How smart is your cat?
Cats are delightfully complex creatures. If we dare to sleep in a few minutes late, they paw at our faces and meow, demanding breakfast. They can be warm and affectionate yet aloof when we’ve been away from the house too long. Even some of the smartest cat breeds display unusual cat behaviour. But there’s no need for standardised tests to verify what we already know – cats are smart! Whether they’re mixed breed or purebred, small cat breeds or large cat breeds, the reality is that there’s no one accurate way to measure the intelligence of individual cats. However, recent research gives us some compelling evidence to back up what we know in our hearts: feline intelligence is unique.
Are you clawing to find out which cat breeds are the smartest? Do they happen to be sleek black cat breeds, gorgeous orange cat breeds or all of the above? Experts say the ones on our list stand out when it comes to their trainability, insatiable curiosity, investigative skills and puzzle-solving brain power.
Do cats have a high IQ?
Before we reveal the smartest cat breeds, let’s take a closer look at just how clever these little lions are. We know that a cat’s brain is almost as structurally complex as a human brain. Cats have around 250 million neurons (tiny information processors) in their cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that solves problems, makes decisions, decodes emotions and creates complex behaviour, like why cats purr or why cats sleep so much. (In comparison, dogs have about 429 million neurons, and humans house an average of 86 billion.) And while more neurons in the brain does equal more cognitive ability, it isn’t necessarily a good indicator of intelligence. That’s because cognition can involve other areas outside the cerebral cortex.
So why are dogs generally thought to be smarter than cats? Is it because they have more neurons? Nerdy science aside, there are a host of theories. For starters, dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years and have been living and learning social tasks from humans longer than cats. Temperament wise, dogs are more patient and generally eager to please their humans. In contrast, cats are typically less eager to please, though some are exceptionally cooperative. They tend to be more impulsive, have far less patience and get frustrated and lose interest in something that’s boring to them.
However, cats are highly attuned to their surroundings, and how they interact and respond is expressing intelligence, says Teresa Keiger, an all-breed judge with the Cat Fanciers’ Association. That awareness is what helped cats survive for thousands of years in the wild. “I notice that cats who were rescued from outdoor living situations tend to be more intelligent, since they’ve had to learn to think on their feet,” says veterinarian, Dr Stephanie Wolf. Whether a mixed breed or pedigree, rare cat breed or fluffy cat breed, one thing is certain: cats are smart and trainable; they just might not all be interested.
1. Russian blue
When it comes to the smartest cat breeds, the Russian blue is so clever that it’s more apt to train you than the other way around. Like an alarm, the Russian blue will wake you up to feed it breakfast and remind you when it’s dinnertime. In fact, if you’re looking for an accountability partner to maintain a strict schedule, this might be the cat for you. “This quiet breed is very attuned to its household,” says Keiger. “They’re incredibly smart, and they wait to make certain that any stranger is not a threat to safety.” Once they’ve issued your security clearance, they form a tight bond and are regarded as an affectionate cat breed with their humans – so much so that they’re known for hitching a ride on their human’s shoulders.