Cat Intelligence Test

See if you have a feline Einstein or if your cat is better off relying on his good looks.

By Rebecca Sweat

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Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Cats use their brainpower to get you to do things for them, not necessarily to pursue intellectual interests.
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Toy boredom and innovation could indicate high cat intelligence.
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Cats that get into trouble while you're away could be the smartest cats of all.

Cats are unquestionably smart creatures. Their intelligence, however, is not a matter of understanding complex human ideas, but how to get the food, attention, play and care they so need and desire. In other words, cats know how to "work the system” and use their natural survival skills, even in a domestic environment.

Of course, some cats are bound to be better problem solvers than others. How do you know if you’ve got a brainy feline? There are no scientific tests to measure feline IQ. You can, however, get a pretty good idea of how smart your cat is just by observing him. Here are some questions to help you assess your cat’s intelligence:

1. When you open a can of cat food with an electric can opener, what does your cat do?
a) Runs and hides under the bed
b) Looks up briefly, then gets back to napping
c) Immediately races into the kitchen

2. When you get out the pet carrier, what does your cat do?
a) Gives it a quick glance
b) Runs away, but will come back if offered a treat
c) Hides and won’t come out

3. How often does your cat persuade you to get out of bed early to fix her breakfast?
a) Never
b) Once in a while
c) Every day
4. Has your cat ever learned to do something just by watching you do it, such as how to open a cupboard door or turn off a light switch?
a) No
b) Yes, one or two easy procedures like how to open the box of cat treats
c) Yes. There are many things my cat has learned to do just by observing me.

5. If you come home at the same time every day, does your cat wait for your arrival, apparently aware that you have a regular return time?
a) No
b) Yes. He’s usually waiting for me by the door.
c) Yes. As soon as I walk in, he escorts me to the kitchen so I can get him dinner.

6. If a piece of food or a cat toy is out of your cat’s reach or trapped behind an object, what does your cat do?
a) Paws at it once or twice, but gives up if that doesn’t work
b) Tries to retrieve the item with her mouth and one of her paws and gives up after several failed attempts
c) Uses both of her paws and her mouth to grasp the item and won’t quit until she’s successful

7. Does your cat enjoy playing games with you?
a) Not at all
b) Occasionally
c) Very much so — especially challenging games like hide-and-go-seek

8. If your cat sees a bird outside the window, what does he do?
a) Bangs his head against the glass, trying to reach the bird
b) Paws madly at the window and yowls until I shut the blinds
c) Races to the door and meows until I let him outside

9. If you’ve ever moved your cat’s feeding dishes or litterbox from one part of the house to another, how long did it take her to get used to the new location?
a) Several weeks
b) A few days
c) One day or less

10. When you call your cat’s name, what does he do?
a) Nothing
b) Looks my way for a second or turns his ears in my direction
c) Immediately runs toward me

11. Does your cat ever get bored with her toys and create her own amusements using your socks, the goldfish bowl, the tassels on your drapes, etc.?
a) My cat’s not very interested in toys.
b) Sometimes
c) Almost daily

12. If a guest teased or pestered your cat in the past, does your cat single out that person as trouble — for example, by avoiding that person but allowing other guests to handle him?
a) No. My cat acts the same toward everyone.
b) He does prefer some people over others, but there’s no clear reason for his preferences.
c) Most definitely! My cat remembers who gave him grief and does not forget.

13. How often do you come home from work to discover that your cat has gotten into mischief while you were away?
a) Never
b) Now and then
c) All the time

14. While petting your cat, does she let you know where she most wants to be stroked and for how long?
a) No. She becomes extremely relaxed and doesn’t care where or how long she’s being stroked.
b) She purrs if she likes what I’m doing and growls or hisses if I pet her where she doesn’t want to be touched.
c) She moves around to make it easier for me to pet certain parts of her body.

15. What happens when you try to teach your cat a trick?
a) My cat never figures out what I’m trying to teach him.
b) After several training sessions, my cat is pretty good at it.
c) My cat masters the trick after one short training session.

