Category Archives: Living with cats

Is my cat smart ?

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 !

Where is my bird ?

Hey, human, where’s my bird ?

You know, the pretty bird I hunted specifically for you, and that I brought you alive on getting out of bed. Yes, the one I dropped down the stairs on the way up from the garden so you could see how it was still flying well. Does that mean anything to you ? For once, Zorro didn’t chew him off, and we wanted to play together with him and with you. In the excitement of the moment, the bird had lost a few feathers everywhere (in the kitchen, in the staircase, in the room overlooking the garden, …), but he also seemed to have a good time and even shouted with joy. You joined us, you had a little towel in your hand, you also played catch the bird, then you left, but the bird was gone.

So, Claire, where’s my birdie ?

Claws story

Since we spend a lot of time outdoors, we regularly walk on rough surfaces, which regularly wears out our claws. Claire doesn’t clip them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a little maintenance. Our favorite trunk is ideal for a good pawdicure.

In an indoor cat or an elderly cat, it’s important to trim the claws regularly, because they don’t wear out so quickly. In fact, too long claws can cause discomfort or embarrassment (the cat clings everywhere while walking), or even painful infections if the claws become long enough to grow into the paw pad.

iCatCare shows you how to do it :

One last thing : don’t declaw your cat !!

Our claws are essential to our cat life : they allow us to mark our territory, to defend ourselves, to hunt, to climb, we need them. Onychectomy is barbaric and cruel, and most countries prohibit this practice.

Unfortunately, it’s still allowed in some countries like USA or Canada : however, attitudes are slowly changing. If you want to help cats keep their claws and put an end to these useless mutilations, you can support The Paw Project which is fighting for the abolition of this practice.