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Cat intelligence is the considered capacity of learning, thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and adaptability possessed by the domestic cat. Intelligence in cats is demonstrated by the capacity to develop and use tools, learn new behavior techniques, apply previously acquired knowledge to new situations, communicate needs and desires within social groups, and respond to training cues. Mammalian neuroscientists have attempted to simulate the feline brain in order to understand the origins and operation of cat intelligence, but results to date are inconclusive and additional study is needed.

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 60cm long and 3.3kg,[1] 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. The surface area of a cat's cerebral cortex is approximately 83cm². The modern human cerebral cortex is about 2500cm².[2] According to researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the physical structure of human brains and that of cats are very similar; they have the same lobes in the cerebral cortex (the "seat" of intelligence) as humans do. Human brains also function the same way, conveying data via many identical neurotransmitters.

The learning cat[]

It is proven that cats learn by trial and error, observation and imitation.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] They retain certain information (such as the ability to investigate new environments) much longer than dogs.[13] In one study, it was found that cats possess visual memory ability comparable to that of monkeys.[14]

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. Although, Siamese seem to be one of the more intelligible breeds, in terms of problem solving and communication skills. "[15]

Observed abilities of cats[]

Inventing and using a tool[]

At least one cat was documented by a scientist to have adapted an object for use as a tool to add water to dry cat food, this tool-use being invented by the cat without any prior training by humans.[16]

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.

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 a 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.[3] 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[]

170px-Toilet Trained Cat 22 Aug 2005-1-

Toilet trained cat

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;[17] 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 cat to learn as well as on the patience of the owner to teach.

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, Bengal and Burmese are well-regarded as breeds that naturally carry objects in their mouths. They are easy to train to fetch and carry, again it may come naturally. Other breeds such as the Egyptian Mau, Maine Coon, Turkish Van, Savannah, Short Hair and Turkish Angora, and Bombay are also well known for an almost dog-like affinity for playing fetch; at least one Bombay started the game with its owner and trained the owner. 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 (if it does not chose to do it themselves) and deposit it (usually) within arm's reach (or just outside as a possible form of dominance, making the owner change position).

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. Of course, any distraction and the cat may completely forget the game. This might suggest that a dog, which will do almost anything to please its owner due to pack instinct, will tend to focus on its game for both the owner and its pleasure, while a cat clearly plays the game for its own self-interest in chasing and pouncing. For a dog, the reward for a retrieved toy may be a vigorous petting or vocalization of praise and also a second toss, for a cat, the only reward is typically the second throw.


Main article: Cat Communication

Cats, like many animals, communicate in a social environment in various ways. Some aspects of this behavior 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 owner's attention at that time every day, etc., and some are more complex. Domestic cats organize themselves in complex social units when food is plentiful and conditions are otherwise conducive to it.

It is important to a cat's welfare to understand that they are not solitary by nature. Although they do not socialize in the same way that dogs do (they do not hunt in packs, for example, and are not responsive to praise and blame in the same way) they still associate themselves strongly with specific other animals (including humans) and are probably even more attached to place and routine than dogs or their human owners. Cats may tend to communicate more indirectly, that is if they want their owner to open a door or pick up a favorite toy, they will often stare at the object intently with only occasional looks to the owner, until the owner, noting the focus of the cat, will look to where the cat is looking.

Cats will often place themselves in favorite positions where some behavior of the owner is expected. These positions are not always related to conditioning, but possibly from the cat remembering that the last time it was in this particular position something it wanted to happen, happened. Unlike true conditioning, however, the cat can easily adjust to new positions to get to the same object of its desire. Whether this is a sign of intelligence or a lack of intelligence is perhaps unfathomable as cats show so much individualized behavior.

Training and tricks[]

Cats are traditionally hard to train, mainly because cats appear to only assume such behaviors in exchange for a direct benefit, unlike dogs which respond well to emotional reassurance. 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.

