influencing senility in dogs, age is the most common factor. Learn more with our article on neurological disorders in dogs.
If you want to read similar articles to Do Dogs Have Good Memories?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.
Can Dogs Remember Their Past?
As a loving and committed dog owner, chances are you’ve spent some time pondering whether or not your dog can remember their past. People who have rescue dogs probably suffer from this more than others, as what happened in their dog’s life before them is a true mystery.
While dog lovers and scientists alike have been pondering this question for many years, a recent study has uncovered that dogs do in fact possess a declarative memory. This means that they are able to recall facts and information from their past, both pleasant and negative.
However, it is important to keep in mind that a dog’s memory does not work exactly like ours. This means that you may never know what exactly they remember from their past. New research indicates they most likely remember their previous owners, especially if their experience was quite traumatic or incredibly loving.
Signs a Dog Remembers Their Past
Now that we’ve established that dogs are capable of remembering their past and retaining that memory for years, let’s look at some of the top signs that your dog is maybe having a flashback of their life before you.
In order to do so, we must acknowledge just what incredible creatures our furry friends are. Not only can they sense our emotions and tune in to how we are feeling, but they can also pick up on the inner-workings of other dogs. It seems we learn more about dogs and the canine mind every single day, something we certainly aren’t complaining about!
A groundbreaking study conducted in Budapest, Hungary uncovered that dogs are excellent observers who can actually mimic human behaviors and actions just by seeing them.
They learn through experience and can both remember and reenact actions by their human companions. This also leads us to our next point — that dogs have associative memories. They will remember a person, place, or experience based on specific associations they have with them.
When looking to your dog for a sign they are having a blast from the past, pay close attention to their behavior and how they are interacting with a person or in a certain environment. Chances are you know your dog’s behavioral traits by now, so if they are acting a little strange or even crazy, they very well may be remembering something from the past.
For example, dogs often have a hard time with men wearing hats. Where does this stem from? Many dog owners believe (and rightfully so) that their dog had a bad experience in the past with someone who wore a hat, leading them to have a strong negative association with any man who wears a hat.
Safety Tips for When Your Dog Remembers Their Past:
- Remove them from the situation if it seems dangerous or upsetting to them.
- Stay near by and keep a close eye on them.