How Smart is Your Cat?

One thing we do know is that cats are not dumb by any stretch. The brain of a cat, though small, occupies about 0.9 percent of their body mass, compared to 1.2 percent for the average dog. In fact, a cat’s complex cerebral cortex, the part of the brain responsible for information processing, contains about twice as many neurons as that of dogs. This is the area of the brain that interprets information, language, rational decision making, and complex problem solving.

Some, especially die-hard cat lovers, think cats are even more intelligent than dogs because they don’t find reward in frustrating situations like practicing tricks or other useless social activities dogs are eager to demonstrate. And just about everyone in animal research knows that intelligence or not, cats are no cake-walkto work with.

Few studies have been done to date on cat intelligence, but a 2009 study that sought to determine whether cats could identify different quantities of objects (in other words, count) found they weren’t as good at it as other animals, like fish or dogs, were. Another study found that cats can follow pointing gestures similarly to dogs and can follow simple puzzles to get food, but if the puzzle is unsolvable, dogs look to their owners for help while cats continue trying. Of course, in the end, aside from demonstrating cats’ indifference to participating in the studies themselves, none of the tests proved much about feline intelligence.