Cat Lovers: What Do Cats Remember?

I was just thinking about my cats (surprise, surprise) and wondering how much they can remember. The reason I’m thinking about this is that my cat Harley seems to be afraid of short, dark-haired men. If my landlord or my father (both around 5’7", stocky and dark) come into my house, he hides and refuses to come out at all, even to eat, until the man leaves. When my dad visited, Harley was under the bed and inside a suitcase for 2 days and I couldn’t get him out for beans. My ex was well over 6 feet, and Harley was fine with him. Do you think Harley is remembering abuse at the hands of a short, dark-haired man? Note: I’ve had Harley for 5 years and he’s never been abused in that time.

However: I used to live in the building next door to a friend of mine. Achmed (my Siamese) and I would visit him often, and Achmed loved him. Then we moved, and Achmed didn’t see my friend for 3 years. My friend visited recently, and Achmed acted like he had no idea who my friend was. Achmed can be pretty snooty and aloof to people he doesn’t know but is extremely affectionate if he knows and likes you. However, this same Achmed, when he hears a doorbell on TV, goes to the door of the house, even though we haven’t lived in a house with a doorbell for 4 years.

Do cats remember specific people? Places? Why would Achmed remember a doorbell but not a person? Do they remember other cats if they used to live with them but separated? Do they remember kitties that died, do you think (how you would prove that I have no idea, just wondering aloud) ? Anecdotal evidence is welcome.

My beast remembers my parents’ house where he stayed for some time five years ago. He knows my nieces and nephews although he sees them about once a year. He recalls animals he has gotten to know well, but not ones he has met in passing.

What my cat remembers:

The sound of the Pounce can being shaken.

Where the food dish is.

Where the litterbox is (sometimes).

Other than that…

I visit my parents once every 6 weeks or so. They live in a dead end street. I haven’t lived in their house for over 11 years. I have a car that I’ve owned since 1999, and when I back into my parent’s street, the cat wakes up because it recognises the sound.

Mind you, there’s plenty of cars driving down the street, but it only wakes up at the sound of my father’s car (logical, he’s there all the time, as he lives there :)), my sister’s car (who visits multiple times a week), and mine.

So, even though she has had little exposure to the sound of my car, it still wakes up and runs to the window when she hears it. She’s 17 years old by the way.

I’d say cats have pretty good memories.

My cat failed to recognise her own kitten, three months after he moved out.

Both my cats seem to fail to recognise each other when they’ve been around a strange cat (like the former kitten) and are upset.

Both cats seem to remember the sound of the bells that used to be on their collars 12 months ago.

Several years ago, I adopted a kitten from my downstairs neighbor. About a month after, we brought the kitten down to see her mom again, and Mom didn’t recognize kitten and hissed. But maybe it’s not a lack of recognition-- maybe they really don’t want their kittens returning to their territory after they leave.

OTOH, Harley came home with me for a week over Thanksgiving, and everyone recognized him when he returned. He seemed glad to be home too.

An old boyfriend of mine had a cat who was somewhat stand-offish. We (the guy and I) were together about three years and I never felt like I got much past “acceptance” with her (the cat).

After we broke up, maybe a month or six weeks went by before I went over there for the ritual return of each other’s stuff – and Mindy (the cat) came running out and gave me a big hello.

Another anecdotal story about cat memory: the aforemention kitten, Ruby, died suddenly in my apartment when I wasn’t home, right in front of the door. Harley, who was her father, sat on that spot and cried on and off for days. It was very sad. :frowning:

Cats remember a lot of things.
Buttercup, for instance, knows that sometimes when she and I are in the master bathroom together and the door is closed, I AM going to hold her down and use a warm, wet washcloth to clean the doodie off her behind.She has semi-longish hair so stuff gets stuck there all the time, hence constant cleanings. So every time I go into the bathroom, no matter what the reason, she gets extremely upset if she’s with me and the door is closed.
Rumpleteazer,after we put Precious(another cat we had)to sleep, went around looking for Precious for weeks. She saw her go out in the Bad Box™ and then the Bad Box™ came back but without Precious in it. Rumpleteazer sniffed the box and looked at us,curious. Then she proceeded to run around the house,sniffing and calling for her. It took about 3 mos before she finally quit.But she will NOT go near the Bad Box™ unless CG or I pick her up and put her in it for a trip to the Very Bad Man with the Needles™,her vet.
Buttercup also knows that if she splashes water out of her dish to play with, I will scold her and put more water in the dish so she can splash it out and play with it.:smiley:

Chloezilla Monster Kitty was about 2 weeks old when she was found. The vet (and sites I found on the internet) told me I needed to rub her little butt to help her poop until she was able to poop on her own.

That’s been 3 years ago. You don’t come near her with a wash cloth in your hand or pick her up and start to carry her anywhere now - she’s gone in a flash. I think I traumatized her when she was a baby.

Likewise, Maggie used to get a bath about once a year (she has long hair and it gets matted in the spring - for the past 3 years I’ve been taking her to the groomers in the spring and having her shaved instead - its almost that time again).

Soooo, she hasn’t had a bath in the sink for about 4 years. If you pick her up while you’re standing in the kitchen, she immediately thinks its bathtime and starts to freak out - this pitiful sad ‘no don’t bathe me!’ mew, while staring at the sink. Its the only time she cries like that - if you pick her up in the kitchen or start walking toward the kitchen while you’re holding her.

