Studies Show That Cats Are So Smart

While dogs are often described as intelligent, willing to learn, and obedient, cats are often seen as less clever and unteachable. But studies show: cats are smart animals too! Here you will find a brief insight into the abilities of our cats.

Dogs are often the subject of scientific studies. But time and again, researchers are also concerned with the abilities of domestic cats. Here are some examples.

Examples of Cat Cognitive Abilities

Oregon State University researchers Monique Udell and Kristyn Vitale Shreve took a closer look at our cats’ cognitive and social skills and summarized the scientific evidence on the subject in a review study.

Object Permanence

For example, the researchers looked at what is known as “object permanence”: the ability to understand that objects that move out of one’s field of vision are still there. Cats also possess the ability of object permanence: for example, if a toy disappears under the sofa, the cat knows that it is still there, even if it can no longer see it.

Physical Conclusions

There aren’t enough studies on whether cats are capable of making physical inferences. In a study, however, it was found that cats do notice when physical rules are not being followed:

In the experiment, a container was shaken, causing its contents to rustle. The container was then inverted. Its contents fell out – an expected physical consequence. In other situations, the container was shaken, there was a rustle, but when the container was turned over, nothing fell out. Or it didn’t rustle and the contents fell out when you turned it over. These were contradictory events.

It was found that cats paid more attention to these contradictory processes than to those that were to be expected – as if they noticed that something couldn’t be right.

Cats have many other abilities: They can, for example, interpret when a person points their finger in a direction or at an object and follow their gesture, as a study has shown. Also, you can probably tell small differences in size.

Social Skills of Cats

Contrary to popular belief, cats are very social creatures. They enter into different relationships with conspecifics and also with humans. These can have different intentions. Cats are also capable of bonding with a social partner and developing separation anxiety.

Change of Gaze and Emotions: This Is How Cats React to People

Cats can also communicate with humans by looking at each other. That’s what researchers found in a study published in 2015 in the journal Animal Cognition.

During the study, the cats were in a room with their owner and a strange object (an electric fan with green ribbons attached). The room was otherwise empty except for a black screen.

The cats were divided into two groups: in the “positive group” the owners showed a positive mood through their voice, looks, and posture, while in the negative group they conveyed fear and insecurity.

It found that 79 percent of cats made eye contact with their owner at least once. 54 percent exchanged glances between the owner and the fan at least once. It is obvious that the cats tried to orient themselves in this unfamiliar situation by looking at their human. These values ​​are comparable to those of dogs.

This study also suggests that cats can understand and respond to human emotions. For example, cats in the “negative group” showed a tendency to look for a possible exit, an escape route, then the cats in the positive group. Other studies have also found that cats respond to human emotions. For example, they tend to distance themselves from particularly sad people.

Cats Understand Their Names

This finding will come as no surprise to many cat owners: cats are able to recognize their name and respond to it – if they only want to. This has been scientifically confirmed by a Japanese research team in an experimental study.

The researchers examined the behavior of cats as part of the study. First, they played them Japanese words that sounded similar to the cat’s name. The cats paid little attention to these words. The researchers then played the cat’s real name, to which the majority of cats responded, for example by moving their heads or ears. These effects also existed when a person stranger to the cat said its name.

The study also suggests that cats in multi-cat households can distinguish their names from each other.

However, cats – and most cat owners probably know this from personal experience – only join in when they want to. Therefore, cat owners need a lot of patience if they want to teach their cats something. This not only applies to the call of the name but also, for example, to the command “No” or learning a trick: the cat can do it, the only question is how much patience the cat owner has…

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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