Everything You Need to Know About a Cat's Memory Span

If you are thinking about adopting a cat or you already have one, you might be wondering if they will remember the great times you have with them. You might want to know whether they will remember tricks that you do with them. Learning more about the average memory span of a cat and their cognitive abilities can help you get the answers you are looking for. 

Amount Cats Remember

Cats are smarter than they let on to be. The exact amount that a cat will remember depends on their individual brain and experiences. For instance, a cat that had trauma in their life (being abused, etc.) might remember much more than the average cat or much less. Overall, cats usually have a good memory. Research shows that cats have both short and long-term memory, just like humans. 

Short Term Memory for Cats

Short-term memory, or working memory, is the type of memory that allows humans to remember someone’s address for many minutes after it was told to them. For cats, short-term memory is important to help them solve problems. In addition, research also shows that cats excel when it comes to short-term memory and food. For instance, when a cat needs to find their prey, they can remember where they hunted earlier that night. If you put down your cat’s food in a corner and they walk away from it, they can remember where it was. If you serve your cat a meal at a certain time of day, they are going to remember they are supposed to eat at that time.

During 2006, an Animal Cognition study was done, showing that cats had some short-term memory when objects were hidden from them. The more seconds that passed, the more they forgot where that object was hidden.

If you have a cat or you are planning to get one of the friendliest cat breeds out there, hopefully this information about the short-term memory span of domestic cats will give you an idea of what they will remember.

Long Term Memory for Cats

The long term memory span of a cat varies from one cat to the next, as well. A cat’s long-term memory is the memories they have from when they were younger. However, they remember thighs later in their life. These kinds of memories are kept in a certain area of the cat’s brain and they can be brought up when the cat wants them. For example, your cat might show that they prefer or despise a certain person. This could be from their long-term memories of being around that person. 

If you have ever seen a skittish cat that is scared of a certain type of noise, it isn’t from their short-term memory. This is usually do to them being scared of that noise when they were a lot younger. When they hear that noise again, it triggers their memories and makes them continue to be scared. 

If you are going to get a cat or you already have a cat, if they have fears it is important to remember that these fears might stem from before you even got them. It's important to remember that this should not stop you from adopting or getting a cat as your first pet. They are wonderful animals! 

Lifelong Memories for Cats

Since cats do have long-term memories, they can hold a grudge. For instance, your cat might not like it when you hiss at them. Maybe you hissed at your cat when they were just a little kitten and scared them. They aren’t likely to forget that you did this to them. Most professionals believe that the lifelong memories are stuck because of something very negative or positive that happened. Many cats will remember a traumatic experience for their entire life.

Other Information About a Cat’s Memory Span

It is important to know that cats can have memory issues when they are dying or sick. They might not have an appetite or they might forget to use their litter box. Sometimes it is just a temporary behavior change. Other times, it has to do with a cats’ memory. 

Now that you know more about a cat's memory span, you can understand more of what memories they make. If you are nice to your cat and you take great care of them earlier in their life, they are going to remember this. If you adopt a cat that has been mistreated, they aren’t likely to forget their past. However, they might warm up to you if you continue being nice to them. They might become less afraid as time goes on. 


Cats do have a memory span. They have both short and long-term memory. Some cats will remember things from when they were a baby - even when they are 15 years old. This is just one of the reasons why it is so important to always treat your cat well. 

You also need to remember that your cat’s memory will vary based on different factors. Your cat’s age, their past experiences, how you are treating them now, how often you spend time doing things with them, and some other things are going to affect their memory. There are things you can do that will help keep your cat's cognitive abilities high.

If you ever suspect that there is something wrong with your cat’s memory or their brain functions, you should speak to the veterinarian as soon as you can. There could be a health issue causing these issues. 

What is the memory span of a cat?

Overall, cats will have better memories than most dogs. Cats memories (short-term) usually last around 16 hours. However, they also have long-term and lifelong memories, as well. Your cat might have selective memories, too.

Do cats have good memory?

Generally, cats have great memories. In fact, research and studies have been done regarding cat’s memories. Some cats can recall things for 15 years or more. However, there are various factors such as age and individual intelligence, that will affect your cat’s memory.

How long does a cat’s memory last?

Your cat’s memory is likely to last about 16 hours. However, it is important to keep in mind that your cat will have longer term memories that stick, as well. For instance, if they experienced something traumatic, this is likely to stick with them for their entire life.

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Written by Leo Roux

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