When your cat has kittens and a friend takes one home, it’s only natural to wonder if they are going to miss their parents… especially their mom!
So, with that in mind, do cats remember their moms?
Cats have evolved to be very independent, and kittens will typically remember their mom for up to a year — and only then if you’ve kept a swab of clothing that carries her scent! The mother, by contrast, will remember her kittens for 10 – 12 weeks at most when separated, and the father may not recognize their kittens at all!
Today we’re going to explore this a little more in-depth to explain this phenomenon so that you’ll understand it a little better.
Don’t worry – this is something that Nature has intended – so let’s explore the question ‘do cats remember their moms?’ in detail so that you can see what we mean!
Table of Contents
Do the mom and dad miss their kittens?
When trying to understand why the mother, father, and kittens don’t remember each other for very long, it helps to know more about the cat reproductive cycles that occur in feral cat colonies. A female cat, for instance, may have up to 2 – 3 litters per year, with 1 – 8 kittens in each litter.
Her reproductive cycle doesn’t last forever, but statistically, the female may potentially mother approximately 100 kittens while her reproductive cycle is active.
Now we must consider the father. Male cats are notorious for forgetting their offspring to the point that commitment-fearing men are often referred to as ‘Tomcats’.
The thing is, Nature has intended this as well to help ensure that there are always cats in Nature and it’s an effective tactic – a feral Tom may father up to 420,000 kittens in a period of 5 years! That’s a lot of kittens to keep up with when you really think about it.
From this perspective, giving cats short memories for their offspring is truly a kindness that Nature has done for them, even if it seems odd from our perspectives.
Does my cat really think I’m their mom or dad?
No, your cat doesn’t really think that you are their mom or dad, but that doesn’t make their love for you any less amazing. Rather, it makes it more remarkable.
Cats are highly independent and while they can’t choose their parents, they DEFINITELY choose who they like and who they dislike.
Have you ever owned a cat that liked your roommate more or that loved you and hated everyone else? That’s part and parcel of owning these amazing felines. Dogs tend to love everyone, but if a cat loves you, it really makes you feel special and it should — they’re picky!
So, don’t feel too bad that your cat doesn’t really think that you’re their mom or dad – the important thing is that you were ‘chosen’. Remember that as furry and cute as they are, cats are still apex predators.
By giving you their affection and trusting you enough to sleep next to you — completely vulnerable, we might add – they are showing you an amazing example of COMPLETE trust and love.
Do cats remember and miss their owners?
While cats forget their parents, and their parents quickly forget them, the relationship between a cat and their owner is a different thing altogether. That’s because cats can remember a person for as long as 10 years!
Cats develop emotional attachments to animals and people that they have spent many years with and this is something that sticks with them. This seems to be further evidence that it’s simply Nature’s plan for kittens and their parents to forget each other and move on.
It makes perfect sense – if the parents and kittens were missing each other or if the mom grieved a year, instead of a few weeks, whenever she lost kittens then she would be less likely to reproduce.
By making their memories short for their original family, Nature has prepared this species to thrive and make new families of their own!
Some final words on kittens and short memories
Do cats remember their moms? Unfortunately, no, they don’t. This is by design, as cats create many offspring and a long memory and mourning period would actually be detrimental to the survival of the species.
Thankfully, this doesn’t extend to owners. When a cat chooses someone special, studies have shown that they may remember this person for as long as 10 years. Considering that cats only live for 12 – 1 years, that’s a significant portion of their lives.
So, don’t feel too bad if a friend takes a kitten or if you are bringing a new kitten home to your house.
They’ll soon forget their old family, but with your love and friendship, they’ll replace those memories with new and wonderful ones that they’ll remember potentially for the rest of their lives!