Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Do cats have memories?

I was struck by this question this morning just after I had let Smoke out the back door. I watched as he sniffed along the deck, then leaped to the top of a fence separating our yard from our neighbor's yard.

The neighbor has an un-neutered small black male cat. While he comes into our garage and apparently sleeps there from time to time and generally seems to get along all right with Smoke, there have been a couple of instances where apparently the hormones are raging and the two of them get into a spat. A cat spat. I'll hear the howling and when I go out, they are nose to nose. Smoke, as I have often said, is a very placid cat but in these instances he seems to become the alpha cat and in a very short time chases Blackie (as I call him) out of the yard.

I'm sure neither cat relishes these encounters. At least they don't appear to enjoy them. So why, I wondered this morning, does Smoke go over into Blackie's yard as if looking for him? Is it because he has no memory of the bad encounters?

Well. I am a man of the 21st Century so I did what all good modernists do - I went to the Internets in search of an answer. And on a site called "Pawprints and Purrs, Inc." here's what I found:

Cats have a memory that can be up to 200 times more retentive than dogs. The individual feline uses his memory only for what he regards as useful functions; therefore, a cat's memory is quite selective.

Now I would think that avoiding a contretemps with another cat would be a useful function but perhaps it's not as useful as remembering where one's food dish is located. If any of you readers have a better idea or more knowledge about this than I do, I'd be interested in hearing about it.


  1. Smoke wanted to bolster his own ego by kicking some neighbor-cat booty? And since he remembers that he is the alpha cat, he's not too concerned about a negative outcome.

  2. I don't think that's it because this always occurs on Smoke's turf. Blackie comes in and starts trouble. At least that's what I think even though he always seems to end up on the short end of the stick.

  3. Yeah, I would think kicking cat ass would be a necessary trait for survival. Maybe butt kicking is more of a matter of intinct than it is memory.

  4. I think Smoke is the more dominant cat. He may appear placid to you... but he is enforcing some rules in the neighborhood.

    You can come and visit me until I am tired of you and then I will kick your butt and send you home. And I will visit you any time I please... because I am King.

    In my humble opinion... his memory is working just fine ;)

  5. Dawn - I think you have it exactly right! I should have known someone who has all that time up on The Rock would be able to figure it out! :^)

  6. There is no cat that has adopted us, but I have a thought. People don't have cats as pets. Cats adopt people. As long as you give them food and drink, and what they like, they'll tolerate you. If they find something better, they'll move on. They do what pleases them and not what we think is the norm. Very complicated animals. Don't piss Smoke off. He might be looking arounding the neighborhood to see what else is available.

  7. If it weren't for the fact that he spends a lot of each 24 hours sleeping on the bed (ours, not his) I would swear he's looking for a new home. He has always ranged far and wide in the neighborhood and I think he gets handouts at several locations.

  8. If he gets handouts, I am sure he remembers those!


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