Cat intelligence: Wikis


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Cat intelligence is the considered capacity of learning, thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and adaptability possessed by the domestic cat. Intelligence in cats is demonstrated by the capacity to develop and use tools, learn new behavior techniques, apply previously acquired knowledge to new situations, communicate needs and desires within social groups, and respond to training cues. Mammalian neuroscientists have attempted to simulate the feline brain in order to understand the origins and operation of cat intelligence, but results to date are inconclusive and additional study is needed.


Brain Size and Surface Area

The brain of a cat

The brain size of the average cat is 5 centimeters in length and 30 grams. Since the average cat is 60 cm long and 3.3 kg,[1] the brain makes up 1/12 of its length and 1/110 of its mass. Thus, the average cat's brain accounts for 0.9 percent of its total body mass, compared to 2 percent of total body mass in the average human. The surface area of a cat's cerebral cortex is approximately 83 cm². The modern human cerebral cortex is about 2500 cm².[2] Cat brains have been shown to be more similar to human brains than dog brains, and the part of the brain for emotions is the same in both cats and humans.[3] According to researchers at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, the physical structure of human brains and that of cats are very similar; they have the same lobes in the cerebral cortex (the "seat" of intelligence) as humans do.[citation needed] Human brains also function the same way, conveying data via many identical neurotransmitters.[citation needed]

The Learning Cat

It is proven that cats learn by trial and error, observation and imitation.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]. They retain certain information much longer than dogs.[14] In one study, it was found that cats possess visual memory ability comparable to that of monkeys.[15] However, for short term working memory, at least one study showed that dogs outperformed cats for periods of time up to 60 seconds.[16]

Intelligence by Breed

Ranking the intelligence of cats by breed is popular among pet owners, veterinarians and others, but the practice tends to run into difficulties. In general, the subject of cat intelligence rankings tends to be subjective. Cat breeder Norman Auspitz states the following: "As a rule, people seem to think the more active breeds have higher intelligence than the less active breeds. I will tell you that in feline agility, all breeds have done very well or very poorly as the case may be. Having said that, there is no certified measure of cat intelligence and this general rule may be very anthropomorphic... until there is a credible definition of what might be meant by cat intelligence and a way to measure it, any comment anyone will make about the subject is, at best, speculation."[17]

Observed Abilities of Cats


Inventing and using a tool

At least one cat was documented by a scientist to have adapted an object for use as a tool to add water to dry cat food, this tool-use being invented by the cat without any prior training by humans.[18]

Opening doors and windows

Cats that are accustomed to being let outside, or that want to get into their home, may learn to open windows and doors. They are capable of learning different routes for entry and exit; for instance a cat might find the window in its owner's kitchen easier to open to exit the house, but to get in, they might have to use the screen door in the backyard. Also, they may learn to open cupboard doors to get to food. Cats' paws are not as effective as manipulation as human hands, owing to lack of an opposable thumb, but they can for instance learn to operate door lever handles by pulling them down, even though gripping the handle is difficult for cat paws.

Retrieving items from hard to reach places

A cat playing with a ball may suddenly find that the ball is under the couch. The cat will try different ways, changing paws, position, and other elements, the way a human would. This trial and error approach to puzzle solving can be demonstrated in the laboratory using Thorndike's puzzle boxes. In these boxes, cats must manipulate series of levers in order to escape. They initially achieve this by trial and error, before committing the sequence to memory. They also use memory to reduce the amount of trial and error when encountering comparable novel situations e.g. new puzzle boxes.[4] The cat may also be taught to get treats from high and hard to reach places, like on top of a refrigerator, or in a cupboard. Using the same logic as it did with the toy, the cat will get to each treat. A cat that has figured out where the cat food is kept may find that the food is inside a large bag. It might try to get in the bag or open it by means of removing the clip.

Using the toilet

Toilet trained cat

Because of their sensitive sense of smell, some cats prefer going outside to urinate and defecate, and rarely go in the same spot twice. Kittens are typically trained by their mothers to use a litter box and cover up their waste, so litter training rarely requires human intervention; once they understand where the litter box is, they will seek it out from then on. Cats can also be trained to make use of a toilet;[19] some cats learn on their own after watching their owners, but for most cats, it is necessary to be taught by owners. In general, however, a toilet-trained cat is a rare animal, and successful toilet training depends both on the willingness of the animal to learn as well as on the patience of the owner to teach.

