Research by Takagi et al (2021) has found evidence that cats track their owners movements.
As Linda Geddes reports in The Guardian “cats appear to track their owners as they move about the house and are surprised if they turn up somewhere they’re not expecting them.”
“The finding supports the idea that cats retain a mental representation of their owners, even when they can’t see them; a crucial bridge to higher cognitive processes such as forward planning and imagination.”
“Cats are notoriously inscrutable creatures. Although previous research has suggested that cats will search in the correct place if food is seen to disappear, and expect to see their owner’s face if they hear their voice, it was unclear how this ability translated into real life. “It is [also] said that cats are not as interested in their owners as dogs are, but we had doubts about this point,” said Dr Saho Takagi at the University of Kyoto, Japan.” I could not agree more and I suspect many cat owners agree with that. My own cat often greets me at the door and can’t get close enough to me when I’ve been away for a few days.
“This study shows that cats can mentally map their location based on their owner’s voice,” said Takagi, whose research was published in the journal PLOS One. “[It suggests] that cats have the ability to picture the invisible in their minds. Cats [may] have a more profound mind than is thought.”
“However, it’s not entirely surprising that cats possess this ability: “That awareness of movement – tracking things they cannot see – is critical to a cat’s survival,” said Roger Tabor, a biologist, author and presenter of the BBC TV series Cats.”However, it’s not entirely surprising that cats possess this ability: “That awareness of movement – tracking things they cannot see – is critical to a cat’s survival,” said Roger Tabor, a biologist, author and presenter of the BBC TV series Cats.”
“A lot of what a cat has to interpret in its territory is an awareness of where other cats are. It is also important for hunting: how could a cat catch a field vole moving around beneath the grass if it couldn’t use clues, such as the occasional rustle, to see in its mind’s eye, where they are? A cat’s owner is extremely significant in its life as a source of food and security, so where we are is very important.”