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A friend and I were discussing the other day which was smarter – cats or dogs. He kept talking about the tricks his dog could do. I kept saying that my Siamese Simon was too smart to waste time learning skills. I needed proof that Simon was smart, so I went looking for some.
Are Siamese cats intelligent? Research has shown that Siamese, like all cats, are intelligent. Their brain structure provides clues as to why they might be smarter than their size suggests. Siamese cats, in particular, exhibit higher levels of intelligence than other cat breeds, according to experts and cat lovers. You can observe their intelligence in the way they solve problems, interact with people, and show their ability to learn.
What the research says
Many. If all the research ever done since the beginning of time were piled up, it would come down to, well, no one has researched that yet.
But we are talking about cat research. There is less on it. Much less. Part of the reason is that it’s much harder to measure intelligence when you can’t ask multiple-choice questions. Moreover, it is not a priority for researchers.
There are, however. Of course, no one really knows why cats try to move their litters of kittens once a week. John Bradshaw, in his book Cat Sense: How new feline science can make you a better friend to your pet, suggests they do it to avoid fleas. But is that what we mean by intelligent? Or do we mean how well a cat can learn new behavior, solve problems and remember things? This is what researchers are studying.
Testing Chats Using Object Permanence
Many researchers consider Object Permanence, which is the idea that just because an object can no longer be seen, it still exists, as an essential first step towards intelligence. A baby usually learns this until four months of age, at the earliest. One method used to test the permanence of an object is to Visible displacement test.
The researcher puts something like food behind an obstacle, and if the subject remembers that it’s still there, he or she understands that just because it’s out of sight doesn’t mean it still exists. Out of sight, but not out of mind. Kind of like my car keys.
Many researchers have found that cats can do this, including François Y Doré of Laval University and others. Additional studies have shown that cats have highly developed long-term memories. I’ll tell you who they are, but I forgot. Seriously, if you want to explore the research in more detail, follow this link.
An Item Test You Can Try
If you want to take this test to the next level, try this on your Siamese. gather together
• A container that can hold cat treats
• Something that could be used as a screen, such as a cereal box
• Cat treat
Put a cat treat in a container so the cat can see it. Then place the container behind the box. Quickly take out the treat and then show the cat the empty container. If your cat is looking for the food, it has passed the visible move test. If she can’t, then she’s probably tired of your games and waiting for you to give her something better.
When you circle C on the test, the person marking your test has no idea why you choose C. Maybe you
a) Knew in fact that C was the correct answer
b) I thought maybe C was correct
c) I heard that when you don’t know, choose C
d) Intended to encircle D
Researchers have similar difficulties when studying animal intelligence. They know what the animal did but not necessarily why. So if your cat fails your test, he may have been disgusted by your choice of cereal.
The brain matters
Does brain size say anything about how smart a person is? Neanderthals had bigger brains than us, and you see how it worked. When it comes to body weight, our brain makes up 2% of our total weight. A cat’s brain is about one percent. The dog – half a percent of body weight.
Dogs weigh more, you say. Absolutely, Watson. But brain size isn’t everything. Brain structure is more important. The puckered surface – think wrinkles – of a cat’s brain is far greater than that of a dog’s brain. The cat’s brain structure is very similar to ours. The cerebral cortex (where higher order thinking takes place) of my Siamese is larger and more complex than that of a dog.
Simon’s brain contains around 300 million neurons, almost twice as many as a dog’s 160 million. According to researchers from Tufts University. A cat can even outperform an iPad. Think 91,000 gigabytes instead of 60 or 6 trillion operations per second versus 170 million. Imagine what a cat could do with Wi-Fi and access to Alexa?
What can cats do with 300 million neurons?
Many. Here’s how they do it. First, they take new information and connect it to information they already know. Then they can combine these two to make something new.
For example, I recently bought a stand for my television. Put Simon in the bedroom while I put him together. After setting it up, I let it go back into the living room. He walked around the new piece of furniture, then sat down in front of it. When I got back from the kitchen, guess who was exploring inside the cupboard?
Not only did Simon learn from watching me open cabinets, but he was also able to relate that knowledge to a new piece of furniture.
