Is it true cats possess short-term and long-term memories?
Cats have excellent memories, and in fact, may arguably have better memories than any other animal. Cats acquire their knowledge over a lifetime through observation, trial and error, and extrapolation. Their brains are amazingly sophisticated, and they apply their intelligence well, drawing on a considerable capacity for learning.
Research has indicated that cats are 200 times more capable of retaining memories than dogs, and have even better memories than many monkeys and the highly intelligent chimpanzee.
As small and highly efficient predators, cats are constantly aware of their environment. They also operate on the principle of return on investment. They learn the things that bring them what they want in terms of benefit, whether that be food, attention or some other perceived positive.
In general, cats use their memory very selectively, retaining only what they consider to be useful and relevant. They can, however, access long-term memory quite efficiently. Remembering a response to a favorite toy or “game” with their humans even when the activity has not been initiated for a considerable period of time.
As they age, cats will have a greater bank of memories and may actually exhibit more complex behavior toward the end of their lives. Senility can, however, occur in cats just as it does in humans, leading a cat to become just as forgetful and confused as any elderly person can be.