Cat intelligence

Cat intelligence is the considered capacity of learning, thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and adaptability possessed by the domestic cat.

Brain Size and Surface Area

The brain size of the average cat is 5 centimeters in length and 30 grams. Since the average cat is 60 cm long and 3.3 kg, [ [ Brain and Body Size ] ] the brain makes up 1/12 of its length and 1/110 of its mass. Thus, the average cat's brain accounts for 0.9 percent of its total body mass, compared to 2 percent of total body mass in the average human. Ultimately, however, there is no conclusive proof of correlation between brain mass and intelligenceFact|date=January 2008. The surface area of a cat's cerebral cortex is approximately 83 cm². The modern human cerebral cortex is about 2500 cm². []

The Learning Cat

Cats learn by trial and error, observation and imitation.Thorndike's Puzzle Box experiments noted at] [Adler, H E "Some Factors Of Observation Learning In Cats". Journal of Genetic Psychology, 86 (1955): 159-77. ] [Hart, Benjamin L "Learning Ability in Cats" Feline Practice s(s): 10 - 12 (September—October 1975)] [Caro, T M, and M D Hauser. "Is There Teaching in Nonhuman Animals?" Quarterly Review of Biology 67 (1992): 151 - 74.] [John, E R, P Chesler, F Bartlett and I Victor. "Observation Learning in Cats" Science 159 (1968): 1589 - 1591.] [Pallaud, B "Hypotheses On Mechanisms Underlying Observational Learning In Animals" Behavioural Processes, 9 (1984): 38ançois Y. "Search Behaviour of Cats (Felis catus) in an Invisible Displacement Test: Cognition and Experience" Canadian Journal of Psychology 44 (1990): 359 - 370.] [Dumas, Claude. "Object Permanence in Cats (Felis catus): An Ecological Approach to the Study of Invisible Displacements" Journal of Comparative Psychology 106 (1992): 404 - 410.] [Dumas, Claude, and François Y Doré. "Cognitive Development in Kittens (Felis catus): An Observational Study of Object Permanence and Sensorimotor Intelligence" Journal of Comparative Psychology 105 (1991): 357 - 365.] [Fiset, Sylvain, and François Y Doré. "Spatial Encoding in Domestic Cats (Felis catus)" Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behaviour Processes 22 (1996): 420 - 437.] [Heishman, Miriam, Mindy Conant and Robert Pasnak. "Human Analog Tests of the Sixth Stage of Object Permanence" Perceptual and Motor Skills 80 (1995): 1059 - 68.] recalling certain information much longer than dogs. [ [ Re-Directed Aggression Towards Other Cats ] ] In one study, it was found that cats possess visual memory ability comparable to that of monkeys. [ [ Okujava et al., Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2005;65(2):205-11.] ] However, for short term working memory, at least one study showed that dogs outperformed cats for periods of time up to 60 seconds. [ [ Fiset & Dore, Anim Cogn. 2006 Jan;9(1):62-70.] ]

Intelligence by Breed

Ranking the intelligence of cats by breed is popular among pet owners, veterinarians and others, but the practice tends to run into difficulties. In general, the subject of cat intelligence rankings tends to be subjective. Cat breeder Norman Auspitz states the following: "As a rule, people seem to think the more active breeds have higher intelligence than the less active breeds. I will tell you that in feline agility, all breeds have done very well or very poorly as the case may be. Having said that, there is no certified measure of cat intelligence and this general rule may be very anthropomorphic... until there is a credible definition of what might be meant by cat intelligence and a way to measure it, any comment anyone will make about the subject is, at best, speculation." [ [ Cats: cat intelligence ] ]

Cat abilities & tricks

Cats are traditionally hard to train as circus animals, mainly because unlike dogs who will do it out of loyalty or emotional reassurance, cats do not see the point of doing them without a direct benefit. While this is usually true, a human with a good relationship to a cat, where there is trust and good communication, can find a cat to be almost as trainable as a dog. Like dogs and people, many cats have active minds that thrive on stimulation, exploration and learning. Many of the same basic methods of training a dog-- shaping behavior, giving treats for correct responses, and lavish praise and attention-- work extremely well when training a cat. Teaching a cat to "sit" for treats or meals is quite easy and gives a good base for further training. When training a cat, it is important to remember that like humans, cats will not continue to obey commands if their attention is elsewhere. They may become frustrated or bored, as humans do when trying to learn something new or difficult. When the cat's attention starts to wander, training time is over. However, their fine memory ensures that further training can compound.

Cats are solitary animals by nature, unlike dogs, who follow a pack mentality. If the cat has a good emotional relationship with their owners, training can still be a fun "game".