My two are very skittish around strangers.

When Bob came to visit for the first time, it took about 3 days for them to realize he wasn’t going to torture and murder them. And that he does that cool petting thing.

I was happily surprised when Bob came to visit the second time (about 6 months later) and the cats recognized him immediately and were very affectionate.

My take is that Achmed remembered your friend very well, but in cat-like fashion decided to take offense at the fact your friend hadn’t paid any attention to him (Achmed) in some time, an infraction that required haughty aloofness on the part of Achmed.

According to a documentary I saw a few years ago, cats have no short term memory and limited long term memory. As a result, they wind up checking things several times a day because they don’t remember them and they forget stuff that stops being part of their routine. Routine is the key, though; they like stuff done in a certain way, at a certain time, with certain people present, because that’s how they remember it being done the last 500 times. And the only way they remember a single event or person is if it was traumatic enough to make them think about it for long enough to register in their long term memory.

Now my anecdotes: A few years ago I had a friend from out of town staying with me and he observed that my cat heard and identified the sound of my car approaching and ran to the door to wait for me every day, although my apartment at the time was on the 4th floor. Today, both my cat and featherlou’s cat can identify our car’s and know to come greet us when we return home.

Both our cats sleep pretty much all day, but wake up around 3 pm to do their stretching and wandering around before mommy comes home (around 3:30) and they get agitated when she comes home late.

The cats know exactly when breakfast and supper are and race to their respective dishes when either my wife or I go anywhere near the kitchen.

A couple years ago, featherlou gave one of her cats away, a very affectionate boy named Lou, who was a total momma’s boy and doted on her constantly. She got the chance to visit him a couple months later and, aside from a cursory sniff and rub, he didn’t acknowledge her as his favourite anymore.

Max, my cat, stayed with my parents for a while when she was a kitten and developed a friendship with my parents’ cat. A couple months after I took her back home full-time again, I brought Max over for a vist and the two cats were immediately at war, as if they had never met and my parents’ cat was defending her turf form some evil invader.

I was still living at home when my parents got their current cat. One morning when I came out for breakfast, she was on the kitchen counter, a definite no-no. So I grabbed my water gun, walked up to her, and shot her in the flank. She got this horrified look on her face and bolted out of the room. I the next couple years, I only saw her up there on one other occasion and when she realized she was busted, she ran like hell and hid. So she remembered the punishment for that transgression, even years later.

DPJ–if routine is key, then I guess our two pusses have gotten used to CG and I not having consistent schedules. Since both of us work in retail, our schedule varies from week to week and there IS no real routine except for they get fed every day around 8 am and then around 10 or 11 pm before we go to bed.
I wonder how this affects our cats and if they are certifiably loony because of it.
Or if they were just certifiably loony before and we didn’t know it till after we adopted 'em.:smiley:


We have several young cats that, when younger, I teased with the laser pointer. It is on a keychain. While I can now go several weeks without dragging it out and letting them chase the light dot, if I move the pointer on my desk and the keychain rattles, they all come running through the house and start searching the floor for the dot.

When Hanna was a kitten, I bought her these toys with bells, she would fetch them. She would also wreck them, so for safety’s sake I took them away from her when they got ratty. I kept the bells, and now she will still come running from no matter where she is in the house when she hears that bell ringing.

And my cats definitely remember the cat carrier means vet visit. Most of the time my cats only go to the vet once a year, but even after a year they run and hide when I bring the cat carrier out.

i have a cat that was diagnosed with kidney failure 2 & 1/2 years ago. i have given her replacement fluids almost every day since then. i am pretty sure she remembers that she was at deaths door and i can tell by her mannerisms that knows the fluids are keeping her alive. she ACTS like she appreciates life, no more stuck up witch act!

My parents’ cat loves to jump in the car when my father is unloading the weekly groceries on Friday morning. Sometimes she even honks, because she’ll stand up resting her paws on the steering wheel. :smiley:

HOWEVER. The only times the cat ever gets to ride in that car is when she has to go to the vet. Therefore, even if she’s just happily sniffing her way around inside the open car, closing the doors means your upholstery WILL be fucked up within 10 seconds. I tried it once, it was like a tornado broke loose inside the car. Poor kitty, I immediately let her out - but she sure associates “closed car” with “vet visit”, even though it’s been years since she’s been to one.

Ack, make that Saturday morning. Well, my dad’s retired now, so it could be Friday as well, I suppose.

Oh, my cat remembers my [a href=“”]Airzooka[/a]. He looks at it as though it were called into our apartment from Satan himself.

To all you cat owners, the Airzooka is better than a water bottle. I have only used it one time on the cat, now he takes one look at me taking aim and he runs for the hills.

Now, the part I feel bad about. Tango wasn’t exactly doing anything wrong the first time I Airzooka’d him. Merely sitting there looking at me, wondering what exactly I was pointing at him. Oh man, he wouldn’t come near me for DAYS!

So, all this crap about routine being vital to a cats memory–crap. He doesn’t even get up to try to fish out the goldfish from their tank anymore for fear of AIRZOOKA!