Experts Say These Are the Smartest Cat Breeds
As any pet owner will tell you—Martha included—that if you're looking for a clever companion, a cat will certainly do the trick. While all furry felines enjoy a certain sharp-witted reputation, there are a few breeds that lead the pack when it comes to intelligence.
Compared to dogs, which tend to be more obedient, cats display their heightened intelligence in other ways: "Unlike dogs, many cats are not likely to 'live to please' their owners. Cats generally only cooperate when they want to—more intelligent cats do tend to display more problem solving characteristics such as finding things," says Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition. Recent research confirms this: Cats can recognize their own name, but choose to respond only if they wish to do so. Intelligent felines are often recognized by their owners as those who are willing to learn about the environment and by how social they are with those around them.
As it turns out, some of the most clever breeds are often found up for adoption in shelters across the country. According to Dr. Travis Arndt, director of the Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, you can use resources like PetFinder.com to search nearby areas for cats you may be interested in. "Visit with as many cats or kittens you'd like before deciding which cat to adopt," Arndt says. "This will allow you to find the cat that will best fit in with your family and household."
We spoke with veterinarians and leading cat behaviorists about the traits that smart cats exude on a regular basis. These breeds are known for their attuned behavior around their owners. "Some of these breeds are better problem solvers, some are better athletes, and others just like to 'hang out,'" Richter says. "People looking for a smarter cat should also consider that smarter animals tend to be the most mischievous as well." Are you up for the challenge? Follow along as we share more on the smartest cat breeds.
Mixed Breed / Domestic Short Hair (DSH)
Out of all of the breeds on this list, this one is most likely to be found in local shelters and adoption events, says Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, the senior manager of veterinary outreach at PetSmart Charities. If you're looking to train a cat, they're also one of the most adaptive breeds out there. "[These cats] are often very bright, and can frequently be trained tricks or skills. They respond well to positive reinforcement such as a favorite treat," she says.
Nearly all leading cat behaviorists and veterinarians agree: Siamese cats are some of the best communicators with their humans. "They tend to be very vocal, especially when they want something, and therefore train their people very quickly," Arndt says. "Siamese cats are affectionate and active—they get bored easily, so providing opportunities for training will help keep this breed from becoming potentially destructive in your home."
"Abyssinian cats are active cats who love to climb and play," says Arndt. If you have plenty of room in your home for your cat to explore, this breed may be for you—they love to sleuth around all of your nooks and crannies, and you can often find them on "catwalks" high above everyone else. "While they aren't always lap cats, they tend to enjoy the company of humans and other cats," he says.
In his research, Richter says that bengals "are among the more intelligent breeds of domestic cats" because they often respond best to plenty of stimulation. They're also one of the best cat breeds to leash train, if that's an interest of yours, according to Purina.
According to Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, CVA, CVCH, founder of the Animal Acupuncture practice in New York City, these cats are very in tune with their owners. "Burmese cats can read the moods of their owners and form strong bonds with them and other animals. They also love to be the center of attention," she says.
"Social, active, and attention seeking, Tonkinese cats are some of the smartest around," Barrack says. "They're so intelligent, they actually get bored easily of playing with the same toys. You'll have to provide them with a variety of interactive toys to keep them satisfied."
Maybe you're searching for a cat that loves to play? Barrack says these felines are known for their quick training skills. "They love to learn new tricks like opening doors or playing fetch as well as can easily adapt to new environments and form strong bonds with humans," she says.
These are some of the prettiest kitties around—and they have the brains to match, says Landis-Hanna. "They are known for becoming mischievous when bored, so keep their minds occupied with treat puzzles or vertical climbing structures. Just watch your head, as you might wind up with a cat on your shoulder!"
According to Barrack, this curious kitty is actually a really big fan of water—so much so that baths will be fun instead of a chore. "Japenese Bobtails love playtime, especially when it involves their owners or solving a puzzle toy," she says. "They also know how to relax on their owner's lap at the end of a long day."
Compared to other breeds, Maine Coon cats are some of the largest of the bunch. Landis-Hanna says they're very affectionate and just as intelligent as others on this list, but they far outperform other cats in the athletic department. "They need a parent who can play games to help them exercise and stay fit," she says.
Cornish Rex Cat
They may seem quiet, but don't mistake the Cornish Rex's calm demeanor for being shy—they love to be scratched and petted, and are very sociable, Barrack says. Since they're so calm, these cats enjoy a reputation of being perfect for therapy training. "They love being held by humans, playing fetch, and lounging in a comfy lap," Barrack says.