Is my cat smart ?

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What is intelligence ? Or rather, what are the different characteristics of a kind of intelligence ?

Intelligence is a very complex concept that is still poorly defined : for the moment there is no scientific consensus for a precise definition. In fact, genetics, substances ingested by the mother during pregnancy, nutrition, or even the environment have an influence on the development of intelligence, which leaves thousands of possibilities for a kitten to become a feline genius… or not.

For us, intelligence is the ability to understand, learn and adapt to new situations, and to modify our environment to adapt to our needs.

Is my cat smart - Zorro on the heater

It took a long time for the notion of animal intelligence to be accepted and measured under correct conditions : animals were first subjected to tests similar to those carried out on children. This is of course biased because it completely ignores the specific needs of different species and the environment in which they operate. Is an elephant’s intelligence measured by his ability to climb trees, or a human’s intelligence measured by his ability to hunt mice in a field ?

Is my cat smart - Pixie on her trunk

How do I know if my cat is smart or not ?

That’s the question ! So we have prepared a brief overview of several characteristics of feline intelligence :

  • Is your cat creative ? Has he found a way to open the cupboard you thought was inviolable ?
  • Does your cat have the ability to focus ? Can he stay for hours to watch for the lizard that got under the cabinet, or stalk from the bushes ?
  • Does your cat have a good memory ? If it’s an outdoor cat, does he know how to find the way home ?
  • Does your cat have the ability to form concepts ? For example, wings + black + bzzz = fly = yummy, wings + striped black and yellow + bzzz = wasp = ouch, DANGEROUS
  • Is your cat able to learn new behaviors ?
    – by direct experience : not react by hearing the vacuum cleaner, go to the kitchen when the fridge door opens at the end of the day, meow hard enough and long enough for a human to give me a treat, play with me or open the door to me, discover the hidden treats in a game board, …
    – by transmission : kill a prey by observing how a more experienced cat makes, open a door by pressing the handle, …
  • Does your cat know how to use his body with precision ? Is he skilled ? Can he use his claws or teeth to open a bag of treats ?
  • Does your cat show emotional intelligence ? Does he recognize your emotions and act differently based on them ?

If you answered YES to most of these questions, no doubt, your cat is smart ! A specific training can even help him develop amazing abilities.

Cats and their humans are, however, equal in the face of aging in the sense that this phenomenon can impair their cognitive abilities.

Is my cat smart - Pixie wondering

To learn more about it…

To learn more about animal intelligence, we recommend « Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are ? », Frans De Waal, 2016.
For more information on cat learning, we recommend « The Trainable Cat : How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat », John Bradshaw, 2016.
These are two books that we found very comprehensive, interesting, and easy to read.

What manifestations of intelligence did you observe in your cat ? Tell us in your comments !

24 thoughts on “Is my cat smart ?

  1. Mickey's Musings

    Pawsome post!
    So many humans think because we are small and “animals” that we are not smart.
    Some humans have a lot to learn 😉
    Zorro, great snoozy spot!!!!
    Pawsome profile Pixie.
    Purrs,Georgia and Julie

    Reply
  2. Teddy

    Oh yes – we are clever, smart, highly intelligent, sensitive, and MORE! It’s nice that people are recognizing we are “not just a pretty face” but SOOOO much more.

    Hugs, Teddy

    Reply
  3. Eastside Cats

    Every Sunday, I ask Da Boyz to help me with the crossword puzzle, but they remain silent. I know that they know all the answers, but they know that I must work it out for myself. That’s smart!

    Reply
  4. Cathy Keisha

    TW once said I was a genius. That says it all. I’m just too lazy to catch flies or open my own treats. Why do it myself when I can get TW to do it for me? That’s genius. Great post.

    Reply
  5. Raven

    I think most animals are far more intelligent than we give them credit for.
    Most of my cats have been intelligent. One of them … well … maybe not so much 😉 But he wa goofy and sweet.

    Reply
  6. Little Binky and Granny

    I only know smart kitties, everyone in his own way, like humans 😉 Great post Pixie and Zorro! We also come to bring you Extra Pawkisses for stopping by at my bloggie and bringing lovely Birthday wishes. Thank you sweet furriends 🙂 <3

    Reply
  7. Mark's Mews

    By all those measurements, we are very smart indeed. I (Iza) go in an out of lower cabinets at will. I (Ayla) can find a treat from 10 feet away. I (Marley) can track a mousie or bunny for an hour and catch it. And we can all sleep all over TBT at night to stay warm.

    Reply

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