young woman carrying a contented tabby cat over her shoulder

Do Cats Forget Their Owners?

Animals and their memory are one of the most studied subjects in animal science, and we learn new things about how animals remember things every day. 

Cat owners look at their cats every day and come up with new questions about what might be going on in their feline’s brain – and memory happens to be one of the most common things people tend to ask about their cats.

Do cats forget their owners? 

Cats sometimes have to be separated from their owners. It can happen in cases where owners cannot take care of cats, or where cats migrate to another area and leave their owners behind. Sometimes, cats are rehomed due to circumstances.

Cats and their memories about their owners is a common question for people who have new cats in the family (or those who have recently had to let a beloved pet of theirs go).

Here’s what you should know about felines, memory, and how they think back to their earliest memories.

Do Cats Forget Their Owners? 

The uncomplicated answer to this question is no.

Cats will remember their owners throughout their lives. Kittens tend to imprint on the first humans they might see, and this bond remains throughout their lives (even though cats might adapt to other households when they have relocated).

Older cats still form this bond with their owners. The same way, they will remember their owners for life.

Cats have long-term and short term memory like the majority of animals. They can remember their neighborhood, and they can remember (for example) what the average day’s routine consists of – and this means they can remember anything else, too.

a tabby cat getting a cuddle from their owner

How Long Do Cats Remember Things For? 

Memories are ingrained for cats the same way they are for apes, monkeys, humans, and squirrels. 

Did you know that goldfish don’t have a several second memory? Further research has taught us that most fish can remember things for the long-term, and even recognize patterns and people long after they have seen them.

Cats will remember their owners (and first experiences) as kittens even years later.

There’s no limit on how long a cat might remember their owner, mother, or siblings for.

Do Cats Get Sad Or Depressed? 

Cats experience emotions, and a wide array of them. 

A cat might get sad or depressed just the same way that a human might. Felines can recall or remember traumatic experiences just like humans, and this can impact on their current stress levels.

If you notice that your cat is displaying signs of sadness, depression, or stress, catnip is one natural way to alleviate stress in cats. Comfort objects like toys or blankets can “take the edge off”.

For more serious continuing symptoms, it’s advised to make an appointment with your vet. 

Will Cats Miss Their Owners? 

Man holding a large tabby maine coon in the crook of his arm

It’s possible for cats to appear to miss their owners even years after they have last seen them. 

Cats who have been through traumatic experiences early on in their life might display signs of nightmares later. 

Obsessive kneading, sucking, or biting at objects might be a sign of self-soothing, displayed when cats undergo emotional stress.

If you notice that your cat shows signs of missing their previous owner, give them special attention to make them feel “part of the family” or as part of the pride. Catnip can help, although a vet’s intervention is recommended if symptoms and signs of depression continue.

Check out this story about a cat called Howie that missed his owners and decided to go find them! Just shows you how strong some cats can remember and feel about their owners.

Will Cats Miss Other Cats? 

Some cats are known to operate well in a pride or groups by nature. Domesticated cats still have remnants of behaviors that they gained centuries ago as wild cats, and being part of a larger pride is one part of it.

three silver and black tabby kittens sitting in wicker basket surrounded by balls of wool

With domesticated cats, their household is their pride.

Cats who have been separated from their natural environment (or family members) are likely to display signs of missing their family even years after the separation has occurred.

Initial stress and separation are something that cats will eventually process. In the same way that humans might take time to process their trauma, cats can be said to follow the same process. Memories can still surface years after.

Will A Cat Recognize Its Owner Later? 


Cats are known for forming deep bonds with other animals – and not just cats! – as well as with their owners. These bonds occur because some cats seem to enjoy being part of a pride, and they always function better when placed in a group where they receive love and attention from the rest.

There are many stories of cats who have been separated from their owners only to encounter them again later. Cats are usually happy to see their owners again – and the same is true for the ecstatic owners! 

Do Cats Have Dreams? 

a white cat and brown cat sleeping together in a patch of sunlight

When owners wonder about their cats and how they might perceive or remember certain memories, dreams are the next question in line.

Do cats have dreams – and if so, about what?

Research indicates that cats dream just like most other intelligent creatures. There are several stages of sleep for cats, and several stages for humans. When cats appear to be running, meowing, or twitching in their sleep, they are likely to be dreaming.

Do cats have dreams about their owners? 

As far as research can tell us, they might.

Do Cats Have Nightmares?

Cats have dreams, but what about nightmares? 

Cats might experience nightmares, or relive recent traumatic experiences in their sleep for a while after it has taken place. This is common when the experience is very recent, or when cats undergo emotional stress that might re-trigger previous thoughts or memories.

Owners who notice their cats are restless (or crying out) in their sleep should pay special attention to their cat’s behavior for any potential self-soothing they see.

Should your cat’s nightmares appear to be severe or keep happening, there might be something else in your cat’s environment causing additional stress or strain. Start looking around to find it, and if you can’t, see a vet for your cat’s mental health.

Can Cats Get Dementia? 

If cats are able to think, remember, and dream just like us, can they experience mental conditions that affect the way they think? 

Dementia is a condition that causes degeneration of the brain cells over time. It can be seen in humans with late or early onset, and causes a serious decline in memory and changes in personality.

Sometimes, dementia might occur in cats.

If your cat appears to forget who you are, or appears unfamiliar with its surroundings, it’s time to see a vet and talk about potential dementia risks. 

What Are Signs Of Traumatic Disorders Or Stress In Cats? 

Cat owners should keep their eyes open for signs of potential stress, strain, or trauma in their cats. It can happen whenever your cat is undergoing mental strain, or if something in their immediate environment is stressing them out. 

If your cat displays sudden behavior that just doesn’t seem like them, it could be stress. The same way, cats who engage in self-soothing behaviors like sucking or licking might be displaying stress signs.

Catnip is one way to help a cat relax, but it might not remove the element of stress from their lives if you can’t find out what’s triggering it. See a vet if you cannot find what is causing the added stress. 

Have you helped your cat to deal with stress – and if yes, how?