It's about time we took a look at the most intelligent cat breeds. We've always found it slightly unfair that dogs tend to hog the limelight, so we're demystifying the magnificent moggie.
First things first: it probably won’t come as a surprise that cats can be stubborn creatures. While dogs will happily chase balls, roll over, and go to bed when they’re told, our feline friends are famous for their stubborn streaks. In other words? Working out which cat breeds are the most intelligent ones can be tricky.
“One problem with exploring cognition in cats is that they can be very sensitive to changes in their environment, and will not necessarily want to participate in tests because they have less of a ‘desire to please’, compared to dogs,” explains Dr Lauren Finka, an expert in feline behavior based at Nottingham Trent University’s Animal, Rural, and Environmental Sciences faculty.
“However, when they do choose to take part, studies generally indicate that their social-cognitive abilities can often rival those of dogs. Some cat breeds are thought to be more focused on humans than others (such as the Siamese) which might mean that they simply appear to be more ‘socially intelligent.’ “
Stubborn streak aside, certain breeds of cat have inevitably become known for their high intelligence levels, and cat experts believe that the following species have the highest of them all...
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Abyssinians, known for their sleek profiles and love of human contact, thrive on attention, enjoy the company of other animals, and form close bonds with their owners. They’re happiest when mentally stimulated, and love to please their owners. They’re also incredibly confident. Although they prefer to be the only cat in the household, they’ll still get along incredibly well with other pets.
Bengal cats, with their distinctive, jaguar-like fur, are one of the best breeds of cat for animal lovers who want a four-legged friend which is intelligent and friendly, but still has a bit of a wild side – opt for a Bengal, and you’ll need plenty of room for play (they love to climb) and a good stash of toys (ideally ones which require a little more mental dexterity than your average stuffed toy mouse).
Don’t be put off by Burmese cats’ haughty appearance – although these cats give the impression that they’re all too aware they’re the coolest cats on the block, they thrive on human attention and are incredibly loyal. A word of warning: although Burmese cats are one of the few species which can learn basic tricks, they’ve certainly got a wild side, and can quickly get up to mischief should they get bored.
The Siamese cat is another cat known for its cognitive skills – it’s known as one of the most intelligent breeds of cat. One of the most recognizable cat breeds, they’re smart, loyal, and mischievous – don’t be surprised to find your Siamese cat entertaining himself by turning on the tap or pulling open a drawer.
The Singapura cat is an increasingly popular cat species. It’s a small breed with a big heart – it’s the smallest domesticated cat species, and has very short, silky hair. Cat Fanciers' Association cat judge Iris Tanner describes the Singapura as “a powerful, assertive cat with a lot of personality,” adding that its small stature means it’s easy to (incorrectly) assume that these cats will be mild, meek kitties. However, it’s worth noting that while they love to play, they dislike loud noises, such as barking dogs or crying babies.
6. Cornish Rex
Cornish Rex characteristics include loyalty, playfulness, and athleticism. They’re highly intelligent cats which love to interact with their owners, and will do anything to spend more time with them – including happily walking on a lead. Unusually for cats, they’ll quickly learn simple tricks, simply because they love being the centre of attention, and will do anything they can to spend more time with their owners. But don’t make the mistake of forgetting who’s boss – if your Cornish Rex goes missing, it’s highly likely he’ll be standing on top of a bookcase or cupboard, surveying his territory.
One final point
It’s important to remember that cats’ reputation for both independence and affection is exactly why we love them. Dogs might be very different to cats, but don’t make the mistake of basing assumptions about cats’ intelligence levels on certain characteristics – all too often, our canine companions are seen as cognitively superior simply because of their ancestry.
“Dogs are not as closely related to wolves as we often think, having been domesticated over thousands of years,” points out Dr Jessica May, UK lead vet at the video vet service FirstVet (firstvet.com). “We often assume that cats retain more of their wild characteristics and behaviors than dogs. Cats can be trained, but it is important to understand that they are very different to dogs. They are often good learners, and can adapt quickly to new situations and environments, changing how they interact with humans and other animals as a result.”
Tamara Hinson is a freelance writer who grew up with huskies but unfortunately now has a husband who is allergic to dogs. Luckily she has a neighbour who lets her dog-sit her Maltese terrier and a nearby greyhound rescue centre where she can walk the residents.
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