Kitty IQ?

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Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Fri Feb 13, '09 11:09pm PST 
Okay, school's out for me this term (no, I'm not in junior high school--a bit older than that). So, rather than giving my apartment a thorough cleaning, or doing any of the approximately 176 pressing duties I have on my "to do" list, I'm killing my time with Catster. Forgive me for taking up so much space.

Anyway...today's topic is "Kitty IQ." One reason I decided to try my hand at breeding was--and I know how really obnoxious this sounds--I thought that I could breed more intelligent cats than my own breeder does. Nurture over nature--that's my motto. Well, aside from Leverett, all the kittens are very affectionate, interactive, and seem to show signs of intelligence that even Chibi hasn't shown. The girls, in particular, are either more intelligent than the boys, or better socialized, but they seem to show more signs of having a higher "Kitty IQ" than their brothers. How do I make this distinction? By very primitive means--I'm an ardent cat lover, cat observer, cat caretaker, cat show goer, but I am always, always learning. Anyway, I've noticed that the girls tend to pay much more attention to what's going on with the PC display than the boys are. Hilles seems to be the smartest; she will spend hours next to the monitor, watching letters appear on the screen, the moving cursor, and anything else that moves on the screen...Like those irritating little emoticons that are presently moving around at the right of the screen as I write this (the dancing hamster!).

Right now, I'm living a rather bizarre life with no tv. In my past, I had a cat who would lie on top of the tv and watch the screen with her head held upside down. She particularly loved tennis--she spent the whole Wimbledon season following the volleying tennis balls with her paw. I always considered that a sign of intelligence, as opposed to cats who see things moving on the tv screen but show no reaction. I wonder if there's any data on this? And I wonder what kinds of experiences other Catsters have had with cats reacting to things moving on PC monitors or the tv, and the possible link to intelligence. Obviously, there must be variations in cat intelligence, even if only slight ones; it can't just be human beings who have IQ differences. And I suspect that nurture plays as much of a role in cat IQs as it does with humans. Not that you should love your cat any less if he/she isn't going to be short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Physics, but personally, I've noted seeming differences in intelligence in all my cats, and I wonder about the rest of you.

On a totally off-topic note: In the past, when I have shown students old, classic black and white movies, a few students have told me that they simply couldn't "read" the visual images on the screen because they weren't in color--to them, it was just like watching sludge go across the screen for an hour or more. I was totally floored by this. (Obviously, I'm talking about humans here.) When I was a little girl, in the previous century, heck, we had black and white tv! And we enjoyed it! And I still love watching those old black and white classics...now, does anybody have an explanation for students of twenty or so being neurologically unable to understand black and white images? This is one of the reasons that my job gives me stress...

Okay, that was off-topic. The key question here is, do you think cats have varying IQs? How do you measure them? And how can you influence them? (Had I been a mother to a human child, I would have been insufferable, probably trying to boost my child's IQ even when it was still in the womb.)

Any thoughts? This is meant as a fun topic...fire away!


headed for the- light.
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 4:54am PST 
Of course we have varying IQ's. I'm not sure how you would measure it, though. After all, a really 'dumb ' cat might just not want to react to the test. Meowma has had a couple of cats that were not the brightest, she thinks. She has also had cats that were way smarter. Rocky was a really smart kittycat so far as playing games and getting into things were concerned, , while I'm judged to pay more attention to people. Meowma hears that when she leaves the room, iwhen she has company and I elect to stay with the guest, I will get scratched and petted, but all the while while I watch the door--I'll run back to my blanket if I think she might catch me .


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 7:37pm PST 
Hey! I think this is an interesting topic. Please feel free to fire away. I think we all agree that cats have different levels of intelligence, but how do we judge that? How does your cat seem smarter/stupider than other cats you've known? How can you stimulate your cat so that it shows more mental acuity? (Assuming that you WANT a smart cat...)

Aragorn (In- Memory)

One Cool Cat

Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 8:19pm PST 
The problem for "scientists" making up "tests" for cats, or any other animal for that matter, is not making the test interesting enough. The old, and very stale idea of food as a treat only teaches the cat to do what the scientist wants or expects it to do. In the animal world, is IQ-type intelligence really that important, and therefore needed? A friend once said to me, "A guy can have a genius IQ while still not having enough common sense to come out of the rain."