Playing fetch

Some cats can be trained to play fetch with a varied degree of success (which is dependent on the cat and its mood). Siamese, Bengals and Burmese cats are well-regarded as breeds that naturally carry objects in their mouths. They are easy to train to fetch and carry. Other breeds such as the Maine Coon, Turkish Van, Savannah,Short Hair and Turkish Angora, are also well known for an almost dog-like affinity for playing fetch. It is possible to get a cat to remain seated until an object is thrown. At that point, their sense of sight kicks in. As long as there is at least a remote chance of locating the thrown item, the cat will run off to find it. Once retrieved, waiting or a simple call is enough for the cat to return with the item and deposit it (usually) within arm's reach. Chasing an object in the air is a natural cat hunting behavior, and many cats will chase down a thrown toy for the sheer enjoyment of running and catching.


Cats, like many animals, communicate in a social environment in various ways. Some aspects of this behaviour are simple, such as purring to express the desire for and enjoyment of attention, meowing near the food bowl to get fed, some remember what time they get fed and attempt to gain their owner's attention at that time every day, etc, and some are more complex. Domestic cats organize themselves in complex social units when food is plentiful and conditions are otherwise conducive to it. It is actually quite important to cats' welfare to understand that they are not 'solitary by nature.' Although they do not socialize in the same way that dogs do (they do not hunt in packs, for example, and are not responsive to praise and blame in the same way) they still associate themselves strongly with specific other animals (including humans) and are probably even more attached to place and routine than dogs or their human owners.

Training and Tricks

Cats are traditionally hard to train as circus animals, mainly because cats appear to only assume such behaviors in exchange for a direct benefit, unlike dogs which respond well to emotional reassurance.[citation needed] While this is usually true, a human with a good relationship to a cat, where there is trust and good communication, can find a cat to be almost as trainable as a dog. A good example of this is The Yuri Kuklachev Cat Theatre based in Moscow[20] , the owner of which has been training cats for many years to do a full range of circus style tricks. Also there is the belief that cats are harder to train than dogs owing to impatience and boredom with the training exercise.[citation needed] Like dogs and people, many cats have active minds that thrive on stimulation, exploration and learning. Many of the same basic methods of training a dog—shaping behavior, and giving reinforcement in the form of treats, lavish praise or attention for correct responses—work extremely well when training a cat. A cat can be taught to "sit" for treats or meals; this or other such repeatable behaviour responses can act as a foundation for further training.

Computer simulation of the cat brain

There have been reports of the computer simulation of a cat brain, that scientists have simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer.[21][22] But the reports have raised controversy.[23][24] The computer does not actually think like a cat. The computer simulation is cat-scale, meaning that the simulation is powerful enough to simulate a cat brain, but it is not actually a simulation of a cat brain. Also, there are conflicting views that say the simulation uses a faithful reproduction of the neurons in the brain, and also say that the simulation does not use biologically realistic simulations of the neurons in a cat brain. Other parts of the controversy are about the motives for reverse-engineering a cat brain. For neuroscientists, the goal is to understand how the brain's architecture using biological neurons leads to consciousness and neurological disorders, and for computer scientists, the goal is to understand brain architecture in order to create new kinds of electronics.

There are a number of reasons the cat brain is a goal of computer simulations. Cats are a familiar and easily-kept animal, so the physiology of cats has been particularly well studied. The physical structure of human brains and cat brains are very similar.[3] Cats, like humans, have binocular vision that gives them depth perception.[25]

Building artificial mammal brains requires ever more powerful computers as the brain gets more complex, from the mouse brain, to the rat brain (in 2007), to the cat brain, and ultimately to the human brain. Building artificial mammal brains advances the research of both neuroscience and artificial intelligence, but also leads to questions of the definition of sentient and conscious lifeforms, and to the ethics of artificial consciousness.[26]

