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Are Cats Intelligent?

(June 10, 2010)

Are cats intelligent? In some urban legends and myths, cats are considered as the guardians of dark forces and are more or less associated with what we may regard as evil. However, the beliefs regarding cats are widely debated and not uniform around the world. The Egyptian civilization regarded cats as sacred, and any offence to them was considered as sacrilege. They are also the subjects of worship in many cults, and are referred to as “holy entities” in some of these cult practices. Through all this however, the intelligence of cats has rarely been in question – in fact, cats have sometimes been credited with too much intelligence and cunning. However, approaching the matter in a more scientific manner can be much more enlightening than any such conjecture.

In physical terms, the cat’s brain makes up around 1 per cent of its body mass, as opposed to the human brain, which makes up around 2 per cent of body mass. However, this by itself does not mean much. In fact, researchers have found that cat brains are more similar to human brains than even dog brains, both in their physical structure and the way they operate. Cat intelligence can be more reliably gauged by observing the animal’s ability to learn, think, solve problems, and adapt to changes in situations and the environment. Studies have shown that cats are capable of imitation. They are also able to learn through both observation and trial and error. Dogs seem to beat cats when it comes to short term working memory, but long term visual memory in cats seems to be quite impressive, almost on par with that of some types of monkeys. Cats have been observed opening doors and windows, retrieving items from locations that are difficult to reach, and making use of very basic tools. In addition, although the general impression is that cats cannot be trained, during cat training they can in fact be trained to respond to commands, including recall and fetch commands, as well as various tricks.

Unfortunately, there is a limit to how far you can go with the question, “are cats smart?” There is no universal definition of intelligence that has been agreed upon, and therefore measuring the intelligence of cats is extremely difficult. Motivation and temperament are important factors in the performance of animals in intelligence tests. What we sometimes think of as “intelligent cat breeds” may actually be merely more high energy breeds.
Submitted by N M on June 10, 2010 at 12:09


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