Stephanie Ariganello•June 06, 2019•4 min read
Looking at the top cat intelligence research categories, how does your cat measure up?
While you watch your cat attempt the “If I fits, I sits” approach to settling into a box that is far too small, your first thought might not be: my furry genius! However, cats are clearly clever. They’ve figured out how to get into our homes and hearts, how to run the internet, and, well — if you’re reading this, how to get us to think about them even when they’re not demanding anything from us.
Animal intelligence has always been a difficult thing to assess. Researchers have used different methods to get at the core of the question. From counting brain cells of different species to testing how easily animals are trained, the classic approaches to measuring intelligence have evolved over the years, but still leave wide gaps in the knowledge.
That said, when it comes to measuring animal intelligence, cats are a breed of their own. As we know, cats are fiercely independent and by some speculation, domesticated themselves. This means they don’t aim to please like dogs do. That makes them especially difficult creatures to assess. One animal behaviorist reportedly tried a single experiment with cats. Working with felines was so challenging, he gave up after that experiment and moved on to studying fish.
Measuring animal intelligence seems to have two separate drivers: researchers and pet owners. Pet owners are happy to regale others with the clever exploits of their favorite fur children (and we’re happy to hear them!). Cats figuring out how to open doors, dogs retrieving their favorite toys by name — whatever it might be, we know there is more to our animal companions than we’ve been able to pin down.
But when it comes to research? There’s still a few things to figure out.
Science is mixed when it comes to cat intelligence. Some researchers give cats credit for having a grasp on basic physics. Other experts doubt that cats understand that things exist when they’re not directly in sight.
“I am not so sure about scientifically, but I can say that my own cat is very aware that she is not allowed on the counters,” says Kristin Wilson, DVM, a veterinarian and owner of Arbor Hills Animal Clinic in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “But she is also very aware that if I am sitting on the couch, I am unlikely to get up to do anything about it.”
Research published November 2015 in Animal Cognition notes that most cat intelligence research focuses on one of the following categories:
So how does your cat measure up? Whether your feline friend seems to score high in certain cat intelligence research categories or not, your cat has likely already made it to CEO status in your household — and that has say something.