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Are cats aloof/independent, or just not as smart as some other animals?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I have had cats since I was five years old, and am definitley your proverbial "cat person". My sister, (another cat person), and I had a friendly argument about the intelligence of cats compared to say dogs or other animals. She thinks cats are the smartest animals around. Even though they are far and away my favorite animal in the world, I don't think they are a very intelligent animal compared to say a dog, or some other animals. I also have three dogs and they are trainable in ways a cat is impossible to train. A cat can also be caught with an empty box if you wanted to catch one, because of their reckless curiousity. Cats generally do not learn their names. They more react to sounds or sometimes a voice. A dog knows its name, and in fact knows the name of other dogs that it lives with (I know this because when I call another dog in my house to come to me, the other ones will immediately get up and try to get to me first for attention). My sister says that this is not an example of cats not being smart, it is just a cat being deliberately aloof or independent. Maybe, but I just think that cats are not blessed with animal intelligence as are dogs, some primates, even dolphins. What do you think?
post #2 of 27
I believe that cats are very intelliegent animals but unlike dogs that lack the drive to please their owners. They love us but don't feel the need to win our approval. There are some cats however that are very trainable. My mom used to have a cat named Honey that would shut the fridge door, sit and lay down for a treat. Every animal is unique.
post #3 of 27
IMO, animal intelligence can't be measured by how the animal behaves or reacts to humans. Being easily trained may not automatically make the dog/cat smart.
I think a cat is smart in terms of hunting skills and independence. A dog, being a pack animal, is intelligent in its desire to insure the survival of its pack (family).
Every animal has its unique streak of intelligence. Humans can learn a lot from them. I suspect we might end up being the dumbest species on the planet.
post #4 of 27
Actually, cats are quite smarter than dogs, in terms of learning capabilities. Dogs' memories lasts approximately five minutes, cats' memories can last up to 16 hours. This was from an ivy league experiment.

They are trainable, they just respond to different stimuli than dogs. And it is not that they do not learn their names, it is that they dont have natural pack instincts, so ignoring someone they percieve as friendly seems fine to them.
post #5 of 27
Considering that it's tough to even compare intelligence among humans, it's even more difficult to compare between species.

Dogs are more social and therefore have a strong desire to please. Cats are relatively solitary hunters and their focus is on their own survival, not on deference to the alpha. Dogs are highly trainable, but cats are more adaptable and are capable of very clever problem-solving. It's easier to say dogs are more intelligent because they demonstrate their intelligence in their interactions with humans. But obviously this is only a small part of the overall intelligence picture.

In other words, dogs want to please you and cats want to please themselves, and both are very good at doing what is important to them!

With dogs, too, there are huge differences between breeds. I usually say "the bigger the dog, the smaller the brain".

Comparing a puppy and a kitten of the same age, there's no comparison - an 8-week-old kitten is more or less self-sufficient given a home environment. An 8 week old puppy is pretty much clueless.

Overall, and of course applying human-oriented standards, I would regard cats as more intelligent than dogs. Trainability is a sign of intelligence, but curiosity and problem solving are signs of greater intelligence. In terms of demonstrated intelligence, I think cats are smarter. But in a lot of ways it's still comparing apples and oranges.
post #6 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Mew
I believe that cats are very intelliegent animals but unlike dogs that lack the drive to please their owners. They love us but don't feel the need to win our approval. There are some cats however that are very trainable. Every animal is unique.
post #7 of 27
http://www.clickertraining.com/training/cats/

This is a link to a clicker training site. There is a video of a cat running a dog agility course with it's trainer. Agility is not an easy thing to teach a dog, yet here is a cat running the course just as well. Cats are just as capable of learning as dogs are. They just need different motivation. Cats most certainly can learn their names, as well as learn a variety of commands and behaviors. Perhaps there will never be a drug sniffing cat or a feline unit at your local police station, but they are very intelligent animals in their own right.
post #8 of 27
We all know now they can dial 9-1-1 in an emergency!

But smart and willing to please (dogs, dolphins) vs., smart and not gullible (cats) are in completely different corners of the ring. Can't really compare the two, since the difference isn't the smarts one is witnessing, but behavior traits.

Sure, cats are aloof and cautious, don't do tricks very well, and won't be seen competing against Ken Jennings on Jeopardy anytime soon. But I love them just the same. And I do think they're smart. They can also be dumb. We've had both kinds!

