As I begin writing this article, I must be completely 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.)
How Smart Are Cats?
Felines are an intelligent bunch. Many cats can open doors and learn tricks. For example, here is a video demonstrating how a bengal cat has been clicker-trained to do various parlor tricks:
Fascinating! Also, 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.)
Curiosity Just Makes ‘Em Smarter
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
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.
1 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.
- Psychology Today: Are dogs more intelligent than cats?
- Animal Planet: Cat intelligence
- Pete Wedderburn, veterinarian: Dogs, cats, intelligence and stupidity
- Cat Channel: 20 questions to test your cat’s brain power
Photo: Hello, I Am Bruce (top) and Cloned Milkmen/Flickr