Smarty Cat: Interesting Facts about Your Cat’s Intelligence

Cat Intelligence Facts

Did you know there is research discipline called animal cognition? Inquisitive scientists spend untold hours conducting extensive studies into the minds of our pets but in spite of expert analysis, we still have a lot to learn. Especially when it comes to the mind of a cat.

Interestingly, we have laboratories around the world committed wholly to studying what goes on in a dog’s mind, but very little comparative research on the inner workings of a cat’s brain. What gives? Well, as any seasoned (and frustrated) cat owner can attest; cats are not exactly cooperative. So much so, in fact, that many of them had to be removed from studies altogether.

Perhaps that explains, at least in part, why we hear far more heroism and valor stories about dogs. From the days of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, dogs always seem to get in on the action. Some dogs have become decorated police veterans, military dogs, highly trained drug detectors, seeing-eye dogs, and bomb sniffers. Some of them have even jumped from planes. When was the last time you saw a seeing-eye cat or a cat plunging into battle?

However, in spite of their challenging demeanor, we do know some fascinating cat intelligence facts. For example, consider that a cat’s brain takes up less than one percent of its body mass compared to about two percent in humans, but it’s not always about size. Cats have an incredibly complex cerebral cortex, which is responsible for cognitive information processing, to the tune of roughly twice as many neurons as dogs and more visual area nerve cells than humans and most other mammals.

So, why don’t we have police cats? For starters, cats don’t have thousands of years of domestication with social activity behind them like their canine counterparts. Cats have far less patience and toleration for things that are not immediately rewarding.  Dogs are easily influenced with a treat and have greater social cognizance but cats are better problem solvers. Let’s look closer at some more amazing cat intelligence facts to help you better understand their ways.

Cats are sign readers

They can’t understand your words but cats have a canny sense of signs and gestures. For example, if you point to a location with food, they will go that way. Scientists call this a “theory of mind”; the ability to associate specific actions, such as a person attempting to show them something. Like dogs, cats have been domesticated for millennia and are bound to pick up a clue now and again; however, they carry a quiet “I’ll do it if I feel like it” air about them.

You can’t fool them

Object permanence is an idea of realization. If a particular object moves from our sight, we know it is simply hidden and has not ceased to exist. One look at a cat chasing a mouse under the stove and then waiting for it to reappear shows us that cats are aware of permanence as well. Their big cat relatives like the panther and mountain lion use this ability to remember where their prey vanished into cover.

Time machines

Like clockwork, cats will start pestering you at the same times every day when it’s time to eat. How on earth do they know what time it is? The jury is still out for the most part but studies have shown that cats have a good sense of length of time and some scientists say cats might actually have a form of internal clock to assess duration of events. They can also determine to significance of a small group of food and a larger one.

What’s the verdict—are cats smarter than dogs?

We are still learning a lot about how cats’ brains perceive the world around them and how they interact with it. We know they are very smart creatures but are they smarter than dogs? That is up for debate, especially given the fact that we have a great deal more research on dogs’ cognitive abilities, and animals differ greatly in behavior, size, and other factors that influence how they react to studies. A single study approach won’t work the same with a cat or a dog or an elephant.

For now, we’ll just have to accept cats as intelligent, stubborn, independent creatures.


Central Texas Animal Hospital provides a variety of veterinary services for cats in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock area including vaccinationsparasite preventiondental careweight managementspaying and neutering, and more. Call us at 512-251-BARK today to learn more!