A quote I have liked since I heard it in a movie is "my compassion for someone isn't limited to my estimate of their intelligence."
post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 
interesting posts. Thanks for everyone's input
post #10 of 27
Speaking of intelligent, did anyone see Letterman's Top Ten List for today, Jan. 6 2006?
post #11 of 27
For the record...each one of my cats knows its name and I have 7 cats. When I call one, that one comes and that one only. Well every once in awhile another one will tag along but you get the point.
post #12 of 27
I happen to think my kitties are very smart!
post #13 of 27
Our cats recognise there names. Eviecat will come to you The rest just look like a what do you want mode.
post #14 of 27
Mine all know their names and will come (food) or run away (medicine) depending on what they think you have or want. They can also problem solve - Napoleon has learnt how to open a locked cat flap by pulling it inwards with his claw and teeth. Others are more stupid.

All are unique and loveable.
post #15 of 27
I also think it's a pack thing. Cats are social, but not hierarchical. Dogs need to behave in a way that seems smart and loving to us to survive in a pack.

Here: Usva is a genius, she knows more than 30 words in Finnish, is techically talented etc. Timotei on the other hand isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, just my loving, kind boy.
post #16 of 27
[quote=semiferal]Considering that it's tough to even compare intelligence among humans, it's even more difficult to compare between species.

Dogs are more social and therefore have a strong desire to please. Cats are relatively solitary hunters and their focus is on their own survival, not on deference to the alpha. Dogs are highly trainable, but cats are more adaptable and are capable of very clever problem-solving. It's easier to say dogs are more intelligent because they demonstrate their intelligence in their interactions with humans. But obviously this is only a small part of the overall intelligence picture.

In other words, dogs want to please you and cats want to please themselves, and both are very good at doing what is important to them!

With dogs, too, there are huge differences between breeds. I usually say "the bigger the dog, the smaller the brain".

Comparing a puppy and a kitten of the same age, there's no comparison - an 8-week-old kitten is more or less self-sufficient given a home environment. An 8 week old puppy is pretty much clueless.

Overall, and of course applying human-oriented standards, I would regard cats as more intelligent than dogs. Trainability is a sign of intelligence, but curiosity and problem solving are signs of greater intelligence. In terms of demonstrated intelligence, I think cats are smarter. But in a lot of ways it's still comparing apples and oranges.[/QUO
post #17 of 27
My cats know their names and Maverick at least is pretty easy to train as she is so smart and eager to please.

I havent been able to test this because, well, what do I need to train them to do?! lol!

They know their names, the dogs name and come when called. Jupiter also knows that he has to be in by 10.30pm and arrives more or less at 10.#0 on the dot.
post #18 of 27
If you expect your cat to behave like a dog, you will be sorely disappointed. Likewise if you expect your dog to behave like a cat, you will be equally disappointed.

There is nothing smarter at being a cat than a cat. There is nothing smarter at being a dog than a dog. Comparing the 2 is like comparing apples to oranges.

The great mystigue about cats is that they do NOT wish to please us, and therefore it is hard to understand their motivations. Does anyone really understand what drives their behavior? Now THAT is what I love about cats the best!
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbw999
I have had cats since I was five years old, and am definitley your proverbial "cat person". My sister, (another cat person), and I had a friendly argument about the intelligence of cats compared to say dogs or other animals. She thinks cats are the smartest animals around. Even though they are far and away my favorite animal in the world, I don't think they are a very intelligent animal compared to say a dog, or some other animals. I also have three dogs and they are trainable in ways a cat is impossible to train. A cat can also be caught with an empty box if you wanted to catch one, because of their reckless curiousity. Cats generally do not learn their names. They more react to sounds or sometimes a voice. A dog knows its name, and in fact knows the name of other dogs that it lives with (I know this because when I call another dog in my house to come to me, the other ones will immediately get up and try to get to me first for attention). My sister says that this is not an example of cats not being smart, it is just a cat being deliberately aloof or independent. Maybe, but I just think that cats are not blessed with animal intelligence as are dogs, some primates, even dolphins. What do you think?


My cats not only respond to their names, but have been trained to only go for our food if we offer it to them directly, and actually recognize a few other words of english. For example, if I say "food?", they all run to thier respective feeding areas and meow at me with their tails wiggling. it just depends on the cat and what methods you use to train them.
post #20 of 27
I agree with Semiferal for the most part.

However, I also believe some cats can display some aspects of social intelligence as well.
My old cat Kiaira knew her name, could sit & give a paw on command (when a treat was involved lol), came to us when we waved at her, and was the first to greet me (even before my dog) when I came home. When I was a small child, she also sensed when I was sick with the flu etc. and would scream at my mom until she gave me medication.

As for the name thing...bot of my kitties know their names.
post #21 of 27
I think my Seamus is pretty smart. He definitely knows his name. He knows that doorknobs open doors, he just can't figure out a way to turn them. He knows how to indicate to me what he wants. I think he knows a couple of words. He knows "green treats" and "harness" and he'll sit patiently while I put it on him. And a couple of times I've spoken complete sentences to him and he's acted appropriately, thought that may have just been lucky.

