When humans discuss how smart cats are, it’s usually through their own points of view. Do they equate smarts with social skills? A college degree? The ability to understand ethics and morals? Honestly, a lot of human beings fail in these areas too.
But cats are smart in ways humans aren’t. We have the ability to sense danger long before humans can. We are extremely sensitive to the moods of those around us. We have an amazing ability to focus on something that we really, really want.
So in a lot of ways, the type of smarts that are important to humans don’t matter to cats… but not necessarily vice versa! Because humans could mostly benefit from the cat traits mentioned. So who has the smarts now?
The truth is, each species has its own intelligence. But if you want to look at a cat’s specific brain power, here are some interesting facts:
Cat brains are small but mighty
Your cat’s brain (and mine) is just 2 inches in length, and weighs a mere 25-30 grams — that’s just 0.91% of our body weight! Human brains are much bigger — about 3 pounds, or 2% of their total body weight. But as small as it is, a cat’s brain structure is pretty similar to a human’s. 90% similar in fact! And with a cerebral cortex of about 300 million nerve cells, our brains are pretty complex!
While cat brains and human brains are similar, different parts are emphasized
We cats have a proportionately larger cerebellum because our body functions like coordination and balance are important for our day to day lives. Humans have a larger prefrontal cortex because they need it for planning and the other complex things that humans consider important, like goals and values.
Cat brains and human brains are oriented differently
A cat’s brain is oriented front to back, while the human brain is oriented from the top down. This makes sense, considering that cats walk on four legs, and humans walk on two. In case you are wondering, dog brains are oriented the same as a cat’s.
Cats have excellent memory retention
This is for both short term and longterm memory. My favorite study compared cats’ short term memory to dogs’, and while dogs only retained information for about five minutes, cat retained short term memory for 16 hours! Which is arguably more than many humans too.
As for longterm memory, cats have been known to retain information for as long as 10 years! Which is a significant chunk of our lifespan. It also explains why cats hold grudges, so you’d better be on your best behavior around your cat.
Cats understand time
Yes, we may nag you for an early dinner, but we do know what time we really get fed! Research has proven that cats understand the passage of time. Some cats have even been able to discern a difference of seconds. When you consider how precisely feral cats function in the wild, this really isn’t surprising.
Cats learn by observing and doing
The term copycat exists for a reason! We can learn how to do something by watching it enough times, and trying it ourselves. Binga learned how to walk on a leash by watching me doing it repeatedly. Your cat may learn how to open the treat drawer by watching how you do it. And we are active learners, who retain what we know best by repeating the action. Which is why, once a cat learns something, like leash walking or feeling safe in the carrier, it really helps to keep up the routine.
These are just a few facts about our amazing kitty brains! How much did you know? And do you think you’ll retain this knowledge? Let me know in the comments.
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Of course cats are smarter than humans! I think even the peeps knew although they’d never admit it. TW has absolutely NO short term memory. She says it’s chemo brain. When I walk in a room, I know what I’m in there for. Heh!
The Swiss Cats says
Very intersting post ! We agree, cats learn by observing and doing : Angel Hercule learned how to open a sliding door, and Zorro learned how to get treats out of a puzzle toy with drawers, hatches and levers to be operated in no time. However, we think that Zorro has a strong connection between his brain and his stomach. Purrs
I can’t remember specifically what it was (see, a cat’s long-term memory is better than mine!) but Carmine totally learned how to do something by watching Lita do it over and over.
I bought my friend’s cat, Figgy, a puzzle toy he’d never used before. On Christmas, I took it to him. I sat on the floor with him and demonstrated how to get the treats out with my hand. I only had to show him once and he copied me. It was too cute!
Catherine Lingg says
I did know some about a cats brain and how it works. I’ve read many books. Several on cats behavior. I firmly believe cats are far superior to humans. For example, when was the last time you saw a cat smoke anything or drink alcohol?
BellaDharma an BellaSita Mum says
Grate post Summer!!
BellaSita Mum new ALOT of this innfo…
Shee sayss once ‘angel’ Unkell got innto harness, hee allwayss asked to go ‘walkiess’ THE same timess efurry day!
Guess what mee leerned? Mee nose mee left from rite paw or maybee mee nsoe THE werdss??
Mee playss with battery operated Butterfyly toy nitely.
Mee iss more rite pawed than left; butt when BellaSita Mum meows to mee to ‘left paw’ Butterfly mee stwitchess to left paw….an back an forth…BellaSita sayss mee iss a Geeneus!!!
An mee CAN sense Seezuress beefore they happen now. Mee iss furry attuned to BellaSita 😉
***purrss*** BellaDharma an ((hugss)) BellaSita Mum
Charles Huss says
Our cats know exactly when it is 5:15 a.m.
What an interesting post Summer ! There wa a lot we didn’t know – b ut we weren’t necessarily surprised to learn it !
Great post. I have always thought cats were smarter than dogs and humans. 🙂
This is SO interesting, Summer! I especially enjoyed the part about memory retention.
How about the term “smarty cat”. Where do we think that
Well, I think we all know about cats being smart since we are such
cat friends here. Sometimes I am still surprised though by things
I see the cat friends do.
Fascinating post! I’ve long known that cats learn by watching. I realized that after watching several cats pat and paw at doorknobs when they wanted to enter closed rooms. They had watched us use the doorknobs to go through the doors.
Mickey's Musings says
We cats understand that we are smart. The “smart” humans take longer to recognize that fact 😉
Mickey's Musings says
Yes I agree that our memory is much better than people give us credit for having.
We are also good at reading our person. WE can spot their tells.
I can tell mum is going to take me somewhere by her actions before she brings out my carrier.