How much do Maine Coon cats remember?

In general terms Maine Coons cats have good memories somewhat like the memories of humans. Please read on. The video below is my MikeB.


I am going to rely on a three scientific studies and my personal experiences with my cats to answer the question. The working, short and long-term memory of non-purebred cats will the same as for the Maine Coon. In fact, it would be fair to say that in general random-bred cats might sometimes have better memories than purebred cats because selective breeding if carried to extreme can have a detrimental effect on cognition and memory in my opinion based on personal experience.

Medium and long-term memory

Maine Coons have good a long-term memory. Perhaps the best and simplest test for a domestic cats long-term memory is to test if they recognise their owner after they've been separated for years. And the answer is yes.

There are many stories on the internet of lost cats immediately recognising their owner after years apart.

Medium-term memory is also good. When I have rarely left my cat at a boarding cattery for a fortnight, she has immediately recognised firstly my voice as I entered the facility and then visually as I approached her. Cats remember us for the rest of their lives.

My experiences with moggies will be replicated with Maine Coons. There is no question about it. In fact, there was a story not long ago of a lost Maine Coon who escaped her home. She was cared for in another home for a few years until the true owner was found and the two reunited. The Maine Coon immediately recognised her owner and resumed their relationship as nothing had happened.

Working memory

Working memory is a form of short-term memory and it is needed to be able to think through things as they happen. Working memory makes a human or an animal smarter and more able to process problems and decisions.

My personal experience is that cats which would include Maine Coons do not have great working memories. 

Cats are not very fast at making decisions that require weighing up factors. They are very fast when acting instinctively but this is reliant on inherited traits and abilities; to work out if you should do something because it is better to do it takes a little time for cats.

This anecdotal evidence from simple observation appears to be supported by a study: Duration of cats' (Felis catus) working memory for disappearing objects.

The scientists concluded that "In testing, the cats' accuracy to locate the hidden object rapidly declined between 0 and 30s". The study involved 8 session when "the four groups of cats were trained to locate a desirable object hidden behind one of the four boxes placed in front of them. Then, the cats were tested with retention intervals of 0, 10, 30 and 60 s."

Memory of mother's body odour

This study found that kittens "form a long-lasting memory of the body odour of their mother, and by implication, that mothers retain an individual odour signature sufficiently stable across age and changes in their reproductive state to be distinguishable by their adult offspring."

This is a specific form of kitten memory but at the same time it strongly supports my observations that cats have excellent long-term memories. The body odour signature of cats is recognisable by others indefinitely it appears.

When kittens suckle at their mother's nipple they don't fight over a nipple because each kitten in a litter recognises the nipple that they chose when first suckling. This is about memorising body odour.

Cats remember other cats and the landscape

Although most Maine Coons are full-time indoor cats if they were allowed outside to patrol their home range they'd remember the lie of the land, the markers such as trees, fences and bushes, roads and alleyways and also the other cats who might from time to time enter their home range as theirs overlapped. 

These skills indicate a feline memory that is not dissimilar to the typical human memory in my opinion.


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