Lots of studies have been performed on dog intelligence, and the research has proved that dogs can learn words, understand human gestures and may even be capable of abstract thought.
But what about cats?
“We did one study on cats — and that was enough!” animal cognition expert Ádám Miklósi laughed as he discussed feline intelligence tests with author and science journalist David Grimm.
This wasn’t because cats are stupid, Miklósi explained; it’s simply that they refused to cooperate with the researchers.
Somehow I’m not surprised by these results, and as a person who grew up being taught the importance of critical thinking and questioning authority, cats’ refusal to cooperate for the sake of cooperation strikes me as a measure of higher intelligence. It also helps me to understand why I like cats so much: like them, I’m highly aware when people are trying to play head games with me and I deliberately refuse to participate.
You know those ridiculous clickbait headlines you see on Facebook? The ones like “INCREDIBLE! This person saw something and you’ll never guess what happened next! This video left me in tears! Watch it now!” I don’t give even a tenth of a damn about how relevant that video or photo or website might be to my interests, I refuse to take the bait and click the link.
This attitude carries over into attempted manipulations by politicians, talking heads, advertising agencies and employers who try to appeal to some kind of groupthink — “you’re the most important part of our team and you should be proud of that! (But we still won’t pay you a living wage despite your alleged importance to the success of the operation!)”
Cats don’t exactly salivate over being toyed with, either.
In fact, I’m of the totally unscientific opinion that cats are probably offended by the research done to date because it’s an insult to their intelligence. After all, how challenging is it to find food hidden under a stool? And why should they even care if scientists believe they can count? If people can’t understand their fundamental awesomeness and the way their intelligence manifests itself, they don’t give a crap.
“Go ahead and think we’re stupid,” they say. “If you humans are too dumb to figure out the way our brains work, it’s your loss.”
But it seems that scientists have a lot more respect for cats than that. Having acknowledged that they don’t have enough understanding to effectively measure feline intelligence, they don’t just dismiss the cat out of hand: They’re just waiting for the development of new technology to assist them in understanding the feline mind.
Really, though, all they need to do is spend a year in the life of a cat-owned household to understand just how intelligent our feline friends are. My cats have figured out how to open the refrigerator to get food they want. They’ve discovered how to get me to wake up without walking all over my bladder. They’ve learned how to open my closet door so they can scale my dressy clothes and leave little claw marks on my sleeves. They’ve figured out just what gestures and vocalizations I respond best to. Yes, they’ve got me quite well-trained!
And that’s just the start.
Sure, this isn’t the stuff of scientific research. But it’s pretty obvious to anyone with eyes to see and the patience to observe without bias that cats are highly intelligent creatures with a keen sense of community and social awareness.
What are some of the ways your cats demonstrate intelligence? How have they trained you? Where would you say that cats particularly display their genius? Let’s talk in the comments.
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About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their award-winning cat advice blog, Paws and Effect, since 2003.