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Home > Cats > What’s the IQ of Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

What’s the IQ of Cats? Vet Reviewed Facts & FAQ

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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When we want to roughly measure how smart someone is, we use the IQ or intelligence quotient test. So, when you start to wonder how smart our cats are at home, you might wonder if anyone’s ever measured a cat’s IQ before.

Sadly, the IQ test we use for humans doesn’t work for cats,1 and to date, there’s no reliable test of any sort that can tell you whether your cat is a genius or a dimmer bulb in the box. It also doesn’t help that cats are independent critters by nature, and we doubt you could get them to sit for a test of any kind in the first place!

Although we can’t definitively measure a cat’s intelligence like we can a person’s, we know that cats are devilishly clever when they want to be.


Measuring Cat Intelligence

You can’t measure cats by the same standards as a human because their brains are simply wired to do different things than ours. So, when you want to critically assess how smart your kitty is, you have to look at their behavior. Cats see the world differently than us, so sometimes the things they do don’t always make sense. It’s really them responding to various invisible stimuli like scents and soft sounds that we can’t always sense as humans.

What are some signs that your cat is smart? Let’s help pinpoint some signs that your cat is smarter than they let on.

Young woman bonding with calico cat bumping rubbing bunting heads
Image By: Kristi Blokhin, Shutterstock

Signs of Cat Intelligence:

  • Learning and responding to their name.
  • Inquisitively seeking out new and interesting objects in their environment.
  • Learning and obeying commands.
  • Your cat can tell your voice apart from other humans.
  • Your cat becomes vocal to get you to give them food, water, toys, or attention.
  • They solve problems to accomplish goals, like knocking over food to get to it.
  • Your cat knows exactly when mealtimes are, and maybe even get prissy if you miss it by a few minutes!
  • They seem to sense your emotional state and act accordingly, like cuddling up to you when you’re sad, for instance.
  • Your cat understands object permanence, which is when they know something out of sight isn’t really gone.

Are Some Cat Breeds Smarter Than Others?

You may be surprised to learn that, yes, some cat breeds are known to be smarter than others. By the standards of being independent, curious, and interacting with their environment and us, anyway. While we’re not certain why, breeds like the Abyssinian and Siamese are known to be highly intelligent. They consistently display more willingness to interact with their environment than more aloof couch kitties, so we call them “smarter.”

That’s not to say all cats aren’t intelligent in their own way, because they are. It’s just that some cats tend to be more reclusive and less willing to interact, getting them labeled as less intelligent when we may simply not know how to measure how smart they are.

Are Cats or Dogs Smarter?

cat and pug dog lying on a blanket on the floor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

That’s not really a fair question because both cats and dogs are very smart animals in their own unique way. For instance, dogs are more empathetic than cats and have a larger amygdala to prove it. Cats, by contrast, aren’t as expressive as our canine companions but have razor-sharp hunting instincts that translate to them innately knowing how to stalk and hunt. They’re generally but not always better at problem-solving than dogs, too.

Think of how a cat navigates its environment versus how a dog does. We’re willing to bet your dog is less observant than your cat, which speaks volumes as to the differences between them in spatial intelligence. Dogs tend to be more exuberant in their movement than cats and less aware of obstacles, while cats are as graceful as a ballerina.

At the end of the day, neither the cat nor the dog is smarter in terms of raw intellect. Dogs are more clingy and companionable pets, while cats are great for people who work long hours.




Cats are smart animals, there’s no doubt about that. Cats are masters of spatial awareness, problem-solving, and even emotional intelligence when they want, but they aren’t necessarily smarter than dogs. Some cat breeds, on the other hand, have been known to be smarter and more inquisitive than others.

Featured Image Credit: Agata Kowalczyk, Shutterstock

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