Perhaps you’ve returned from work or school, and your cat snubs their nose at you. Or maybe, you are visiting your family home after having lived in another state for a while, and the family cat is acting distant.
The cats’ behaviors are almost as if they’ve forgotten you. This thought leads you to wonder, how long does it take for cats to forget you?
On average, a cat you’ve just met can have a pretty short-term memory, forgetting you after just 16 hours of interaction. However, with your pet cat, as long as they are acknowledged, fed, and provided for, they will not forget you for up to 10 years unless they have certain medical conditions.
We’ve never been away long enough for our own cats to ‘forget’ us but they can sometimes be grumpy with us for a short while because they don’t like that we left them in the first place!
Keep reading to find out how long it takes for cats to forget you and what factors can change that outcome, such as the type of relationship between you and your cat and your cat’s age and medical conditions like Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD).
You can also discover ways to decrease the chances of your cat having FCD or how to delay it if they’ve already developed it.
There are a few factors that come into play when it comes to how long it takes for a cat to forget you.
Two of these factors are how long you’ve been around the cat and the bond that the two of you share.
Cats, just like humans, can have a short attention span.
Typically, the average cat can store about 16 hours’ worth of memories in its head if it’s worth remembering (i.e. an owner that they’ve consistently been around for over a year).
So, things like forgetting to urinate in their litter box, or accidentally breaking an object that they were told to not go near in the first place can be easily forgettable things for a cat to forget, especially when they are in a new environment.
Coinciding with them being in a new environment is that they are living with someone who still feels like a stranger to them.
if you’re gone for a couple of hours, few days, or maybe even a few weeks, after being around each other for short periods of time, then, yes, it is likely that your cat can easily forget you.
The bond between a cat and its owner is the determination of how well they remember you.
Consistent acknowledgment of your cat is the key for them to not forget you. So, if you’ve had your cat for over a year (especially since they were a kitten), then the chances are that they will remember you for a long time no matter if you’ve had to leave for a day at work, or school.
There is a better chance that your cat will remember you if you’ve had them since they were a kitten due to their age.
The younger they are, then the better that they will retain more memories of you over time.
Besides remembering you based on association of food, water, and shelter, the relationship that you as an owner have with your cat can also decide how they will remember you long-term.
Cats often like to keep to their own space but still acknowledge the simple fact that you are there to provide for them. But just like with anything, generalizations aren’t always correct.
The University of Lincoln researched the bond and relationship that people have with their cats and concluded that there are five different types of cat-owner relationships, which include:
- Open Relationship: The owner is more invested in bonding than the cat is, and if anything, the cat tries to avoid having a relationship with their owner.
- Remote Association: The owner isn’t very emotionally invested in the cat, but the cat accepts them because they associate them with food, water, and shelter.
- Casual Relationship: The owner is more emotionally distant, but the cat accepts them and doesn’t show interest in others besides them.
- Co-Dependent: The owner is emotionally invested, and the cat is accepting towards them and sometimes wants to stay close to them.
- Friendship: Both the owner and cat are emotionally bonded and the cat likes to be by them over being by others.
The relationship between a cat and their owner can truly become more established as their cat ages; nowadays, cats can live up to the age of 15 or older. On one hand, it’s amazing that cats can live longer, but that within itself can come with numerous health problems that come with aging.
Some health-related issues that can come about in an aging feline that can affect their quality of memory is called Feline Cognitive Dysfunction, or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD), or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), is a disorder within the cat’s brain that generally affects cats over the age of ten. Their everyday routines can be forgotten as they progressively age.
The signs of this disorder include some behavioral issues, including:
- The cat is unresponsive when their owners call out to them
- Missing their litter box when the cat has to urinate or defecate
- Sleeping all day
- Becoming increasingly irritated than they normal
- Defecation and/or urination at inappropriate times and outside of their litter box
- Forgetting where they are
- Getting trapped in areas that they didn’t realize that they were in
- Forgetting what they’ve learned (i.e., commands)
It is especially important that if you notice any of these symptoms to not ignore them and urgently schedule an appointment with your cat’s veterinarian.
They will speak with you and help rule out what symptoms your cat may, or may not, have before concluding that they could have Feline Cognitive Dysfunction.
Though Feline Cognitive Dysfunction is incurable once your cat starts developing it, there are some ways you can delay it from progressing as quickly.
Changing up your cat’s environment over time is a recommended way to help reduce their Feline Cognitive Dysfunction. Things like adding in new toys, spending more time with them, and making areas more accessible since aging makes it more difficult to climb can help their brains be more stimulated and less stressed out.
Another way for their brains to become enhanced with more stimulation is to use a puzzle feeder. Puzzle feeders are where cats have their food placed inside small compartments so they will have to figure out a way to release it.
Other ways to help delay your cat’s FDS include avoiding bringing another animal into your household within the same proximity as your ageing cat(s) who are struggling with FDS.
Seeing another animal in the same home as them can prove to be a stressful situation, consequently increasing their anxiety.
Now you know how long it takes for a cat to forget you depending on the circumstances that surround the bond between you and them, having an owner and pet relationship.
You also now know how to become more aware of the potential signs of your cat having Feline Cognitive Disorder, as well as what to do if they do have it.