Cats are not just cuddly and cute, but also smart. But just how smart are cats? Are they smarter than dogs?
Well, scientists have strived to find answers to these questions with many studies. Let’s look at some of them.
Studies and Scientific Evidence
Many studies affirm the fact that cats are smart.
- A group of scientists in Japan has performed memory tests on cats. This study involved 49 domesticated cats and they were checked to see if they can recollect memories of a pleasant experience such as eating a favorite food. This is unique for each cat, just like how it is unique for humans when they recollect some of their past events like a wedding. This kind of memory is called episodic memory.
- Another research shows that cats have long bouts of episodic memories, which means, they can recollect items and their locations for quite long periods of time. They were even able to search for food in specific bowls and in the usual locations where the bowls were placed during feeding time.
- Cats are believed to match dogs on many mental tests such as responding to humans, facial expressions, and gestures.
These studies clearly show that cats are smart. But what is it in their brains that gives them this capability?
What Makes Cats Smart?
There are many aspects of our brain that determine our level of intelligence, and the same holds good for cats too. Let’s now look at some of the unique features that give cats this level of smartness.
Neurons in the Cerebral Cortex
One good indicator of intelligence is the number of neurons present in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This cerebral cortex is responsible for rational decision making and for solving many complex problems. Also, this is the area that interprets languages and stores memories.
All this means, the more developed this part of the brain is, the individual tends to be smarter.
In cats, this part of the brain is well-developed and has many neuron connections. This explains why cats have many long-term memories. In fact, their memories may even outlast that of the dogs, especially in terms of how long they can recollect events.
Social vs Cognitive
When you compare dogs and cats, dogs tend to have a higher social IQ whereas cats can solve complex cognitive problems. If you have both these animals as pets, you’ll know the difference.
Dogs will do anything to see a smile on your face or for that special treat. But, cats will take their time to come and in many cases, will not do what you want them to do. In this sense, they are stubborn and simply follow their mind.
Cats will do an activity only when it is rewarding for them and not because you are going to enjoy it. This difference is probably because dogs have been domesticated for longer periods of time than the cats and maybe this has improved their social IQ.
A more scientific theory is that one part of the brain in the cat is not as well developed as the dog. This is the area that controls feelings of empathy and determines the social behavior of an individual. This is why, if you see, cats have little tolerance for frustrating situations than dogs. They are more impulsive and less patient, and they tend to be more self-centered. This is why you’ll often find a cat walking away from you if it finds you too boring!
In a way, these feelings are an essential prerequisite for survival, so cats are smart to know and do only what is beneficial for them. Thus, their cognitive aspect is better developed than their social side.
Cats have smaller brains than dogs. But, brain size alone is not an indicator of intelligence. When the cat’s brain development is analyzed, scientists were surprised to find that it shared many similarities with our brains.
Cat’s brain is neatly compartmentalized and is well connected with the other parts. This means cats can understand their surroundings and even manipulate them to their advantage, a trait that is well developed in humans as well.
The working of the brain and the different areas in it clearly show us that cats are intelligent. But, really by how much?
How Smart Are Cats?
To understand how smart cats are, we have to compare them with another creature to get a relative comparison. The closest other creature is the dog, not in terms of intelligence, but in terms of association. Most pet owners either have a dog or a cat or both, so there is often this question of which of the two is smarter.
Dogs are social and can understand many things happening around them including human emotions and gestures. But cats, on the other hand, are not as social as dogs and this could be attributed to the fact that they have not been domesticated as long as the dogs. So, they are still in a survival mode and tend to focus more on themselves than the creatures around them, including humans.
This is why, you’ll often see a dog listening to you, but a cat would walk away. This social IQ could be the difference.
But cats are adept at solving more complex problems, especially those pertaining to their safety and survival, and in this sense, they are more intelligent than dogs.
To conclude, we can say that cats are really smart because they have the right brain composition and development that helps them to understand their environment, read human gestures, understand their environment, require constant stimulation and can make bold and independent decisions, regardless of the consequences.
Sounds a little bit like humans? Well, they are! In fact, many of their brain areas resemble that of humans.
So, the next time your cat walks away or doesn’t respond to your call, see it as a mark of superior intelligence and not as pride or stubbornness!
- Jennifer Nelson, How Smart is Your Cat?, PetMD
- Dr. Marty Becker DVM, Are Some Cat Breeds Smarter Than Others?, VetStreet