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Does Your Cat Sometimes Act So Smart It’s Scary?

I have a bunch of prodigies in the house; opening doors is one thing, but musical ability?

Catherine Holm  |  Jan 28th 2015


Have you ever had those moments when your cats are smarter than you thought possible? I mean, sure, we all love to think our cats are smart, but some of my cats’ actions have really made me sit up and take a second look.

In my household, Norton is extremely intelligent. This cat is focused, doesn’t forget anything, and returns to a task (or obsession) over and over. I’ve seen him do a few things that are hard to forget. Here are five ways my cats are so smart it’s scary:

1. The kitten Norton learns to open cabinet doors

Norton’s focus is what makes him appear so smart. He doesn’t give up on anything he wants. As a kitten, he began figuring out how to open cabinet doors. I know that many cats do this, but I have never had a cat try so hard and be so interested in this. Some of these handles were quite challenging to get a paw around. When Norton ran into a difficult drawer that wouldn’t immediately open, he learned to leverage his body weight by grabbing the door handle and swinging from it. The drawer would eventually slowly slide open.

2. Norton intentionally poses on the high beam, just to get my attention

We have these cool beams that run across the ceiling. The cats love to run on them, like a cat runway in the air. Norton takes it further. If he realizes he’s getting attention when he’s up on the post, he will intentionally hang way over the post and dangle his paws — probably because he knows that it will get a rise out of me (I don’t want him to fall!).

3. Norton tries to help Rama get his cone off

Rama recently had a lumpectomy and had to wear the dreaded plastic neck cone for 10 days. Rama is a very physical boy and I could tell that he really wanted that cone off. It hindered his movement and it made it impossible for him to groom his glossy black fur. Norton must have been able to tell that Rama desperately wanted the cone off. I walked by and saw Norton pawing at the ribbon that attached the cone around Rama’s head. Norton had succeeded in snagging a claw and starting to undo the thing. I had only used a bow, and Norton was close to getting the thing undone. You have to wonder.

We tried an inflatable donut with Rama, but Rama is also very smart. He very quickly learned to rub that donut against the back of a chair and slide it off his head.

4. Norton (and Rama) figure out an ingenious way to share a food bowl

Speaking of Norton and Rama, I was amazed to see this one day, happening in my kitchen. Talk about two smart cats. I had never seen cats deliberately pull a bowl back and forth with their paws, like these two did. I have seen cats simply edge in with their heads, to get at food that another cat was eating. But these two were so polite, deliberate, and rhythmic about it that it made me laugh and take notice.

Kieran is my cat who looks like a Turkish Van. If I had to write Kieran, I would have a very hard time nailing down his voice and his personality. Kieran is sort of a mysterious dreamer. He’s quiet (except at mealtime). He often seems spacey and airy. But bring live instrumental music into the equation, and Kieran suddenly shifts gears.

5. Kieran plays the piano

Okay, maybe Kieran doesn’t sound like me when he jumps on the keyboard, but he’s done some stuff that makes me sit up and take notice. Sometimes he matches my rhythm. Often, he steps on keys that work pretty well with what I’m playing. He’s really mostly interested in playing the keyboard, if I am also playing. He also loves to get his paws right where my hands are — at the same time — so that it’s hard for me to play. Is this smart or just attention-getting behavior? Who knows? I do know that he absolutely lights up if the piano is being played, and he comes running. It is the most focused and deliberate I’ve ever seen this dreamy cat become.

Do you have moments when cats do things that are so amazingly smart that it causes you to stop in surprise? Share in the comments!

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.