Cats do not forget their owners within 3 days because they have excellent memories.
They remember things based on an associative and selective memory, which means that they will remember important aspects of their lives, such as where to find food and shelter in order to survive and thrive.
Your cat has a lot more brainpower than you might have expected.
Felines are predatory creatures with a memory that allows them to recall necessary bits of information that help them to live in the wild. This trait carries over to domestic housecats, meaning they won’t forget you even if you don’t see them for a few days.
Will your cat forget you after 3 days? No, your cat has a great memory!
If you’ve ever wondered if your cat remembers things or not – the short answer is that of course they do!
Just like you and me, your cat has a memory that establishes things that have happened throughout their lives. This means that your cat won’t forget you after 3 days and can very well remember you for years to come.
According to an article from Animal Planet, “Once attained, even if by accident or trial and error, most knowledge is retained for life, thanks to the cat’s excellent memory.”
It’s safe to say that if you leave your pet for a week-long vacation, you won’t come back to a confused kitty. Your cat can remember things that happened years ago – but what’s interesting about your cat’s memory is how much it differs from yours or mine.
Your cat has a selective memory that allows them to recall the most important pieces of information – such as where to locate food, how to fend for themselves in a scary situation, or how to hunt for something to eat.
While your cat may not ever need to use a certain technique or method of knowledge, they are able to tap into their instincts and past experiences to regain these memories if they ever need them.
This is especially true for memories that are vivid in their minds, such as a traumatizing or life-changing event that occurred in their past.
Memories that hold more value to your cat will be more easily remembered. This might include memories such as:
- A fight or threatening encounter with another animal
- An overwhelming trip to the vet
- Being given new treats
- Learning an important skill
- A highly negative or positive interaction with a human
Your cat will store important memories in a way that allows them to connect to them if they need to while going about their daily life.
Your cat’s memory can store information for a long time – here’s why!
Just like humans, your cat has a short-term and a long-term memory that impacts how they remember and forget things.
Short-term memories are thosethat exist temporarily at the forefront of your cat’s mind while they process a situation. This allows your cat to make decisions and problem solve in the moment.
Long-term memories are ones that your cat can retain in their brain for extended periods of time. These memories could from last week or several years ago, and your cat may remember one thing better than another based on how significant it was.
According to a variety of studies, your cat’s short-term memory varies depending on the situation at hand and their level of interest.
For example, if your cat is playing with a toy or trying to find something that’s hidden, their interest and recognition doesn’t persist past sixty seconds. This is based on a study from 2006 that “explored the duration of cats’ working memory for hidden objects.”
Other research concludes that your cat’s short-term memory could last for up to 16 hours, depending on the circumstance.
Your cat is more likely to retain pieces of information in their short-term memory if they:
- Contain vital knowledge regarding your kitty’s survival such as the location of food and water
- Hold your cat’s interest for a significant amount of time and/or in repetitions such as when playing with a toy
- Benefit your cat in some way such as by providing them with resources or enrichment
It’s currently unknown as to how much information your cat’s short-term memory registers and holds before letting other memories slip through the cracks, however your cat also has a long-term memory.
Your cat’s long-term memory is selective, but very powerful.
Just like your cat’s short-term memory causes it to focus on the most important pieces of information, so does your cat’s long-term memory.
This means that your cat remembers events that happened a long time ago, but their brains only store the most vital experiences.
Studies show that your cat’s long-term memory can stretch back years and years, meaning if you hold an important position in your cat’s life, they may recognize you even after a long period of time without contact.
Your cat will hold onto the memories that matter most to them for long-term periods, such as:
- Where to find food, water, and other resources
- Safe places to hide and sleep
- Positive and negative connections they’ve made with other animals and people
- Survival instincts and techniques
This means that if your cat is presented with a situation where they need to recall something from the past, they won’t have trouble doing so.
Your cat learns and memorizes things through trial and error by observing and doing.
