Showing posts with label memory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memory. Show all posts

Monday 29 August 2022

Is my cat going to remember me when I come back from college in three months' time?

The woman asked the following: Do cats forget their owners? I’m leaving my cat for three months cause I’m going to college and I’m gonna miss him so much:,) is he going to remember me when I’m back?

Is my cat going to remember me when I come back from college in three months' time?
This is the loved cat. Photo: u/Cloutlordcatto on Reddit.com

She asked the question on the Reddit.com website. My response to her question is as follows:

Provided that you have a very good relationship with your cat (you clearly have), he will remember you immediately you talk to him because he'll remember your voice and he will be pleased to meet you again. I can guarantee it. Domestic cats have good long-term memories. There are stories of cats remembering their owners when reunited after years apart. The link below goes to an article which I wrote some time ago about the long-term memory of domestic cats. Cats have good long-term memory. He is a super-looking cat by the way. Good luck at college.

Perhaps the obvious point to make is this: there is no reason why cats should not have decent memories. Anatomically speaking domestic cats are very similar to humans. You will not have to go far on the Internet to find stories of cats remembering their owners after being separated for months. 

And, of course, domestic cats need memories in order to 'survive'. Their ability to form memory comes from their wild cat ancestor. The North African wildcat, needs the ability to form memories in order to survive by, for example, avoiding places and animals which are hazardous to it. Domestic cats can for example smell the fading scent of urine that has been deposited by another cat as a marker on their territory. In order to make this work they have to be able to memorise the previous scent to make a comparison.

And, of course, cats allowed outside remember their home range. They remember the markers and major objects in their territory. They remember cats coming into their territory. And of course, they remember visitors to their home, often by the body odour of the visitor. Once a domestic cat knows that a stranger is safe, they will attach the body odour of the person to the knowledge that they are safe. When the person visits again even months later, they will smell the person and recognise them through their body odour.

And sometimes cats been missing for years and are finally reunited with their owner because of a microchip in their neck. And when they go up to their owner, they show through their behaviour that they recognise them. And they settle in to their old home within minutes. It is as if they never left so, yes, domestic cats have good long-term memories and it makes sense that they do.

On a personal level, years ago, I left my then female cat at a boarding cattery when I went to America to do some research on cats and when I came back, she recognised me immediately. She recognised my voice before she saw me. This was entirely expected. I had been away for two weeks.

Quick update: I have just bumped into a study which talks about cat short-term memory. It's interesting for this reason: when cats walk through and over obstacles, they have to memorise the positioning of those obstacles to allow their hind legs to avoid them. And you may have seen those astonishing videos on TikTok of cats navigating many obstacles placed in a corridor. They walk through these obstacles without knocking any of them over. They are employing their short-term memory to prevent their hind legs making contact with the obstacles which are quite close together.

I have written about domestic cat working memory. CLICK HERE TO READ IT IF YOU WISH.

I would be pleased if you would share your experiences of your cat's powers of long-term memory!

The article ends here

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I have been trying to find out how memory in a person or cat's brain works. I'm not sure that people know precisely how it does work. The answers that I have found on the Internet are rather vague. But one scientist says that "long-term memories must literally be built into the brain's synapses". Synapses are those areas where neurons are connected. They say that to build a memory which can last years, neurons must manufacture new proteins and expand the docks, as it were, to make the transmitter travelling run more efficiently".

The University of Queensland Australia, says that "Memory is the reactivation of a specific group of neurons, formed from persistent changes in the strength of connections between neurons". It seems, therefore, to me, that memories are embedded into neurons perhaps in protein molecules and the memory is recalled when the neuron is reactivated. I am simply interpreting what I read and don't take what I state as verbatim truth!

Tuesday 13 July 2021

Study on pet wolf behaviour helps explain why wild cats don't make great pets

It is my contention that true wild cats like the serval don't make good pets because they are not backed up by 10,000 years of domestication. I believe that memory can be inherited. It is called genetic memory. This is why young offspring of wild animals such as wild cats or wild dogs immediately know how to do things completely instinctively. And it's why domestic cats have the memory of human behavior in their DNA.

Pet serval
Zena, a pet serval, and James Brown's partner? Photo: James Brown.

And I believe that domestic cats over thousands of years of domestication learn how to interact with people and that this memory is held in their genes to be passed on to their offspring. And the study on young wolves regarded as pets to their owners found that they could never quite pick up inferences from human behaviour as could domestic dogs. Therefore, they were unable to communicate with people in quite the same way.

Dogs are born with an innate ability to understand what humans want to communicate to them. Their ability is to read people because of perhaps 20,000 years of domestication. Dogs have been domesticated for far longer than cats because they were and still are working animals.

Because they understand people better, they form much better bonds with people than do pet wild dogs i.e. wolves. Across a range of tests in the study the dog puppies greatly outperformed their wolf cousins. For example, despite puppies, only a few weeks old, know where to find their food because the human is pointing at it whereas not one of the young wolves in the study did any better than chance. In other words, there was no background, inherited skills.

The pet wolf is a raw product without a history of interacting with human beings. Take that from the study and you get the same effect in living with exotic cats as they are called, which refers normally to the small and medium-sized wild cat species such as the serval, as mentioned, and sometimes the cheetah or even the mountain lion. I have seen people regard mountain lions as pets. They even go a step further and have lions and tigers as pets sometimes but the relationship between cat and person will never be the same as with a domestic cat.

Wild cats as pets are not able to create the same bond and understanding between themselves and their human carer as the humble domestic cat. That is not to say that bonds are formed. Some people say that exotic cats such as the F1 Savannah create strong bonds but that cat is half domestic cat.

P.S. The study referred to was carried out at the Wildlife Science Center in Stacy, Minnesota and published in the journal Current Biology.

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