Cognition in Cats

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Cognition in Cats – how much they retain memory – may differ significantly depending on several factors. Relationships with humans, individual intelligence, and even the age of the cat may affect memory. Taken as a whole, cats have excellent memories. Recent research done at the University of Michigan and the Department of Animal Behavior at the American Museum of Natural History in the USA shows that the memory of cats is better than that of any other animal.[1] The individual cat uses his memory only for what he regards as valuable purposes, and the knowledge acquired by cats through observation, trial and error is remembered for its entire life. Cats have sophisticated brains, and are intelligent creatures, and their learning capacity is large. According to the aforementioned research work, the memory of cats is about two hundred times more than that of dogs.[1] Also in this research, the memory of cats was found to be better than that of monkeys and chimpanzees. Cats adapt to the environment that they are in easily because they can recall what they have learned in the past and adapt these memories to the current situation to protect themselves throughout their lives.[2][3]

Short and long term memory[edit]

Just like human beings, cats have both long term and short term memory function. A cat uses his memory only for what he considers useful and relevant; hence, a cat's memory is quite selective.[2] Short term memory allows him to do things like remember where you have just moved the litter box, and long term memory means that he can remember things learned long ago, such as both remember what the litter box is for and remember where you have moved it a year later. Some things are learned by instinct, intimidation and some of these things are learned by observation and trial and error.

Memory in kittens[edit]

For the kitten play is more than simple enjoyment and fun in the animal world. These things ranks social order, prey capturing skills and in a real way hones the cat for survival in this very hostile world. According to research in addition to this they are exercising their minds and bodies in rehearsal for their adult roles. The first two to seven weeks is a critical time for cats. This is when they bond with other cats; an interesting aspect to this is that void of any human contact during this time, the cat would be forever mistrusting of humans according to some experts.[2]

Memory in older cats[edit]

Just as in humans, advancing age may affect memory in cats. Some cats may experience a weakening of both learning ability and memory that affects them adversely in ways similar to those occurring in poorly aging humans. A slowing of function is normal, and this includes memory. Aging may affect memory by changing the way their brain stores information and by making it harder to recall stored information. Cats lose brain cells as they age, just as humans do.[4] The older the cat, the more these changes can affect its memory. There have been no studies done on the memories of aging cats and memory, but there is some speculation that, just like people, short term memory is more affected by aging.

Diseases may affect memory[edit]

Disease may also affect cat memory. There is a syndrome called Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD) that is similar to Alzheimer's in humans. The symptoms include disorientation, reduced social interaction, sleep disturbances, and loss of house training. This syndrome causes degenerative changes in the brain that are the source of the functional impairment.[4]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Andrea. Live Science. 22 Feb 2010. Web. 24 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Stock, Judith A. Pet Place. 1 Jan 2011. Web. 24 March 2011.
  3. ^ Pawprints and Purrs. Cat Health. 11 October 2010. Web. 24 March 2011.
  4. ^ a b Memory Loss With Aging. Family Doctor. 22 Jan 1996. Web. 24 March 2011.