How Smart Are Cats? Find Out, With This Simple IQ Test

How smart are cats? As I begin writing this article, I must be upfront with you — I know my two dogs, Angel and Bunker, are very smart. But since I don’t own a cat, I’d like to know: How smart are cats?

There are never-ending disputes between dog owners and cat owners over who has the smartest pet. Is it true that dogs are smarter than cats?

Dogs are pack animals, having a strong need to follow and please their “top”dog (sometimes referred to as their master). On the other hand, the cat is a loner and exhibits cleverness and adaptability in just about any circumstance.


According to Psychology Today, animals that live in groups are always more intelligent than solitary animals. Hence, dogs are smarter and more sociable than cats.

Maybe that’s why we never hear of “rescue cats” or a “seeing-eye” cat. (Hold on, cat lovers! Give me the chance to give your heroes the praises they deserve.)

Curiosity Just Makes Them Smarter

Felines are an intelligent bunch. Many cats can open doors and learn tricks.

I once knew of a cat who would actually use the family toilet, flushing it after every visit. (Yes, I witnessed this with my own eyes.)

Contrary to popular belief, curiosity does not kill the cat — it just makes him smarter. If you put a cat in a strange room, he will cautiously check out every corner. This investigation provides him with valuable information about his surroundings. A cat has an enormous memory, better than that of monkeys, orangutans and, yes, even dogs.

Cats learn by observing, imitating and experimenting. Many behavior specialists agree that the cat’s intelligence level is right up there with the average 2- to 3-year-old child.

Test Your Cat’s IQ

How intelligent are cats?Looking for a simple way to test your cat’s intelligence? Show her a toy, then hide it behind a thick piece of paper. If your kitty realizes the toy is behind the paper, she has the IQ of at least an 18-month-old human.

According to the book Be the Cat, your kitty’s IQ can be increased by enlarging her vocabulary. Teach her to associate a word with an action to make your cat smarter.

My son’s brainy kitty, Hillary, will sit on command for that special treat. After several weeks of watching my son’s hand signals and hearing his command — “Sit” — then receiving a treat for sitting, Hillary will (somewhat) eagerly perform this action.

One Word Every Cat Must Know

Cats will not be able to match the vocabulary of dogs. But the simplest word your cat should learn is her name. Say it often, so she will associate it with herself. Before long, as you come through the door calling out her name, she’ll be running to meet you.

How smart are cats? The answer to this question may be determined by how intelligent their owners allow them to become. Time and attention can carry your pet to new heights.

Additional Resources

Photo: Hello, I Am Bruce (top) and Cloned Milkmen/Flickr

From Around the Web

  • David J. Conklin

    I haven’t trained Max to do any special tricks and yet I’m amazed at what he knows. We have automatic door openers in this apartment building–he knows what the metal button on the wall is for! He has no problem using the elevator and he even knows that if he goes to the back of the elevator and lays down, it will take him from floor to floor and he can watch people coming and going. Only the caretaker has the key to either call, or take, the elevator to the basement–he’s been there “several times.” The caretaker’s apartment is on the 1st floor and she has two cats. Max drives them nuts by jumping up onto their window sill!

    • Pets Adviser

      Oh how cute. Max sounds awesome.

  • Pets Adviser

    Entrant’s comments:

    My daughter Madison wanted to be Charlotte’s Web for Halloween. But she wants her costume to always be with her three dogs. So Artemis is Charlotte and the stroller is her costume Lexi is the cow and Molly is Wilbur the pig.