Sphynx cat -the smart one! photo copyright dracorubio
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Cat Intelligence has interested people for a considerable time as has the intelligence of a dog. Who is the smarter and are they smarter than a chicken?
Recently humankind has gradually become aware of the intelligence of other animals on the planet. Some cats are more intelligent than others it seems, but this is anecdotal evidence. Often cat breeders writing about the cat they breed will understandably promote their chosen cat breed by describing it as more intelligent than others.
An interesting article in a newspaper, the Penny Illustrated (UK) dated 1st June 1912 asks the question, "Does your cat or your dog think? If so, do they think in the same way as you do?"
The article refers to published research work at the time by Professor Thorndike of Columbia University, called "Animal Intelligence". The professor approached the question from the standpoint of experimental psychology (experimental testing of actual cats and dogs etc.).
Cats, dogs and chickens were placed in cages and they had to get out without assistance by means of certain devices that they had to manipulate having learned to do so by trial and error. The motivation was food outside the cage.
The professor found that the cats became agitated and calmed down after 10 mins. They worked out how to get out and when out they ran! "By dint of biting and scratching they end by discovering the method of opening the door and release themselves". They were more interested in getting out than eating the food (makes sense to as it's more important to get out and away than remain near people who want to cage you up).
Dogs apparently behaved better. They were calmer and more "attentive to their nourishment". Dogs showed less desire to escape. They succeeded in quickly learning the opening mechanism. They "showed no desire to run away as the cats do" once they had got out and got the food.
As for the chickens they "showed great agitation" when shut up in a cage. "They succeeded much less often than cats and dogs" to escape.
The professor concludes:
"According to these results the dogs appeared most intelligent, the cats near to them, and the chickens far behind"
Are cats really less intelligent than dogs? It would seem that if it is a straight contest as to which can solve problems or learn relatively complex tasks then the dog wins. Dogs are certainly more trainable and yet some cats are dog-like and trainable to (but to a lesser extent). These are usually the wildcat hybrids such as the Bengal and Chausie. But there are different types of intelligence. In any event cats are individuals (less socially aware) while dogs are pack animals and will look up to and learn from the alpha animal (the human normally). That is probably why they are trainable (or at least in part).
Amongst cats some are probably a bit smarter than others. My research indicates that the wildcat hybrids tend to be smarter probably because the brain has been trained to be sharper to survive in the wild.
A ranking has been carried out by Animal Planet which although rather unscientific it seems does give some indications, which I would think cat fanciers would agree with. At the less intelligent end are cats like the Himalayan, Exotic Shorthair (Persian/American Shorthair cross) and Persian. These three are all Persian based cats. These cats are docile and passive. Perhaps they are uninquisitive, which will limit learning by experience. Cat intelligence is hard to measure.
At the smarter end there is the Sphynx. I can agree this. They do behave in more inquisitive, active and interested manner indicating intelligence. Other smart cats are the other skinny cats such as the Oriental Shorthair, Balinese, Javanese, Turkish Angora. The Bengal also falls into this group too.
The full list of the smart cats:
* Colorpoint Shorthair
* Havana Brown
* Oriental Shorthair
* Sphynx (top cat
In the middle ground (average cat intelligence) we have:
* American Shorthair
* American Curl
* American Wirehair
* British Shorthair
* Cornish Rex
* Maine Coon
* Scottish Fold
Just below the Sphynx level (the top rank cat intelligence) we have these cat breeds:
* Devon Rex
* Egyptian Mau
* Japanese Bobtail
* Norwegian Forest Cat
* Russian Blue
* Turkish Angora
* Turkish Van
This list must be taken with a pinch of salt however.