My darling Gator boy doesn't seem to know his name, but that may be because we more often use nicknames with him.
post #22 of 27
is conditioning the same as training?
My kitty knows exactly when it 10:30pm and arrives for her bedtime snack - even if she was dead asleep in the other room.

I also condtioned her bedtime activity (or lack of activity is what I was going for) so that she would sleep peacefully with me (that took months of work).

She also knows my few rules and knows when she is breaking them. (ex: she isnt allowed on the dining room table, but if she is there and sees I noticed her she gets down immediately)

Mine knows her name for sure. If I call her she comes running, chirping all the way, no matter where she was hiding. That's how she ended up as "Smidge" matter of fact, I playfully called her my smidgen kitty when I got her home she was so tiny. Within a week she was answering to "Smidge" and it stuck. (hey, she chose it, I didnt have much choice )
post #23 of 27
Interesting topic! There's a website, www.messybeast.com, that has a bunch of articles related to this subject (and many more, besides!). Now, it's clear from the articles that the author is a cat-lover, but she's also a doctor and a scientist, and there's a lot of thought and research put into her work. One thing the author of those articles brought up was with regards to maze training and cats versus other animals. A dog or a mouse can be trained to go through the maze by giving it a food reward (or, in crueler cases, electrical shocks for going the wrong way), and will learn the lay-out of the maze fairly quickly. Cats, on the other hand, don't operate on the same principals. Cats are opportunistic hunters: they have to check down every single alley and corner because there might be something there. And they don't necessarily respond to the food reward, if they think they're expending too much effort in order to get it (which makes sense: why exert all your energy for a tiny treat when you could sit and wait, or peer around a corner, and possibly find something even bigger to eat?). Also, scientists conducting the studies were often under the impression that because a cat sat down and groomed itself, that meant the cat had lost interest, or was too "stupid" to figure out how to navigate the maze--when in reality, cats groom themselves reflexively, biding themselves time while they try to figure out what they want/need to do next.

I definitely recommend the articles, if you're interested in learning more about this topic. They're very well-written, and quite thought-provoking!
post #24 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mirinae
Interesting topic! There's a website, www.messybeast.com, that has a bunch of articles related to this subject (and many more, besides!). Now, it's clear from the articles that the author is a cat-lover, but she's also a doctor and a scientist, and there's a lot of thought and research put into her work. One thing the author of those articles brought up was with regards to maze training and cats versus other animals. A dog or a mouse can be trained to go through the maze by giving it a food reward (or, in crueler cases, electrical shocks for going the wrong way), and will learn the lay-out of the maze fairly quickly. Cats, on the other hand, don't operate on the same principals. Cats are opportunistic hunters: they have to check down every single alley and corner because there might be something there. And they don't necessarily respond to the food reward, if they think they're expending too much effort in order to get it (which makes sense: why exert all your energy for a tiny treat when you could sit and wait, or peer around a corner, and possibly find something even bigger to eat?). Also, scientists conducting the studies were often under the impression that because a cat sat down and groomed itself, that meant the cat had lost interest, or was too "stupid" to figure out how to navigate the maze--when in reality, cats groom themselves reflexively, biding themselves time while they try to figure out what they want/need to do next.

I definitely recommend the articles, if you're interested in learning more about this topic. They're very well-written, and quite thought-provoking!

Interesting site. I just started looking at it. A couple of passages not for weak stomached though. Amazing how wantonly cruel people can be to innocent animals.
post #25 of 27
I figure cats must be smart because they got a bunch of humans to do their bidding for scant reward
post #26 of 27
My three don't know their names, but that's for two reasons: one, they are all rescues who had other names before they came to live with me; and two, I usually call them silly "boo boo bunny" names instead of using their "given" names. Probably because I remember my late and sainted mother blaring "Vibiana Margaret Nelson!" at the top of her lungs when she was about to lay me out to whalesh*t. LOL (and no, that's not my real name)

They have nicknames, too: Surely, Goodness, and Mercy. They follow me EVERYWHERE when I'm at home. lol
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by CDubbie
I figure cats must be smart because they got a bunch of humans to do their bidding for scant reward
Yeah, I think the real question is whether humans are as intelligent as either cats or dogs.

I mean, really - we go to work every day and bust our bottoms so we can buy food and treats and toys and vet care for our little furkids. We get home after a long day and they have obviously spent the whole day doing nothing productive at all. One would think they could at least get their own dinner and scoop their own litter. But no, instead we get home after a long day and the first thing we do is feed them and scoop their litterboxes.

And we're supposed to be smarter than they are? Sometimes I wonder!
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