A good example of this is The Yuri Kuklachev Cat Theatre based in Moscow,[18] the owner of which has been training cats for many years to do a full range of circus style tricks. Also there is the belief that cats are harder to train than dogs owing to impatience and boredom with the training exercise. 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, and giving reinforcement in the form of treats, lavish praise or attention for correct responses—work extremely well when training a cat. A cat can be taught to "sit" for treats or meals; this or other such repeatable behavior responses can act as a foundation for further training.

Computer simulation of the cat brain[]

Scientists have simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer.[19][20]

The reports have raised controversy,[21][22] because the computer does not actually think like a cat. The computer simulation is cat-scale, meaning that the simulation is powerful enough to simulate a cat brain, but it is not a proper, realistic simulation of a cat brain. Conflicting views comment on the fact that the simulation uses a faithful reproduction of the neurons in the brain, and also argue that the simulation does not use biologically realistic simulations of the neurons in a cat brain.

Other arguments point out the motives for reverse-engineering a cat brain, as there are tensions between the goals of the simulation. Neuroscientists want to understand how the brain's architecture, using biological neurons, leads to consciousness and neurological disorders, whereas computer scientists want to understand brain architecture in order to create new kinds of electronics.

There are a number of reasons the cat brain is a goal of computer simulations. Cats are a familiar and easily-kept animal, so the physiology of cats has been particularly well studied. The physical structure of human brains and cat brains are very similar. Cats, like humans, have binocular vision that gives them depth perception.[23]

Building artificial mammal brains requires ever more powerful computers as the brain gets more complex, from the mouse brain, to the rat brain (in 2007), to the cat brain, and ultimately to the human brain. Building artificial mammal brains advances the research of both neuroscience and artificial intelligence, but also leads to questions of the definition of sentient and conscious life forms, and to the ethics of artificial consciousness.[24]


  1. Brain and Body Size
  2. Brain Facts and Figures
  3. 3.0 3.1 Thorndike's Puzzle Box experiments noted at MessyBeast Intelligence
  4. Adler, H E "Some Factors Of Observation Learning In Cats". Journal of Genetic Psychology, ): 159-77.
  5. Hart, Benjamin L "Learning Ability in Cats" Feline Practice s(s): 10 - 12 (September—October 1975)
  6. Caro, T M, and M D Hauser. "Is There Teaching in Nonhuman Animals?" Quarterly Review of Biology ): 151 - 74.
  7. John, E R, P Chesler, F Bartlett and I Victor. "Observation Learning in Cats" Science ): 1589 - 1591.
  8. Pallaud, B "Hypotheses On Mechanisms Underlying Observational Learning In Animals" behavioral Processes, 9 (1984): 38ançois Y. "Search behavior of Cats (Felis catus) in an Invisible Displacement Test: Cognition and Experience" Canadian Journal of Psychology ): 359 - 370.
  9. Dumas, Claude. "Object Permanence in Cats (Felis catus): An Ecological Approach to the Study of Invisible Displacements" Journal of Comparative Psychology ): 404 - 410.
  10. 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 ): 357 - 365.
  11. Fiset, Sylvain, and François Y Doré. "Spatial Encoding in Domestic Cats (Felis catus)" Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal behavior Processes ): 420 - 437.
  12. Heishman, Miriam, Mindy Conant and Robert Pasnak. "Human Analog Tests of the Sixth Stage of Object Permanence" Perceptual and Motor Skills ): 1059 - 68
  13. Re-Directed Aggression Towards Other Cats
  14. Okujava et al., Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2005;65(2):205-11.
  15. Cats: cat intelligence
  16. Documented Tool Use by a Cat
  17. The Toilet Trained Cat: How to Train Your Cat to Use the Human Toilet
  18. Moscow Cat Theatre
  19. Template:Cite news
  20. Template:Cite news
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. Template:Cite news
  23. Journal / Book Citation
  24. Template:Cite news

  • Bergler, Reinhold "Man and Cat: The Benefits of Cat Ownership" Blackwell Scientific Publications (1989)
  • Bradshaw, John W S "The behavior 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 behavior" 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.
  • Brains and Body-Size


File:Cat Knocking The Door-0

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