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Are Tabby Cats More Intelligent?

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When comparing tabby cats to other cats and pets, their intelligence is a big topic for debate. New cat owners often wonder just how smart their tabby cat is, and whether they are smarter than other types of pets. However, just because a cat does not react to a specific command or action does not necessarily mean they are less intelligent. In fact, they might actually be more intelligent than we think.

So, are tabby cats more intelligent? Yes, in many cases tabby cats are more intelligent than other pets. Cats, in general, have a complex cerebral cortex and over 300 million neurons. They can process information quickly, display unique survival skills, and interact socially. They are trainable and learn to adapt to new environments quickly. Tabby cats can also retain information from past experiences.

Having a cat that is more intelligent can be really beneficial for the owners and the cat. Not only does it help with caring for the cat day-to-day, but it also allows unique bonds to be built with the pet. In this article, we’ll dive into how tabby cat smarts compare with other pets. We’ll also look at ways you can help improve the intelligence of cats so that they grow up even smarter.

How Tabby Cat Smarts Compare To Other Cats

There’s a common misconception that tabby cats are a breed of cat. Tabby actually refers to the coat pattern of the cat, not the breed itself. Some other coat patterns you might find among tabby cats include the classic, mackerel, spotted, and ticked patterns.

For most people that refer to tabby cats, they’re mostly referencing the American Shorthair; one of the most popular domestic cats breeds in the world. The American Shorthair is also quite intelligent, but average compared to some of the other smart cat breeds.

This breed is able to operate on their own, figuring out how to solve complex situations with ease. It has average intelligence compared to other breeds like the Siamese, Bengal, and Scottish Fold.

As a result, it does not help much to try to compare the smarts of one tabby cat to one who has a different coat pattern. Instead, the comparison needs to be between the breeds themselves. Surely in this comparison, you’ll find some traits among cats that do have the tabby coat versus those that don’t. However, that data is not significant enough to make a sweeping conclusion that a cat with a different coat is more intelligent than the other.

The fact is that cat intelligence has less to do with how the cat looks and more to do with the actual breed. Below is a list of some of the smartest cat breeds that also have the tabby coat pattern.

  • Abyssinian
  • Siamese
  • Bengal
  • Burmese
  • Cornish Rex
  • Scottish Fold

In addition to having the tabby pattern, these cats can also feature other coat patterns such as solid, Bi-colour, Tri color, and Colour point.

Most domestic cats have brains that take up close to 1% of their total body mass. They also feature cerebral cortices that are very similar to human lobes. Cats brains operate in different areas and sensory information is often shared between each of those areas.

How To Test And Train The Intelligence Of Your Tabby Cat

While cats with the tabby pattern may not be smarter than cats with other coat patterns, they do possess more intelligence than other types of pets. Particularly comparing cats to dogs, cats have more neurons, better visual receptors, and are better at survival.

In general, the American Shorthair tabby is able to succeed in a lot of the areas mentioned above. These tabby cats are known for their strong muscular build, so they’re able to develop great survival skills. They are also naturally affectionate, perhaps more than any other breed. Their ability to process gentle gestures and differentiate them between harmful gestures is well documented.

If you have a tabby cat, then you may be wondering how you can test the intelligence of your cat. It’s actually quite easy to do this. First, we’ll it down to five key areas you can test to see just how intelligence your cat is. Then we’ll take a look at a few ways you can help train your cat’s intelligence in each of those areas.

  • Social Interaction
  • Survival
  • Memory
  • Ability To Be Trained
  • Emotion

Social Interaction Stimulates The Cats Brain

A lot of what factors into a cats intelligence has to do with their social interaction. This includes how well they react to what humans and other animals do. The more social interaction they have, the more stimulated their brains will be, leading to more intelligent interactions. Especially for an American Shorthair tabby cat, it’s quite easy to condition them to behave just the way you need them to.

A cat that is affectionate is considered to be an intelligent breed. Cats can respond to humans in different ways. For some people, they might be affectionate and look to them to solve their problems. For others, cats might have a negative reaction and remain distant from that person.

Tabby cats especially show a ton of social traits. Ways to stimulate social interaction in cats is to introduce them to different toys, allow free time, and even test them in group environments.

