Can your cat remember what the travel carrier looks like? Does he hide whenever you get it out? Why does your elderly dog seem to "forget" where she is? Dogs and cats have a memory which functions similar to ours. A traumatic event can lead to a long-term fear or anxiety. Conversely, a pet can form a new memory quickly if offered a pleasurable reward (positive reinforcement for learning a new trick). Who Has the Best Memory...Dogs or Cats? The answer may surprise you...cats seem to have a better memory than dogs despite the fact that dogs seem easier to train. One interesting study comparing dog and cat memory was performed by a psychology professor at the University of Michigan and a behaviorist from the American Museum of Natural History. Cats and dogs were shown the location of a hidden treat but not allowed to retrieve it right away. The cats were able to recall the location of the treat up to 16 hours later. This is longer than for monkeys and orangutans. The dogs in the study could only remember the correct location for up to five minutes. Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats? There is no easy way to measure intelligence in an animal, and comparing dogs to cats is like comparing apples to oranges. "As humans, we are much more likely to perceive dogs as being highly intelligent because they want to please us and they react quickly to our demands," explains Dr. Sarah Correll, a veterinarian and owner of Happy Pet Therapy in Boise, Idaho. According to Correll, most animal intelligence tests are biased toward dogs because they require the subject to comply with a human request. This works well for dogs because of their strong desire to please the pack leader, but not well for cats, who are only interested in performing if the reward is pleasurable enough. What About Long-Term Memory? Repetition is the key. You may have heard that people need to be told something several times before they can commit it to memory. This is true for dogs as well! Correll says that a dog must perform a new command in six different locations before the command will be stored in its long-term memory. Do Pets Get Senile? Senility and dementia are very common in older pets. This syndrome is biologically similar to human Alzheimer's Disease and is called Cognitive Dysfunction. The clinical signs range from confusion and disorientation to sleep disturbances and wandering. If your pet is displaying any unusual signs, visit the veterinarian for a full physical examination and labwork. If your pet is otherwise healthy, the doctor may prescribe an oral medication or a special diet designed to slow the aging process of the brain. Dr. Cori Gross is a feline-only veterinarian from Seattle, WA, and serves as a field veterinarian for Veterinary Pet Insurance. Dr. Gross received her veterinary degree from Washington State University. She currently divides her time between lecturing at veterinary colleges on the topic of pet health insurance, practicing in feline-only medicine, volunteering at a local cat shelter, and writing about veterinary medicine. Like this article? Get more information on your pet's health by using our Pet Vet and Disease Condition Finder.
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