Do Cats Really Miss Their Owners When They’re Gone?


We’ve all experienced that heart-wrenching feeling when we return home from a long trip, eagerly anticipating our furry feline friend greeting us at the door. But instead we’re met with indifferent blinks or even hisses as our cat fails to recognize us initially. Does this mean our beloved kitty didn’t miss us at all during our absence? Or could cats actually experience emotions like longing when separated from their owners?

In this article, we’ll dive into the evidence around whether cats have the capacity to feel our absence and miss us when we’re gone for extended periods. We’ll explore how cats form bonds, the limits of their memory, and signs that your cat may have separation anxiety. Read on to find out if your cat truly misses you when you’re apart.

A Cat’s Bond with Its Owner

Cats form deep attachments and social bonds with their owners, despite their sometimes aloof reputation. According to research from Oregon State University, cats become securely or insecurely bonded with their caregivers, similarly to dogs and human babies (Source). This is evidenced by behaviors like greeting their owners affectionately when they return home, responding to their voice and touch, and following them from room to room.

Cats display a number of behaviors that demonstrate their bond with their owners. They may rub against legs, sleep next to or on top of their owners at night, or curl up on their lap when the owner is sitting down. Cats often “chat” with their owners through meowing or chirping. All of these behaviors are displays of affection that indicate a cat feels safe, connected, and attached to their human companion.

Signs Your Cat May Miss You

There are several common signs that indicate your cat may miss you when you are away, such as:

Looking for you or waiting by the door – Cats who miss their owner will often wait anxiously by the door when you are gone, watching for you to return. They may meow persistently or check the door obsessively while waiting for you.

Vocalizations like meows or yowls – Some cats will meow, yowl or make other sad vocalizations to express their unhappiness that you are gone. This is a clear sign they miss you.

Loss of appetite – If your cat stops eating or eats significantly less while you are gone, it could be a sign of depression from missing you. Make sure to monitor their food intake.

Excessive affection when you return – Cats who are excited and very affectionate when you return from a trip is a telltale sign they missed you a lot.

Following you around – Your cat may start following you everywhere when you are home again and not let you out of their sight. This clingy behavior shows they don’t want you to leave again.

While cats are independent, they can form strong bonds with their owners and truly miss them when apart for long periods. Understanding the signs of separation anxiety can help you reassure your cat when reunited. (Source)

Why Cats Bond with Humans

Cats can form strong bonds with their human caretakers. There are several reasons why cats tend to bond with humans:

Socialization during kittenhood is crucial. Kittens that are handled, played with, and exposed to human contact early on are more likely to bond with their owners as adults. According to the ASPCA, kittens should begin positive interactions with humans starting at 2-3 weeks old (CNN).

Positive interactions and play time help strengthen the bond between cats and their owners. Cats that receive frequent affectionate contact, engaging play, and quality time with their humans are more inclined to form attachments. Interactive play satisfies a cat’s predatory instincts while also facilitating socialization.

Providing food is another way owners can build relationships with their cats. Cats that associate their owners with food may be more likely to form bonds. However, bonds should be nurtured through socialization and quality time, not just through food.

Do Cats Grieve?

Many cat owners have witnessed signs of grief in their cats after the loss of a companion cat or human family member. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, when a cat loses someone they are bonded with, whether animal or human, they alter their behavior in reaction to the changes in their life [1]. This indicates that cats feel an emotional attachment and do grieve the loss of those they are close to.

Common signs of grief in cats include: crying or meowing more than usual, changes in appetite, hiding more often, searching for the lost companion, and becoming more clingy and attached to their remaining human family members. These types of behavioral changes after a loss demonstrate that cats have an understanding that the one they bonded with is gone and will not return. They are experiencing grief due to the severed emotional attachment.

While the exact depth cats feel grief is debatable, it’s clear they mourn the loss of those they share a close bond with. Their behavioral changes stem from the emotional disturbance of that attachment being broken. In this way, cats absolutely do grieve when they lose a loved one.

A Cat’s Short-Term Memory

Research shows that cats have excellent short-term memories. According to several studies, a cat’s short-term memory can last about 16 hours.

This means cats are able to remember their owners even after relatively short separations. If you leave for work in the morning, your cat will recognize you when you return home in the evening.

Cats also utilize their short-term memories to remember where they’ve hidden toys or treats. So if your cat suddenly disappears, chances are it’s retrieving an object it stashed away earlier!

How Long Can a Cat Remember You?

Cats can form strong bonds with their owners and have excellent long-term memory. According to experts, cats are capable of remembering their owners for months after an absence. Their memory is built through familiar sights, sounds, scents and routines in their environment. After a prolonged absence, a cat may need some time and reminders from you through play, affection, speaking and routines to reconnect.

Research indicates cats can remember owners, other cats, and familiar habitats for months or even years at a time. According to the Catster, cats’ memories function differently than human memory. While the duration varies by cat, there are cases of cats recognizing previous owners after absences of 5-10 years ( Their memory relies heavily on familiar smells and sounds that comfort them.

Making Reunions Easier on Your Cat

Returning home after a long absence can be challenging for your cat. But there are a few things you can do to make the transition smoother when reuniting with your feline friend after a trip away:

Leave familiar smells around during your absence. Don’t do a full cleaning of the house before leaving – leave used blankets, cat beds, and toys so your scent remains while you’re gone. This provides some comfort and familiarity for your cat.

Follow normal routines immediately upon returning. Feed your cat on their regular schedule and engage them in regular playtime and affection. Maintaining their typical rhythms helps reestablish normalcy and security.

Give your cat ample attention when you return. Make sure to spend quality one-on-one time with your cat when you get home, giving them plenty of petting, brushing, treats, and play. This extra TLC can help make up for lost time together.

With some planning and care, you can limit the stress of separations. Be patient, loving, and consistent, and your cat will settle back into their home routine after your return.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Cats with separation anxiety often exhibit destructive behaviors when left alone, such as scratching furniture or doors. They may become more vocal than usual, with constant meowing or crying. Appetite changes are another sign – some anxious cats may refuse to eat, while others will eat ravenously.

According to the ASPCA, other symptoms of feline separation anxiety include inappropriate urination/defecation outside the litter box, pacing, excessive grooming, and trying to escape the home. The anxiety stems from the cat’s strong bond and attachment to their owner. Being suddenly left alone violates their expectations, causing stress. Separation anxiety tends to intensify with longer periods apart from the owner.

If your cat shows symptoms like destructive scratching, nonstop crying, or loss of appetite when you leave, consult your veterinarian. They can rule out underlying medical issues and provide guidance on easing separation anxiety. Creating a predictable routine, providing mental stimulation, and using calming aids can help anxious cats feel more secure when left alone ( With time and treatment, cats can overcome separation distress.


In summary, cats can indeed miss their owners during periods of separation. The strength of the human-feline bond depends on socialization and routines developed between an owner and their cat. A well-socialized cat that is used to a predictable daily routine with its owner is more likely to exhibit signs of missing that person during absences.

There are simple tips cat owners can follow to make reunions easier on a cat after an extended absence. Maintaining familiar smells in the home environment, sticking to regular feeding times, and avoiding lavish greetings can help a cat adjust smoothly when its owner returns after a long trip. With proper care and consideration, cats that truly bond with their owners can learn to take short separations in stride.

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