16. After you’ve taught your cat a trick, will she still remember how to do it a month from now if you haven’t done any refresher sessions?
a) Not likely
b) Probably
c) Definitely

17. When your cat wants something from you, what does he do?
a) Purrs
b) Meows a little more loudly than usual
c) Makes a variety of vocalizations, depending on what he wants

18. How often does your cat coax you into playtime?
a) Rarely
b) Sometimes
c) Frequently

19. How does your cat react when the litterbox needs cleaning?
a) Goes in the same spot until I notice the mountain inside the litterbox
b) Starts using the planters for a litterbox or goes outside the litter pan
c) Goes outside the litterbox and meows loudly to get the point across

20. When your cat’s food bowl is empty, what does he do to remedy the situation?
a) Sits quietly in the cat tree and waits for me to feed him
b) Leaps onto my lap and meows until I realize he’s hungry
c) Opens the cupboard where the bag of cat food is stored and rips it open


Give your cat one point for every "c” answer. Deduct one point for every "a” answer. A "b” answer is a neutral response and doesn’t affect the score. Tally up the total number of points, and grade your cat according to the scale below.

Less than 5 points: Smarts aren’t your kitty’s strongest suit, but chances are that your cat is a wonderful companion, even if he doesn’t know how to open up the pantry to get out a treat!
6 – 15 points: When it comes to bell curves, your feline’s where most cats are: right in the middle. Your cat has average intelligence and can learn a few tricks, but has no desire to take apart the cat water fountain and reassemble it.
15 – 20 points: You may just be living with a feline Einstein! Your cat is extremely intelligent and continually amazes you with new tricks. Your cat also knows how to get you to do things her way. You’re going to need to be pretty crafty yourself if you want to outsmart your cat!

Rebecca Sweat is a freelance writer specializing in pet and family topics. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two sons and many pets.

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Reader Comments

Richard    Essexville, MI

3/9/2015 5:59:22 PM

I hope this is a joke! If not, Rebecca you're a joke

flazen    Brussels, FM

2/6/2015 2:49:54 PM

To Akiko you are very wrong. I love dogs too I had dogs before. Just bcoz people own a cat means were lazy. Do u know the work of changing the litter box too unlike while some owners just let their dogs poep everywhere. Throw a ball to my cat and she will be running after it and then bring it back to me. I walk with her like dogs too. When I am sad especially when I cry she puts on extra sweetness than she usually does. It depends on how you trained and interact with them. People thinks cat can't learn tricks then how come she knows she isn't allowed on Kitchen counter tops or dining table. How come she knows the sound of our car and scooter? Why does she knows and remember the places we visited?

flazen    International

2/6/2015 2:28:10 PM

My Kitchie so proud of her. When I tell people how smart she is and the things she does, people couldn't believe it but she has a perfect score. About the litterbox she do it differently she scratch the wall of her litterbox real hard. Get out of if then look at me as if telling me she ain't gonna go back in there unless I clean it up. We bring her everywhere but remember the places once we go back again to the same place. Normally, she just sit calmly in the car but once go see familiar things in the road she goes crazy making notices and sticking her face to the window car. She even recognize the house of my friend. In normal cases she distrust people and will never get out of her bag but at my one particular friends house she owns the house she feels at home. She is all C. How lucky am I considering somebody abandoned her when she was few weeks old only. Every person who sees her will compliment her bcoz she is a very pretty cat too. Big eyes expressive face, and extremely clean she class cleans herself for 20 mins. She sleep exactly the moment I tell her goodnight. Proud of her

Lizzie    Medford, MA

1/14/2015 4:35:29 PM

I have had cats all my life. That means: over 50 years. For the past 17 years I had three Siamese cats, one of whom died a year ago this past Christmas. I raised all of them from six-week-old kittens, handling and cuddling and sleeping with them so that they bonded to me as their mom. All of them come/came to their names. A remaining seal point female once learned from observing me that if she could twist the door knob on a closet door she could open it. My beloved Zoe who died used to watch cats, birds, and tennis matches on television and my computer monitor. When kittens, all of them used to play with their images in the mirror and looked to see where the "cats" were by going behind, in the closet itself. Both Trooch, my seal point female, and her brother Miso come to their names. With age - they are litter mates and about to turn 18 in April - their activities have changed so questions about nagging me to play, etc., don't factor in anymore. Everything changes with time, and cats do as well as humans. This doesn't mean their intelligence is diminished, I guess. I used to try to teach Trooch, my seal point, to lie down beside me when I was going to sleep, but she never wanted to do it. I may not understand what it is to train a cat, since I've almost never tried to do that.

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