Opening doors and windows

Cats that are accustomed to being let outside, or that want to get into their home, may learn to open windows and doors. They are capable of learning different routes for entry and exit; for instance a cat might find the window in its owner's kitchen easier to open to exit the house, but to get in, they might have to use the screen door in the backyard. Also, they may learn to open cupboard doors to get to food. Cats' paws are not as effective at manipulation as human hands, owing to lack of an opposable thumb, but they can for instance learn to operate door lever handles by pulling them down, even though gripping the handle is difficult for cat paws.

Some polydactyl cats have extra digits with a degree of opposability, which allow them to manipulate objects far more effectively. Fact|date=March 2008

Retrieving items from hard to reach places

A cat playing with a ball may suddenly find that the ball is under the couch. The cat will try different ways, changing paws, position, and other elements, the way a human would. This trial and error approach to puzzle solving can be demonstrated in the laboratory using Thorndike's puzzle boxes. In these boxes, cats must manipulate series of levers in order to escape. They initially achieve this by trial and error, before committing the sequence to memory. They also use memory to reduce the amount of trial and error when encountering comparable novel situations e.g. new puzzle boxes. The cat may also be taught to get treats from high and hard to reach places, like on top of a refrigerator, or in a cupboard. Using the same logic as it did with the toy, the cat will get to each treat. A cat that has figured out where the cat food is kept may find that the food is inside a large bag. It might try to get in the bag or open it by means of removing the clip.

Using the toilet

Because of their sensitive sense of smell, some cats prefer going outside to urinate and defecate, and rarely go in the same spot twice. Kittens are typically trained by their mothers to use a litter box and cover up their waste, so litter training rarely requires human intervention; once they understand where the litter box is, they will seek it out from then on. Cats can also be trained to make use of a toilet; [ [ The Toilet Trained Cat: How to Train Your Cat to Use the Human Toilet ] ] some cats learn on their own after watching their owners, but for most cats, it is necessary to be taught by owners. In general, however, a toilet-trained cat is a rare animal, and successful toilet training depends both on the willingness of the animal to learn as well as on the patience of the owner to teach.

As a point of general interest, a course on cat toilet training can be found on a website devoted to legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus. It is entitled "The Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program," and appears to have been written sometime in the 1960s by the bassist himself. [ [ Mingus: Charles Mingus Cat Toilet Training Program ] ]

Playing fetch

Some cats can be trained to play fetch with a varied degree of success (which is dependent on the cat and its mood). Siamese cats and Bengals are well-regarded as a breed that naturally carries objects in their mouths. They are easy to train to fetch and carry. It is possible to get a cat to remain seated until an object is thrown. At that point, their sense of sight kicks in. As long as there is at least a remote chance of locating the thrown item, the cat will run off to find it. Once retrieved, waiting or a simple call is enough for the cat to return with the item and deposit it (usually) within arm's reach. Chasing an object in the air is a natural cat hunting behavior, and many cats will chase down a thrown toy for the sheer enjoyment of running and catching.


Cats, like many animals, communicate in a social environment in various ways. Some aspects of this behaviour are simple, such as purring to express the desire for and enjoyment of attention, meowing near the food bowl to get fed, some remember what time they get fed and attempt to gain their owners attention at that time every day, etc, and some are more complex.

See also

*Animal intelligence


Further reading

*Bergler, Reinhold "Man and Cat: The Benefits of Cat Ownership" Blackwell Scientific Publications (1989)
*Bradshaw, John W S "The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat" C A B International (1992)
*Chesler, Phyllis. "Maternal Influence in Learning by Observation in Kittens" Science 166 (1969): 901 - 903.
*Hobhouse, L T "Mind in Evolution" MacMillan, London (1915)
*Turner, Dennis C, and Patrick Bateson. "The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour" Cambridge University Press (1988)
*Miles , R C "Learning In Kittens With Manipulatory, Exploratory And Food Incentives" Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 51 (1958): 39-42
*Neville, Peter "Claws and Purrs" Sidgwick & Jackson (1992)
*Neville, Peter "Do Cats Need Shrinks" Sidgwick & Jackson (1990)
*Voith, Victoria L "You, Too, Can Teach a Cat Tricks (Examples of Shaping, Second-Order Reinforcement, and Constraints on Learning)" Modern Veterinary Practice, August 1981: 639 - 642.

External links

* [ Brains and Body-Size]
* [ The Intelligence of Cats]
* [ How Intelligent Are Cats?]
* [ Documented Tool Use by a Cat]
* [ The Charles Mingus Cat Training Program]
* [ A collection of articles about cat psychology, behavior and training]
* [ Cat Training]

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