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.