Cat experiment suggests they remember in ways similar to humans and dogs

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

(—A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Japan has found that cats are able to remember events in a way observed in both humans and dogs. In their paper published in the journal Behavioral Processes, the researchers describe their experiments and results.

Prior research has shown that human beings have what is known as , which is the ability to connect autobiographical information with contextual details—an example would be recalling the details of a , rather than just the fact that it occurred. Part of this memory allows for recalling what happened and when, and that was something the researchers wanted to know if cats have as well—other studies have shown dogs have it.

To find out, the researchers worked with 49 cat volunteers, feeding them using multiple bowls of food over time. The researchers learned which types of foods the cats liked best and served it to them in a specific bowl, allowing them to create memories of what was served and when. Later, by switching up the bowls the researchers were able to ascertain whether a given cat remembered such details. Other experiments showed that the cats could remember if they had previously searched a given bowl when looking for a particular treat and the circumstances under which it had occurred.

The researchers report that the cats were able to recall the details of when and where, which, they suggest, shows that much like dogs, they are able to access memories of events and at least some of the details surrounding them. They suggest that it might be possible that cats are able to recall such memories on demand, perhaps as a form of amusement, similar to how we humans daydream. They also note that their research suggests cats may have much longer memories than has been thought—they plan to conduct additional experiments to find out.

The experiments were not a measure of intelligence, of course, as some have reported, but were instead part of a process meant to better understand how cats store and retrieve memories of events they have experienced. In addition to adding to the research on in general, the researchers believe their results may help and their owners develop better relationships.

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