How Long Can a Cat Remember a Person? – Cat’s Memory Explained

Written by

Amy Sawy

Veterinarian. DVM


Joseph M. Plummer

Veterinarian, DVM, MVZ

how long can a cat remember a person

“How long can a cat remember a person?” is a common question of most cat owners. According to some research, cats have an average of 16 hours of short-term memory. There is no indicated time for long-term memory.

This article aims to delve into the memory span of a cat, providing insights into their incredible memory abilities and the depth of their emotional bond with their owners. By the end of this article, you will better understand your feline companion’s impressive memory capabilities.

2 Types of Cat’s Memory


The answer to the question, “Do cats remember people?” is yes. Cats have both short-term and long-term memories. These memories’ formation and retention are essential for cats’ cognitive growth and general well-being.

They are influenced by both significance and emotions, allowing them to recall important information like the location of their food and emotional experiences such as moments of happiness or fear.

Let’s get into more detail about cats’ short-term and long-term memory.

1. Short-term memory of a cat


Short-term or working memory is crucial for cats to navigate their surroundings and perform immediate tasks.

This type of memory allows cats to remember simple actions such as jumping onto a counter, chasing a toy, finding their litter box, etc.

The memory of cats can last up to 16 hours. Still, their ability to remember the location of an object quickly declines within seconds and usually lasts up to a minute.

However, recent studies have shown that in situations where cats had to move around and avoid obstacles, their short-term memory lasted more than 24 hours.

Short-term memory allows cats to make decisions based on their immediate surroundings, avoid potential threats, and learn from their experiences.

2. Long-term memory of a cat


Cats have long-term memory that is indefinite. It isn’t easy to put a time limit on this, but 10 years is a common estimate for a cat’s long-term memory.

Feline long-term memory associates people, sounds, and environments with positive and negative experiences.

For example, a cat will likely remember a person for a long time if they associate that person with a good thing, like getting treats or being loved. On the other hand, if a cat has a bad experience with someone, like being punished or threatened, the cat may remember that person badly and try to avoid them.

Cats’ long-term memories impact their behavior and interactions with the world. Knowing their long-term memory capacities, pet owners may establish good connections and enriching experiences for their feline companions, strengthening bonds and relationships.

How Long Do Cats’ Memories Last?


A cat can remember its owner and guests who come to its home. However, a cat’s memory span for each person is different. Let’s find out how long cats remember their owners, how long they remember visitors, and the explanation for this difference.

1. Owner


The good news is that kittens remember you. Cats retain their owners in long-term memory because they interact with the owners daily, such as by being fed, petted, and playing with.

  • As a result, cats have a strong emotional bond with their owners, and the owners become a significant subject in their memory.
  • That’s why cats can remember their owners for a long time, up to 10 years. Cats can also recognize their owners’ scent and voice, which can help them retain their owners even after long periods of separation.

However, depending on individual differences and experiences, the length of time a cat can remember its owner may vary. Factors such as the frequency of interactions, the quality of the shared experiences, and the cat’s age and health can all impact its memory.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that cats and their owners can form long-lasting memories, resulting in strong emotional bonds and affectionate relationships.

2. Visitor or Stranger


Visitors or strangers who only interact with a cat briefly and have limited contact with the cat tend to fall under the cat’s short-term memory category.

Therefore, if a person has only one interaction with a cat, the cat can remember them for approximately 16 hours.

  • However, if the visitor has a strong emotional bond with the cat and visits frequently, the cat may remember them for a long time, even several years.
  • Furthermore, if the visitor had a bad or frightening experience with the cat, the cat may remember it as a threat and react accordingly.

Overall, the time a cat can remember a visitor depends on the individual cat’s memory capabilities and experiences.

3. Remember Other Things

Aside from humans, cats can also remember various other things, including friends, enemies, locations, negative experiences, and more. Look at the top four things that cats remember the most right here.

  • Locations


Cats have an excellent sense of direction and can easily find their way home after being away. They can also remember places where they have found food or other resources.

When a cat finds food, it can keep the exact location in its short-term memory for more than 15 hours. Cats’ short-term memory is critical to their survival instincts, allowing them to recall places rich in prey, shelter, or danger.

  • Gestures and words


Studies have shown that cats have a surprisingly good memory for learning gestures and words. Accordingly, cats can understand human pointing gestures and follow them to find food.

Cats can follow our signs and understand human pointing gestures. Regarding cats’ ability to recall things in short-term memory, researchers believe that cats can remember events for up to ten minutes after they have experienced them.

  • Bad experiences


Do cats remember abuse behavior or who abused them? The answer is yes. Cats can remember negative experiences for a long time, and these bad memories can affect their behavior and personality in the future.

According to experts, a cat’s memory can last a few weeks to several years, up to 10-15 years, depending on the severity of the experience. This is due to cats’ strong associative memory, allowing them to recall specific events that cause pain or discomfort.

Giving your cat a positive and safe environment is important so it doesn’t learn bad habits or experiences.

  • Other cats


Cats can remember other cats for a long time, though scientists are unsure how long. The memory’s duration depends on the time spent together, the intensity of the encounter, and the cat’s memory ability.

Studies have shown that cats can recognize the scent and vocalizations of familiar cats even after years of separation. Cats have also been observed to form social bonds and hierarchies with other cats, implying that they have a complex and long-lasting memory of their interactions with other felines.

Frequently Asked Questions


In the following FAQs, look at some fascinating facts about cats’ memories.

Do Cats Forget Their Owners in 3 Days?

No, cats do not forget their owners in just 3 days, after 2 weeks, or even a month. Cats tend to form strong emotional bonds with their owners, making them remember the owners for a long time.

Cats may show signs of nervousness or tension if their owners are away for a long time, but this does not mean they have forgotten them.

Will My Cat Remember Me After 1 Year?

According to research, cats can remember their owners even after a year or 2 years. However, the strength of the memory might vary depending on the intensity and nature of the relationship, and it might take some time for the cat to build familiarity and trust again.

How Long Can a Cat Forget a Person?

The duration for which a cat can forget a person depends on the type of relationship they have. For visitors, cats can remember for about 16-24 hours, while for their owners, they are likely to remember the owners after 3 months or 6 months of being away, even for their lifetime.


Based on the information presented in the article, you should better understand how long can a cat remember a person. Cats can remember their owners for long periods, potentially several years or even their entire lifetime. On the other hand, their memory retention of visitors or strangers is significantly shorter, lasting only 16-24 hours.

The level of interaction and the emotional significance play a significant role in a cat’s ability to remember a person. Remember that each cat is unique and may have different preferences and behaviors, so be patient and observant of your cat’s reactions and responses.

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