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So, My Cats Failed an Intelligence Test

Would you ever test your cats' intelligence? I did. The results were unimpressive. But I love my cats even if they’re idiots.

 |  May 21st 2013  |   11 Contributions


Sometimes I wonder if I’m living with a bunch of idiots.

Two idiots, to be exact: my gray tabby, Bubba Lee Kinsey, and my calico, Phoenix.

They are probably my favorite living things on this planet, but if Phoenix was human, I suspect she’d be a ditzy cheerleader. Bubba would be a refrigerator-sized meathead occupying the corner stool at the local dive bar.

Bubba Lee Kinsey is smart enough not to be amused by my penchant for selfies.

I am, however, judging them by human standards. It is probably unreasonable, due to the language barrier, for me to expect my kitties to understand the phrase, “But I’m TIRED!” when they wake me up to be fed at 5 a.m. I’ve also got to consider that evolution and not sheer persistent lunacy is at play when they act scared of the vacuum cleaner even though it has never hurt them.

That’s why I decided to give my cats a few intelligence tests that are more on their level. I know the entire notion of whether these mysterious, aloof beasts can even be tested for intelligence is up for debate, but I still thought it would be a fun experiment. Here are the results.

Is Bubba Lee Kinsey smart enough to find the treats after I've hidden them?

Test 1: kitty vs. blanket

Since there are not many cat-specific intelligence tests out there (apparently these creatures defy logic and explanation), I adapted this one from a test intended for dogs. I figured it would still be valid since both are intended to test spatial reasoning and problem solving. (Please note that I use the term “valid” loosely, as the primary purpose of these tests is entertainment at the expense of my cats.)

First, you need a blanket and an unsuspecting cat.

Bubba Lee Kinsey has no idea what awaits him.

Make sure the cat is awake and alert, then cover her with the blanket and time how long it takes her to puzzle her way out.

The first time, I covered Phoenix with a full-size blanket, which proved to be too much for her. After about 45 seconds, I felt bad and had to help her. Fair enough, I thought -- after all, I always panicked when I got caught beneath the giant parachute in elementary school gym class.

So, the second time I folded the blanket in half. And Phoenix curled up underneath it and started purring.

Phoenix failed this particular test.

Well, that can’t be good. To be honest, though, burrowing under the blankets of my freshly made bed is one of her favorite pastimes.

Bubba Lee Kinsey, however, found his way out within ten seconds. Good job, Bubba!

Way to go, Bubba Lee Kinsey!

Test 2: kitty vs. treats

For this one, you need kitty treats, a clear glass, and an unsuspecting cat.

Again, Bubba has no idea.

Show the cat the treats. Let her smell them -- and perhaps even lick them a bit. Then let her watch as you put the treats beneath the clear glass, where she can still see them, and time how long it takes her to retrieve the treats from beneath the glass.

Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix both failed this test rather miserably. Bubba thought begging me for more treats was the answer.

Meanwhile, Phoenix just gave up.

Test 3: online quizzes

According to this online quiz, here are some things to consider when gauging your cat’s intelligence:

  • How is your cat’s long-term memory? Does she flee at the sight of the pet carrier? (Both of my cats do.)
  • Has your cat ever learned how to do something, like open a cupboard or flush the toilet, just by watching you do it? (My cats, thankfully, have not.)
  • If you move your cat’s litter box or food dish, how long does it take her to figure out the new location? (Mine figure it out almost immediately.)
  • If your cat sees a bird through the window, does she bang her head against the glass trying to catch it, or does she ask to be let outside? (My cats are not allowed outside, but they do not act as though catching the bird through the window is a real possibility.)
  • How does your cat act if the litter box needs cleaning? (My Phoenix will wait until I’m near the litter box, and she’ll stand in front of it, look up at me, and meow pathetically.)

Here’s another silly test you can take online. I took it for both of my cats, and they both fell in the “average” category -- which sounds just about right.

All quizzing and testing aside, I love my cats even if they’re idiots -- especially if they’re idiots. When I look in their eyes, I see soul and understanding, and that is enough for me.

Also, they’re smart enough to use the litter box. That helps, too. 

Have you ever given your cat a test like these? How did she do? Does it even matter? Let us know in the comments!

About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she's an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.

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