Your cat’s memory is still a mystery to many researchers. We can’t know exactly what our pets are thinking about or how they’re applying their memories to their current lives, but some studies can give us an idea.
While still very different, your feline’s brain has a lot of similarities to your own and has between 250 and 300 million neurons that help your cat to process and use information.
So how does your cat’s memory learn things exactly?
Your cat learns how to do things and remember them through two primary methods: observing and doing.
When your cat observes something around them, they have a chance to intake that information and use it in the future. This works especially well if your cat observes the same thing multiple times, such as another cat’s method of playing or eating.
The best way for your cat to absorb information and store it in their memory is through actions.
For example, if you want to train your cat to use a certain litter box, the best way to help them do this is by encouraging them to use that litter box.
Once they’ve done something, their brains have an easier time at retaining that memory and applying it to future use.
According to many observations in feline behaviors and memory, your cat’s learning capabilities and memory retention can be compared to that of a human toddler aged between 2 and 3 years old.
Unlike human babies, however, your cat will gain a lot of their experience in the first 8 weeks of their life.
In fact, the best time for your feline to retain information is between 2-8 weeks of age as they hit many important milestones during this time, including:
- Eating solid foods
- Learning to use a litter box
- Gaining more of their senses such as sight, smell, and sound
- Using their bodies and legs to move around more
- Beginning to explore their surroundings
For this reason, your cat will have the best opportunity to be social with humans and other animals if they are exposed to good experiences from a young age. These memories will stick in their brain and continue to develop as they grow older.
Your cat’s memory can associate things together to determine how to do something.
In addition to having a selective memory that lets them pick and choose what’s most important to them, your cat also has an associative memory.
Associative memory is what allows your cat to make connections based on things that happen around them.
For example, your cat might associate the sound of a can opening or a bag crinkling with getting food and come running to the noise. If you put down food without making these sounds, they might not make the connection immediately.
This works the same way for negative experiences.
For example, if you put your cat in a carrier and took them to the vet where they felt scared and hurt, they may develop an aversion to going into carriers for any reason since they associate them with a bad memory.
If your cat has had a positive or negative experience with something, they will associate this with other things that happen to them in the future.
That’s why it’s especially important for you to try and create as many positive experiences as possible for your cat. This is also why your cat may feel nervous about certain situations, because they associated a bad memory with a current event.
Your cat uses instincts and past experiences to create these associative memories. In conjunction with the memories that your cat selectively stores in their brain, this is how your pet lives their day-to-day life.
Your cat’s memory is strong, but it is susceptible to old age.
Like the way a human’s mind ages, your cat’s brain does too.
As your feline gets older, their age can begin to impact their memory and cognitive functions. This can also affect:
- Their ability to learn new things
- Their awareness of their surroundings
- How they interact with you and other animals
Your cat reaches senior status around 10 years old, which is when you may start to notice them slowing down physically and mentally. By the time they are 15 years old, they are geriatric, and this is typically when feline dementia sets in.
According to the Cornell Feline Health Center regarding cognitive decline, it is “a puzzling, progressively debilitating condition whose signs resemble those associated in humans with Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia.”
If your cat is suffering from this age-related condition, they may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Becoming disoriented and confused
- Lack of interest in playing, grooming, and interacting with you
- Sleeping more than usual
- Wandering aimlessly and/or into areas they don’t normally travel
- Picky about eating and drinking
- Failing to use the litterbox properly
- Meowing and vocalizing more often
While you can’t cure old age, there are ways that you can help to delay and reduce the onset of cat dementia, such as by:
- Providing your cat with a well-balanced and vitamin-rich diet
- Minimizing major changes and other forms of stress to your cat
- Ensuring your cat can easily access all their resources such as their food, water, and litter box
- Making sure your cat has plenty of places to sleep and hide
In addition to your cat’s memory declining as they grow older, they can also run into other age-related health problems that should be monitored by your veterinarian to make sure your senior kitty is happy and healthy.