Do Cats Remember Traumatic Events?

You are currently viewing Do Cats Remember Traumatic Events?

Cats have unique memories. They can remember your special moments together, recall your shortcomings, and hold a grudge against you. If you do something your cat is not used to, she will probably hold a grudge. I can guarantee you she will also recall you feed her every day, and she remembers the exact position you keep her food bowl when it is time to eat.

Research reveals that cats can retain memories and remember specific positive or negative memories when triggered. And in the case of food, cats’ memories are superior.

Incidents about cats tracing their way back home or remembering a long-lost family member after a long time acts as solid evidence to support research that explains cats have the ability to retain memories. If your cat is young, she is more impressionable, and the more likely she is to log long-lasting memories.

Short-term memory in cats

Have you ever wondered how much do cats remember? 

Cats have a short active memory, which helps them to find food in the wild. They can trace a rodent and stay in wait if the rodent runs away, briefly recalling what they are stalking. 

Your cat can reveal his working memory during playtime. For example, observe your cat playing with a ball that inadvertently rolls under the chair. His focus on retrieving the ball may last as long as a minute before he gets tired and finds something else to do. The short active memory makes it unlikely that she will come back for the ball after some time has passed.

Long-term memory in cats

Do cats have long term memory?

If your cat has had an unpleasant encounter with another animal or with an unkind human, she will log such experience in the long-term memory bank and remember very easily whenever she is triggered. Experts believe that some positive or negative experiences are readily remembered and persist for a longer time. 

Do cats remember Abuse?

Specific sounds or movements may frighten your cat if she has ever been abused, triggering a long-term memory of past trauma. She will likely remember that unpleasant experience for the rest of her life.

Away from the traumatic events, cats have the ability to locate their way home if they move outdoors and remember how to do tricks you have trained them, all of which are linked to pleasant experiences. Cats can also find their litter box, toy box and remember their cat parents, even when they have been away for so long and come back.

Do cats remember their owners?

If you have ever saved a cat, you will probably be aware of the unconditional attachment the cat has towards you, recalling you offered them a second chance. Experts suggest that some cats have their memories profoundly implanted in their DNA. This explains the reason why domestic cats can hide, stalk, and hunt like their wild ancestors.

It’s not easy to determine whether part of their personalities are genetics or past trauma. It’s entirely plausible that they may have adopted specific habits, phobias, and anxieties from their former life.  Once gained, either through accident or trial and error, most experiences are logged in the cat’s memory bank forever.

Do cats mourn?

Contrary to popular belief, cats are intelligent and emotional animals. As a result of their ability to remember, your cat will grieve the loss of a cat friend or a close human companion. Cats have the ability to notice the absence of their companions and express their concerns and distress in different manners.  For example, a traumatized cat will not eat, go outside their litter box, display avoidance behaviors like hiding or aggressive behavior when interacted with and may sometimes paw at their owners. If your cat has lost a close companion, don’t underestimate their level of distress. Cats mourn just like humans do. Such experiences might transform your cat forever.

How to help a traumatized cat?

Whether you’re adopting a traumatized cat or wondering how to help your cat get out of a trauma shock, the right process can yield surprisingly positive results. For starters, you can start building more positive experiences logged in your cat’s memory bank. For instance, a visit to the vet triggers an unpleasant reaction in many cats. For this reason, animal behavioral experts suggest that cat parents conduct frequent happy visits to the vet. These treatment-free visits will have your cat memory bank implanted with a more positive association with the vet visits.

Because cats cannot explain what happened, research on trauma in cats has yielded limited results. However, assistance is available. Animal behavior experts and vets are treating cats that suffer from anxieties and fear due to traumatic experiences.

Despite advancements in animal research, experts use techniques designed to help cats overcome their particular emotional problems, be it depression, fear, or anxiety, with no clues as to whether that emotional problem stems from trauma or other causes. The treatment is mainly focused on keeping the cat in a threat-free, safe environment to reduce the featured stimulus.  With time, the traumatized cat learns that a specific occurrence is not always followed by unpleasant consequences, desensitizing her from that experience.

Desensitization is normally used hand in hand with counter-conditioning to change the interpretation of an experience from negative to positive. In certain events, the trauma might be so profound that the cat may require medical attention to assist with the counter-conditioning process. A vet may prescribe drugs to reinforce the process, improve the quality of life, and reduce fear.  This depends on the intensity of the situation. 

It is important to note that the treatment can worsen the cat’s unpleasant experiences, if not done correctly. It is not a one-time treatment and calls for adjustments as required until it becomes effective. There are higher chances of a traumatized cat being re-traumatized if she experiences greater stressors. Antidotes to your cat’s depression, fear, and anxiety triggers are vital to helping you live with a traumatized cat.


Overall, cats have long memories, particularly when the risk of danger is involved. Trauma develops long-lasting experiences, which results in avoidance and caution. This is what we normally describe as emotional problems. Cats also have the ability to read and respond to our emotional state in times of danger. For example, when you involuntarily or accidentally cause temporary pain to your cat, they may appear scared and concerned, mirroring your emotional state. Keep in mind that even in safe environments, your cat is likely to react to many situations like they are a matter of life and death.

Always keep calm around your cat, provide positive experiences, and get rid of negative environmental stimuli. This will help your cat live with minimal traumas.

Thanks for sharing. You're pawsome!

Leave a Reply