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August 14, 2018 |0 min read

Cat Intelligence: Our Problem-Solving Felines

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Did you know cat intelligence is one of the highest among domestic animals? Despite their brains taking up a smaller percentage of their body than humans, cats prove that size doesn’t matter! Cats have 300 million neurons in their amazing brains, nearly double that of dogs, and the structure of their brain is 90 percent similar to a human’s brain. It’s no wonder that cat owners form such strong bonds with their feline friends. But how do our cats use this amazing intelligence?


Cat Intelligence: Communication

 Cat Meowing

Whilst your cat’s vocalizations aren’t a true language, they are a sure-fire way of telling us exactly what they want. Once past the kitten stage, cats primarily use their mewling sounds to communicate solely with humans. A 2002 study on cat intelligence and communication found that humans react in different emotional ways, depending on the tone and urgency of the cat ‘meow’. Cats know how to let us know they want feeding, stroking, or even taking home from the shelter. Over thousands of years, the cats most successful at gaining human favor would have been the best fed, homed and most likely to survive to breed. These cats passed on their clever, communicative genes. They have learned how to manipulate us masterfully, and we love it.


Cat Intelligence: Affection

Cat Showing Affection

A sure sign of cat intelligence is the love they show to humans. A cat who rubs its head against you is claiming ownership of you and expressing pleasure at your presence. Cats use scent glands to mark anything that’s important to them, so it’s a huge compliment. Cats also bring gifts, sometimes quite disgusting ones if they are an outdoor hunting cat! You might find that your cat loves to express their affection while you’re in the bathroom. While you’re doing your business, cats have a captive audience. They can rub against your legs and jump in the sink and purr in your face, and they know you can’t escape! So expect bathroom company frequently.


Cat Intelligence: Puzzle Solvers

Cat in Drawer 

When I was quite young, I was given a clear example of just how smart cats are. We used to have a tortoiseshell cat who used to sneak into the pantry when no one was looking. The clever thing was, she figured out how to quietly shut the pantry door behind her! I’d be in the next room and hear a noise from the kitchen. I’d come to investigate, but as all the doors were closed and no cat could be seen, I’d shrug and leave. Next time I went into the pantry, there was a smug and satisfied cat patiently waiting for me to open the door! She also figured out how to spin the outside door handle to let us know she wanted to come in, and occasionally even rattled the letter-box.

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Science Daily tells us that cats learn by trial and error, observation and imitation. Basically, just like human children. This can manifest itself as ‘naughty’ behavior, but really, it’s just your cat learning and experimenting with its boundaries. Give your cats puzzle toys to keep them stimulated, or try hiding a favorite toy to watch them figure out where you’ve put it. Don’t hide it too well though. Cats bore easily, so make sure your puzzle is solvable!

Cat intelligence is so similar to human intelligence. They communicate well, they are emotional, and they love puzzles and figuring things out. By playing with your cats and giving them lots of love and affection, you can keep your cat’s busy brain healthy and active for many years.


Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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