Breed enthusiasts will inform you that Ragdoll cats have a superior intellect. If you talk to anyone who owns a Ragdoll cat, they are likely to confirm that they agree with this sentiment.
These big, calm cats certainly have an air of intelligence about them. Their easygoing nature and prosaic acceptance of the goings-on around them make them seem sensibly wise. But does that mean Ragdolls are smarter than the average cat?
To best answer this question, it is necessary to gain some insight into the Ragdoll first, and then to get a better understanding of feline intelligence.
First, a Little More About the Ragdoll Cat
The Ragdoll breed is relatively new. The first litter was bred in the 1960s in California by Ann Baker. She bred a long-haired white cat to a seal-point Birman tom cat. The kittens that resulted were so appealing and distinctive—both physically and behaviorally—that she decided to breed them for these characteristics.
The most notable characteristic, and the one which resulted in their name, was a propensity to become completely limp when picked up. Much like a lifeless rag doll.
Ragdolls are long-haired and larger than the average cat. A defining characteristic of the breed is their serene, blue eyes. They are exceptionally easygoing and amiable towards all—adults, children of all ages and other animals. They are gentle and devoted and express their devotion through chattiness.
Some people may interpret their seeming unflappability as extreme intelligence. An unwillingness to worry about the small things is certainly interpreted as a type of wisdom when observed in humans. But can the same be said of these placid beauties?
Let’s delve a little deeper into the concept of feline intelligence to hopefully get some answers.
How Do You Measure a Cat’s Intelligence?
As you may have thought, feline intelligence is measured very differently from human intelligence. Humans are fond of estimating and ascertaining intelligence through certain tests. There is no documented kitty IQ test in existence.
Rather, cats are assessed for species-specific intelligence by observation of problem-solving abilities and their capacity to adapt to certain situations and environments.
How Are Ragdolls Smarter Than Other Cats?
Ragdolls are quite easy to train, in much the same way that dogs are. For example, they can be taught to retrieve objects, sit when instructed, and walk on a leash. Many cats would not consent to this kind of conditioning.
They are socially intelligent, which is demonstrated by how they actively engage with their owners and even other animals in the home. They are known to greet their humans and follow them around. They demonstrate emotional intelligence in the way that they clearly express any sadness, happiness, or irritation. It’s easy for their humans to understand how they are “feeling”.
Interestingly enough, an area where they appear to lack intelligence is one in which cats normally excel. They seem to have a relatively underdeveloped prey drive, and natural hunting instinct and ability compared to other breeds.
Their intellect is superior to other cats when it comes to communication and training.
What’s the Most Intelligent Cat?
So, indications are that the Ragdoll is indeed a clever kitty. It may even be smarter than most cats in some areas. It is not, however, generally acknowledged at the top of the clever-cat list. Here is a list (in no particular order) of cats that rank the highest in terms of smarts.
Of these, it is widely accepted that the Abyssinian tops the list when it comes to feline intelligence.
How Can I Tell if My Cat Is Smart? Tests You Can Perform
After reading this, your interest may be piqued and you could be wondering about your own wily feline’s level of intelligence. As we mentioned, there are no documented results-guaranteed IQ tests to which you can subject your cat.
There are, however, some at-home assessments you can conduct that might give you an idea of your kitty’s brainpower. At the very least, these exercises will be a fun way for you and your kitty to bond. They may even provide you with a few surprising results and conclusions.
Here are three fun ways to determine how well your kitty can problem solve and adapt to its environment:
1. Does Your Cat Know Its Name?
Say some words to your cat that sound similar to its name, and are a similar length. Then, say their name. See if you can gauge any difference in your kitty’s response. Look out carefully for changes in its body language like ear-moving and tail-twitching.
2. Test Your Cat’s Understanding of “Object Permanence”.
Engage your kitty in a game with one of its favorite toys. Then, while you make sure that it is watching, hide the toy behind, under, or inside something. Observe whether your cat goes straight to the toy to retrieve it. If so, it understands that the toy didn’t just suddenly disappear. Not all cats will comprehend this.
3. Can Your Cat Follow a Pointed Finger?
Place two tasty treats under two cups. Point to a cup and if your cat goes to that cup then reward it. Do not reward it if it goes to the “wrong” cup. Repeat this 10 more times. A success rate of seven out of 10 means you’ve got a smarty-pants on your hands!
There are many other exercises you can conduct with your kitty—these are a selection of just a few.
Of course, the problem with these kinds of tests is a cat’s propensity to only respond if it feels like it. For example, your cat may just know its name very well or what you meant when you pointed at the cup. They simply didn’t determine it necessary to respond to your cues at that moment. This, in itself, demonstrates a kind of situational adaptation and intelligence!
You may need to repeat these exercises many times and then make a decision based on the accumulated results.
It may not top the list of cleverest felines, but the Ragdoll is no slouch when it comes to making a plan. They have more than enough smarts to adapt to any environment and they do so with calm confidence. Their ability to communicate with humans more effectively than most other cats means they are more likely to always have their needs met.
The fact that they are so trainable adds an interesting dimension to the realm of cat ownership. That they genuinely enjoy this kind of activity and human interaction, is especially gratifying to Ragdoll lovers and owners.
Featured Image Credit: Atmosphere1, Shutterstock