These are my brief thoughts. I must "think" more on this subject! thinking


Stella- Felinis--Queen- of All Kitties!
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 8:58pm PST 
It's Stella. I can pretty much take anything apart, including water fountains, any kind of cat toy [got the ball out of the track the first day], my person's jewelry boxes, and even those childproof locks. Queenie is pretty much the same, but Fluff seems to rely on brute force. The combination of all of us is a disaster to our home. Our person thinks that we are smarter than most of her previous cats, but is being more destructive a sign of more intelligence?

None of our person's cats were interested in TV after they were about six months old. They loved it as kittens, though. Sometimes they will still watch but the oddest things--usually just people talking, like news shows, not the nature shows with animals and things moving around rapidly.

Our person did have a cat who even the vet said was slightly mentally retarded or at least backward. She couldn't always remember which side of the door opened, and had some physical defects, too, like not being able to lick water from a dish. Delyte is dumb enough to run away because he was scared of thunder, but also found his way back home on his own and knocked on the door. He would be smarter if not so fearful. We Grays are hardly afraid of anything!

There used to be an intelligence test for dogs which involved throwing a towel over the dog's head to see how fast he got out, but cats enjoy laying under a towel so either we are very dumb or the test doesn't work! Anyone ever done that test with a dog or cat? Certain breeds of dogs are supposed to be way smarter than others, but except for Siamese, you almost never hear about a breed being smarter than others, do you? We are all very mixed breeds here, so it is hard to tell.

Good luck with this! wave


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 9:02pm PST 
I agree. If I had to choose, I'd go for a sloppily affectionate lap cat than one who is clever enough to open drawers and remove harmful objects. (Kaya Skye seems to have cats with genius IQs, but the scrapes they get into are quite amazing.)

However, I'm just curious about the idea of Kitty IQs. I'm not interested in training my cats to do this or that (that's when treats come in handy, I imagine), but I do like interactive cats. My previous duo were both very vocal, and while I suspect that this was just a character trait (and perhaps related to some far-off Siamese genes...) rather than an indication of intelligence, given my druthers, and I know I'm expecting too much from my cats, I'd choose a cat who was first, affectionate, and second, interactive and curious, and vocal. (Too bad I ended up with Maine Coons and not Siamese or Orientals...)

I teach, and I often tell my students that ignorance is not stupidity, but that curiosity, whether in human or cat, not only stimulates the desire for more knowledge, but makes the human or cat more attractive to other beings. (Imagine teaching, as I do, students who are mostly devoid of curiosity. They may have stellar character traits otherwise, but are not attractive in the classroom.)

Ha! Curiosity killed the cat! But I think curiosity may be one indicator of intelligence. Believe me, I'm no animal behavioralist, so I'm just sort of rattling off theories here, but until someone tells me otherwise, I have a suspicion that curiosity is linked with intelligence.

Again, I repeat: I've had lots of cats, and it seemed to me that some were more intelligent than others, but the bottom line has ALWAYS been how close my relationship with the cat was. My interest in cat intelligence is just that--an interest. Because I'm a naturally curious Human, MOL!!!
laugh out loud


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 9:40pm PST 
What? No Stanford-Binet tests for cats? Bummer. When Meowmy was in elemtentary school in the last century, it seems like they had those stupid IQ tests every term. She did well, it appears, but she is perfectly aware that doing well on a Stanford-Binet test is basically that--doing well on a Stanford-Binet test. As she's lived her life, she's seen that people (sorry, we're cruising off to Humanster here) "succeed" in life or not more on the basis of sheer perseverance and physical/emotional stamina rather than randomly measured "IQ" scores. We all know how IQ tests have been criticized in recent years for being ethnically-specific, etc.

Having said all that...we all know that Fluffy isn't going to sit down in a classroom and fill in all those little circles with pencil marks, but--assuming that there are different levels of cat intelligence, or perhaps different QUALITIES of cat intelligence (for example, cats who are great at catching squirrels, but can't figure out how to open drawers), then how do we measure this? Or, rather, since the whole idea of measurement seems to be flawed, what is "intelligence" for a cat? What are the variations? What are the indications? Does a cat who participates in Wimbledon have more smarts than a cat that can watch a video of birdies chirping and not react?

These are all totally abstract questions, and have nothing to do with how much we love our cats. I'm curious, but too lazy to do any research regarding this by myself. Probably Cornell (I almost went there! I could be there RIGHT NOW giving cats IQ tests!!!) has an answer; they seem to have an answer about everything cat.