Another thing they do with all those neurons is learn to communicate with us by meowing. Cats rarely meow to each other, yet that’s how they “talk” to us. (Simon is still talking, but he’s a Siamese.) Cats realize early on that meowing works to get our attention. They develop different meows for different purposes. Ask any cat owner – there’s a meow that means feed me, another that means play with me, and even one that says leave me alone.
Cats can be trained
Everyone knows that dogs can be trained. But the cats? People think cats are stubborn and have minds of their own. When Simon jumps on my couch, I kick him out, and he does it again, I shake my head and think he’ll never learn. Sarah Ellis, co-author of The Trainable Cat, would say the cat trains me.
“What they don’t realize, however, is that they are unconsciously training their cats on a daily basis.”
So how do you train a cat?
It starts with deciding on some goals. Want your cat to be able to do tricks to impress your friends? Or would you like to train it for everyday life? Me, I want Simon to do a few things
• Come on order
• Climb into the cat carrier when it’s time to go to the vet
• Stop scratching my sofa
• Be calm when I cut his claws
We’ll get along much better if I can get him to do these things. Shaking hands, rolling over, and walking on a leash sound like fun, but I can’t walk him to the vet. I’ve heard of people training their cat to use the toilet, but it seems too complicated. I no longer need arguments about who left the seat up or down.
If you can’t decide what you want your cat to do, Google. I did, and cat hack websites immediately popped up: 5 Tricks to Teach Your Cat. 9 tricks to teach your cat. Top 5 cat tips. And so on. It seemed there was almost no end to the chat tricks. Or cat stuff videos like this onewhich explains the Top 10 fun tricks to teach your cat.
Training a cat is like training a dog. I watched my share of YouTube videos about it (this is one of the most useful). One thing I’ve noticed is that most cat trainers use a clicker and prepare treats. And all advise you to use only positive reinforcement because a cat will not respond to punishment.
Cats can set world records
In case you haven’t heard of Didga, let’s rectify that immediately. Didga is a skater cat made famous by YouTube who created a guinness world record performing 20 tricks in less than a minute, including jumping over a bar while skateboarding. Pretty smart, if you ask me.
Cats can be in a circus
I had never heard of the Amazing Acro-Cats, but that somehow makes sense. After all, a circus has lions. Why not have a circus made up of domestic cats?
That’s what Samantha Martin decided. At age 10, she started training animals. At first it was the family dog. As a teenager, she started training rats. She created a show called Amazing Acro-Rats, but it was not a successful venture. Then she trained birds to play on a variety of instruments.
It didn’t go well either. So she switched to cats. Now she has a circus of 14 cats that travels the country performing their act (look here for a sample). Samantha Martin mainly uses shelter cats to rescue them and show what they are capable of.
“So many cats end up in shelters because they have behavioral issues, and most behavioral issues are due to boredom,” she added. said Martin. “If you train your cat to do tricks, you’re making him use his brain.”
Source: New York Times
Cats can participate in tournaments
I watched the National Dog Show or the Westminster Dog Kennel show, and assumed there must be something similar for cats. And there is. The most popular are hosted by the Cat Fanciers Association or CFA. Pretty kittens are walked around (and some not so pretty) and the judges probe and poke to see which cats are the prettiest.
I also knew there were obedience shows where the dogs showed off their training. The American Kennel Club is the biggest organization behind these shows.
Recently I heard about an organization that offers tournaments for people to show off their chat tricks. International Cat Agility Tournaments, or iCATs, were created by Vickie Shields, Adriana Kajon, Shirley Piper and Kathy Krysta in 2003 as a way to encourage more interaction between cat owners and create healthier and happier cats.
Tournaments present a set of routines that cats must learn in order to show off their agility, balance, stamina, power, and reaction time. You can read more about these tournaments on their website.
So which one is smarter
In the end, I don’t care if other people think Simon is smarter than a dog. I know he is. What I want from him is company, and I have plenty of that. I’ve seen him use his wits to get into all kinds of mischief. Last week he learned to open the fridge. Now if I can teach him to shut it up.