By doing this, you can learn how your cat reacts to certain situations and even use those environments to train them to be a certain way. Science Direct has a fascinating study on how social interaction can affect the behavior of cats. You can read the full study here.

Cats Memory Span

Another simple way to compare the intelligence of multiple cats is to test their memory span. Cats who remember more are easier to train.

Some examples of a cat displaying its memory span are how they react to repeated situations. For example, if you encounter a cat that continually tries and fails at a certain task, it may be a sign that they are not able to completely process what is causing it.

Then there are cats who can associate water running in the tub as a sign that its time to take a bath. The same can be said for rattling a toy that makes a sound signaling its dinnertime. There’s also the situation where a cat can smell certain food, or if their litter has gone bad.

There are situations where cats will engage in repeat behaviors despite being scolded or deterred. While it may seem like cats have short term memory that’s actually not the case. Because cats store various bits of their memory all over the brain, they can actually recall many things when everything is working in sync.

This is one reason why it’s important to interact and train a cat in the first month to two months of their life. That’s the period of time where most impact and trust is built that they will retain for years to come.

Survival Skills In Cats

Cats are naturally good when it comes to survival skills. They instinctually know how to escape daring situations, and are always on the prowl. Cats with great survival skills are also thought of to be really intelligent, especially those who carefully plan out their next moves.

An experiment you can try is with a toy mouse. Hide it in the room and then watch as the cat starts performing their calculations. You might notice that the cat will start scoping out various locations to hide and attack the toy. Some will slowly tiptoe around it and then make their jump.

Other cats may bypass the stealth mode and jump straight into the action. In addition, a cat that reacts to certain sounds, or meows to alert of potential dangers is also very responsive.

Also how cats move about the room, calculating the distance and height needed to reach certain locations is a great indicator. Really smart cats will sometimes develop specific routines and refine them over time. Whether it’s trying to run their way through an open space, or leap over to a countertop that’s five feet away, most cats have the mental capacity to make those calculations.

For the most part, cats develop their learning ability through observation. That means a cat will think things over before taking action. Likewise, if they see a human do something, they’ll copy it if it achieves their desired result. This includes things like how you open a door, or even scratching the carpet to get your attention.

How Trainable Are Tabby Cats

Every aspect of a cats daily life and routine is trainable. Some cats do better than others, and personality has a lot to do with it. Because most tabby cats are socially interactive, it’s easier to train them than some other breeds.

The best way to train a cat is through the use of treats and immediate reactions to their actions. For example, if a cat were to run into their kennel and you fed them a treat immediately, they would associate their kennel with getting a nice treat from their owner. You can also train cats to not interact with certain items like furniture and windows by using training tape or certain scents.

John Bradshaw has a fantastic book on how to train cats. It discusses effective ways to train them so that your lifestyle can be even more enjoyable. Check the book out here if you’re serious about training your cat. 

Cat Brain Functionality In Later Years

Whether you have a tabby cat or not, their brain functionality will decline as they get older. Particularly in the later years, you’ll notice decreased activity and slower reactions to certain situations. Sometimes there’s even some deterioration in their movement and balance. Forgetfulness can also start to occur.

Ways To Make Your Tabby Cat More Intelligent

There are a few steps you can take now to help keep your tabby cat intelligent for years to come. The first then you want to do is feed them a well-balanced diet. Communication with your vet is important, and the cat should have yearly check-ups. Also, make sure the cat gets plenty of exercises, and always allow them to explore their surroundings.

For extra stimulation of the brain, you can have your cat solve food puzzles like this one. Food puzzles make the joy of eating even more exciting for cats! Playing games with them like hiding and seek laser toys, and training them to react to certain sounds can also help.



Do Cats Remember Their Old Owners - Memory & Experiences |

Tuesday 15th of September 2020

[…] Cat intelligence makes for a good subject, in theory, but researchers have yet to scratch the surface. It’s traditionally been much easier to study canine intelligence because dogs can be trained to perform tricks and respect the orders issued by their owners. On the other hand, cats may appreciate the treats and food you offer, but they’re much less likely to obey an order or perform.  […]