Still, one suspects that things like being able to manipulate objects, communicate with human caretakers, and display both curiosity and understanding of abstract things like TV images, would be an indication of "intelligence." Of my three Maine Coons, Harvey is either in a different world all the time, or actually rather stupid. Leila is a very standoffish lady, so I have no idea what's going on in her mind. Chibi shows the greatest number of signs of what a human would consider intelligence (which is why I have the running joke about her wanting to go to Harvard). Spike seems pretty smart too, which makes sense when you consider that he managed to survive being a feral in a park who fought off the crow that was trying to eat him. A Maine Coon breeder I know told me that, frankly, pedigreed cats are not quite as bright as moggies...

However, this continues to be a totally abstract discussion. I'm sure we ALL agree that what matters is the quality of the relationship we have with our cats. Now, this might be different when we choose friends or spouses; one does prefer someone with whom one can converse with on an equal level. But cats are different. Still, I continue to wonder...


I'm the baby,- gotta love me!
Purred: Sat Feb 14, '09 10:47pm PST 
I think you hit the nail on the head about focusing on different parts of intelligence. I know people who are intelligent but not curious, which limits the former.

From what I understand, you can tell if your cat is smarter than usual if s/he can track a moving object without moving his/her head while tracking. By that measure, Boris is kinda smart (but only from time to time), and Gracie definitely isn't.

On the other hand, these are cats that will come up with their own unique entertainment every time (Gracie has decided that pens are her favorite thing to play with, and she has decided that the best place to hide them so I won't take them away is near the roomba big laugh), that open drawers and then drag socks to the bathtub (Gracie), or open cabinets because they know there are things they want in there (Boris and his quest for TP comes to mind). Arguably you could call determination or focus, but that's one component of intelligence, isn't it?

Arthur (Miss- You!- '93-'09)

Bucket of Fuzz

Purred: Sun Feb 15, '09 12:04am PST 
Is watching TV a sign of high feline IQ, or low? Is watching TV a sign of high or low IQ in humans? Or does it matter which program they're watching?thinking

How about fetching? Some cats in our family have loved to play fetch. Does it prove them smarter that they have figured out this game, or do the cats who watch them run back and forth and look at them like they're nuts for doing it have it right?

It's hard to say for sure!


Proud mother of- the Gang of- Four!
Purred: Sun Feb 15, '09 12:45am PST 
Har har har, Arthur, you sure made us laugh with that one! Indeed! Many of us tend to rather look down our noses at humans who are obsessed with tv--to then say that cats who like/"understand" tv are "more intelligent" becomes a paradox! Certainly we're not going to give Fluffy credit for knowing the difference between an "educational" documentary and some trashy sitcom...although if it's a documentary involving twittering birds, Fluffy is more likely to show interest than if it's some sitcom rerun from the 1970s with a laugh track. (Although who knows.)

As for fetching, I always thought it was a sign of a slightly more intelligent Kitty, but from another point of view, the smartest Kitty may be the one who just stares out the window, wrapped up in a mood of Zen calm...I have had cats who I didn't think were necessarily the sharpest pencils in the box, but who were super fetchers. To the point where, long after I'd grown tired of the game, they were still dropping Mr. Mousie at my feet and looking at me expectantly...

Which brings us to another fascinating (?) topic--the intelligence of cats vs. that of dogs. My limited knowledge tells me that it seems to be assumed, generally speaking, that dogs and cats have about the same level of "intelligence." But dogs are usually much more eager to please their Humans, which makes many Humans think that Rover is smarter than Fluffy. Again, is being compliant a sign of intelligence, or just a genetic mechanism for getting attention and therefore food? I can just imagine Fluffy going, "Rover sure is dumb. Always doing those tricks for Mom and Dad, when he doesn't realize that he'll get fed anyway. Doesn't he have any PRIDE? DOGS!"
laugh out loud

Boris's information about tracking a moving object without moving the head sort of makes sense. Whether it's true or not, I don't know, but I think that's one way I've been unconsciously judging my own cats' intelligence. Hilles will sit patiently next to the PC monitor, watching Mr. Dancing Hamster et al. without moving her head even a centimeter--only her little eyes are darting back and forth across the screen. Could this judgment be related to how we, as humans, often judge other Humans' intelligence by their eyes? (Which is not always an inaccurate guide to what usually passes as Human intelligence--things involving curiosity and powers of observation and concentration.) However, one problem Humans have when interacting with cats and other non-Human species is the tendency to judge their body language by Human standards. Those of us who live with cats have learned to read their body language, more or less, but I think we will never understand it completely, just as they continue to be confused about us. (Harvey still can't figure out why, when he tries to groom my head to show me how much he loves me, he comes up with hair, and not fur. He actually looks angry about this!)

hamster dance Just try tracking me without moving your head!

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