Cats and Dogs
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Are house cats smart?

Are domestic cats smarter than toddlers?

I am afraid that the question is unworkable. It is not practical or possible to compare the intelligence of a domestic adult cat to the intelligence of a toddler in the age bracket 1-3. There are two variables: animal versus human and toddler versus adult. It just becomes chaotic and ridiculous.

I can’t think of anything else to say. I have rambled on long enough just to say one thing: the question should not be asked ?.

Toddler Loves His Cat

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Toddler Loves His Cat

Also, it depends how you measure intelligence. If you measured intelligence on the capabilities of a sentient being to survive then the domestic cat would beat the toddler. Cats are great survivors. There have been some extraordinary stories of cats surviving the most impossible conditions. If there’s one thing that they are good at it is survival which is why they say cats have nine lives. Toddlers are hopeless at surviving. They just perish if they are left alone in the wild.

RELATED: Can cats be protective of babies and toddlers? – cats can sometimes relate to toddlers as their kittens.

Useful links
Anxiety — reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide — lots of pages
Children and cats — important

But if you measure intelligence on the number of neurons in an animal’s brain and number of neural connections and synapses or the size of their brains then clearly the toddler beats the cat hands down. So, the toddler has a much greater potential for intelligence then the domestic cat.

And toddlers soak up all kinds of information very quickly. Four-year-olds begin to read and can express their wants and needs pretty well. They begin to learn to understand what’s wrong and right. Cats can express themselves in body language and vocalisations. They don’t understand morality but they are very adaptable and they understand the human home in terms of how to get along and survive and make the best of it. But I don’t believe that they can be self-aware. That’s a big obstacle to intelligence. Toddlers are self-aware.

It is a struggle to find a way to compare intelligence between a cat and a toddler. The two just don’t really connect. It’s not the same playing field. People have attempted to do this but in the comments that I’ve seen, every one of them has rejected the question for various reasons. The most obvious being the one that I’ve mentioned.

Tabby cat is protective of toddler

Tabby cat is protective of toddler/ Screenshot.

To return to the ability to survive; this can’t be a measure of intelligence and a way to compare toddlers and cats because as somebody said on the Guardian website, if that was a measure then an acorn would more intelligent than the late Professor Stephen Hawking. You get the point. You can get a person who has a huge disability as Professor Hawking had and therefore require lots of support without which they can’t survive but they are still hugely intelligent.

There is one quite neat answer to this question. You put a toddler or an 8-month-old baby in the same room as a domestic cat. If the cat learns to keep out of the way of the baby or toddler then that’s an indication that they are smarter than the young human. This is a reflection of the disrespect for handling that toddlers tend to have of domestic cats. Actually, cats and toddlers can get along well and cats can be protective of them which is indicative of a greater wisdom by the cat than the person.

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Feline Intelligence—How Intelligent Are Cats?

Cat's Brain

Just like everything else with the domestic cat, measuring intelligence is complicated. Why? Because animal intelligence is measured in a variety of different ways.

Plus, cats have a short attention span, making studying them in repetitive experiments extremely difficult because they lose interest (I highly doubt that’s shocking to you).

Let’s talk about what they’re really good at, how they learn, how long they remember, and what traits make them stand out from other mammals.

Cerebral Cortex

Ninety percent of a cat’s brain has a similar structure to humans, and behaviorists estimate their intelligence to be similar to an 18-month to 2-year-old toddler.

The cerebral cortex is where decision-making and complex problem solving take place. Although it was long stated cats had 300 million neurons and dogs 120 million, a more recent study showed cats have closer to 250 million, while dogs have 530 million. By comparison, humans have around 16 billion.

Some scientists say this means dogs are smarter than cats, but others argue that you can’t really compare species to species because each has their own skillset which helps them survive. The debate will continue probably for a long time, and definitely until more studies are done.

One pretty cool fact is that cats have more nerves in the visual areas of the brain than humans and most mammals. This could mean their ability to process and digest visual information is superior, or that they’re simply able to gather more details from things they see.

Learning and Solving Puzzles

Cats learn by trial and error. For them, they need to “do” something to learn it – not just see it. In fact, they’re better at solving puzzles than dogs. In experiments, a dog seeks a human to help, but a cat works on a puzzle independently until they solve it.

Tricks aren’t just for dogs. Cats can also be trained to perform complex tricks, especially if they’re fun, and as long as there’s a food reward involved.

With more impulse and less patience than a dog, a cat will abandon an activity they don’t feel is rewarding and go elsewhere (they literally walk away if they don’t see a point or are bored).

You can see how studying them is difficult, and why scientists sometimes need to study the cat in its home instead of in a laboratory environment.

Additionally, cats do understand human pointing gestures and will follow them, especially if food is involved. They can also understand a large quantity from a smaller one, which researchers believe aids them in going after prey that will yield more food (especially helpful for a nursing mama).

Social Intelligence

Cats have a lower social IQ than dogs. A lower social IQ doesn’t mean they don’t recognize you or know when you are upset. Many cat owners will speak to cats comforting them when they’re sad or sick, but a cat will put their needs first. Here’s why.

Because dogs have been domesticated longer, they are more attuned to the emotions and needs of their owners. With less domestication, cats are more self-centered as a means of survival. If their focus was on our emotions all the time, they wouldn’t be as independent and self-sufficient when it comes to hunting and surviving.

Although cats fall a bit short in the ways we measure social IQs, they do engage in complex social behavior within their own species, developing hierarchies, whether in the wild or on the couch.

You’ll notice each cat has a particular “spot” on the couch or bed and claims it as their own. The point of this is to prevent fighting and injuries, which can be a death sentence in the wild. Outdoor colonies also seem to create a matriarchy, where related females hang out together and share in raising young.


First, let’s take a look at short-term memory. Cats have a sense of object permanence, where an object isn’t directly visible, like a toy under a couch or prey under a shed. This is a trait not even very young human babies have. During tests, cats were able to remember where an object disappeared and search to find it.

One study tested a cat’s short-term memory as it related to leg movements and avoiding obstacles, and it showed the cat’s memories lasted for more than 24 hours! Like in humans, repetition also improves a cat’s memory.

Can cats tell time? Yes. Studies show cats have the ability to distinguish different periods of time. This explains why a cat waits at the window for you to come home from work or starts meowing by its bowl around dinnertime.

Cats also remember locations where they’ve been previously fed, most likely because that instinct would help them survive outdoors.

Now, let’s look at a cat’s long-term memory, which is probably up to 200 times better than a dog’s. Scientists believe they only remember things that are beneficial to them (of course); this includes people and animals they bond with, as well as people and animals they don’t like.

They’re believed to remember events that are either very positive or very negative and attached to something that’s important to them like food or even something emotional (like abuse or injury).

They can suffer grief from losing an animal or human family member, with symptoms including a decreased appetite, inappropriate litter box usage, and even lashing out at other animals or humans.

Cats Are Smart

With the ability to solve puzzles, remember people for years, stash their favorite toy, and remember every single spot you’ve ever given them something to eat, it’s safe to say cats are smart. If they ever deem it worth their time and our experiments interesting enough, maybe we’ll find out how truly smart they are.

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