See also


  1. ^ Brain and Body Size
  2. ^ Brain Facts and Figures
  3. ^ a b, The Cat's Brain
  4. ^ a b Thorndike's Puzzle Box experiments noted at
  5. ^ Adler, H E "Some Factors Of Observation Learning In Cats". Journal of Genetic Psychology, ): 159-77.
  6. ^ Hart, Benjamin L "Learning Ability in Cats" Feline Practice s(s): 10 - 12 (September—October 1975)
  7. ^ Caro, T M, and M D Hauser. "Is There Teaching in Nonhuman Animals?" Quarterly Review of Biology ): 151 - 74.
  8. ^ John, E R, P Chesler, F Bartlett and I Victor. "Observation Learning in Cats" Science ): 1589 - 1591.
  9. ^ Pallaud, B "Hypotheses On Mechanisms Underlying Observational Learning In Animals" Behavioural Processes, 9 (1984): 38ançois Y. "Search Behaviour of Cats (Felis catus) in an Invisible Displacement Test: Cognition and Experience" Canadian Journal of Psychology ): 359 - 370.
  10. ^ Dumas, Claude. "Object Permanence in Cats (Felis catus): An Ecological Approach to the Study of Invisible Displacements" Journal of Comparative Psychology ): 404 - 410.
  11. ^ Dumas, Claude, and François Y Doré. "Cognitive Development in Kittens (Felis catus): An Observational Study of Object Permanence and Sensorimotor Intelligence" Journal of Comparative Psychology ): 357 - 365.
  12. ^ Fiset, Sylvain, and François Y Doré. "Spatial Encoding in Domestic Cats (Felis catus)" Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behaviour Processes ): 420 - 437.
  13. ^ Heishman, Miriam, Mindy Conant and Robert Pasnak. "Human Analog Tests of the Sixth Stage of Object Permanence" Perceptual and Motor Skills ): 1059 - 68
  14. ^ Re-Directed Aggression Towards Other Cats
  15. ^ Okujava et al., Acta Neurobiol Exp (Wars). 2005;65(2):205-11.
  16. ^ Fiset & Dore, Anim Cogn. 2006 Jan;9(1):62-70.
  17. ^ Cats: cat intelligence
  18. ^ Documented Tool Use by a Cat
  19. ^ The Toilet Trained Cat: How to Train Your Cat to Use the Human Toilet
  20. ^
  21. ^ "IBM computer simulates cat’s cerebral cortex". Associated Press. November 18, 2009. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  22. ^ Adee, Sally (November 18, 2009). "IBM Unveils a New Brain Simulator". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  23. ^ Adee, Sally (January 2010). "Two simulations and an angry e-mail reveal the conflicting goals of supercomputer brain modeling". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  24. ^ Burt, Jeffrey (November 24, 2009). "Rival Scientist Calls IBM Cat Brain Simulation a Scam". IT Infrastructure - eWeek. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  25. ^ Grossberg, Stephen and Grunewald, Alexander (March 2002). "Temporal dynamics of binocular disparity processing with corticogeniculate interactions". Neural Networks. doi:10.1016/S0893-6080(01)00149-6. Retrieved December 31, 2009 (abstract only). 
  26. ^ Koch, Christof and Tononi, Giulio (June 2008). "Can Machines Be Conscious?". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 

Further reading

  • Bergler, Reinhold "Man and Cat: The Benefits of Cat Ownership" Blackwell Scientific Publications (1989)
  • Bradshaw, John W S "The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat" C A B International (1992)
  • Chesler, Phyllis. "Maternal Influence in Learning by Observation in Kittens" Science 166 (1969): 901 - 903.
  • Hobhouse, L T "Mind in Evolution" MacMillan, London (1915)
  • Turner, Dennis C, and Patrick Bateson. "The Domestic Cat: The Biology of Its Behaviour" Cambridge University Press (1988)
  • Miles , R C "Learning In Kittens With Manipulatory, Exploratory And Food Incentives" Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology 51 (1958): 39-42
  • Neville, Peter "Claws and Purrs" Sidgwick & Jackson (1992)
  • Neville, Peter "Do Cats Need Shrinks" Sidgwick & Jackson (1990)
  • Voith, Victoria L "You, Too, Can Teach a Cat Tricks (Examples of Shaping, Second-Order Reinforcement, and Constraints on Learning)" Modern Veterinary Practice, August 1981: 639 - 642.

External links


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