Cats have self-awareness and excellent memories

Cats can actually recognise their own reflection in the mirror. Photo:

Intelligence seems such a simple concept but it’s proven impossible to find a universal definition. At a very basic level, it’s taken as having self-awareness. If you can recognise yourself in a mirror, you’re probably self-aware.

Beyond that, we tend to think of intelligence as involving logic, the ability to learn, think critically, solve problems, plan, anticipate and maybe deal with others with empathy or even have creative skills.

It’s difficult enough to talk about people but determined researchers have also worked with animals.

A classic experiment for self-awareness is the mirror test. Animals are knocked out and a spot is placed on their body where they can’t see it – like their forehead or back of the neck. Then, when the animal is awake, they’re given a mirror. If they look in the mirror and touch the spot, it shows they recognise themselves.

Animals that pass this test include our own orangutan and elephants, as well as chimpanzees, dolphins, killer whales, and pigeons. Funnily enough, researchers think that cats and dogs can’t pass this test. All I can say is, they didn’t meet my Au! And even silly little Target can recognise himself, no problem.

As for other tests, cats have excellent memories, and pass Piaget tests that show they understand that objects still exist even if they’re not in direct view. Kitties can also solve basic puzzles.

Interestingly, current cat intelligence research is focussing on ageing, specifically the decline of kitty brain function in extreme old age. This is because more cats are living longer and longer lives, pretty much like us, and issues like confusion, loss of skills and other typical cognitive problems are now becoming fairly common.

If you’re interested in learning more, go to Google Scholar, search for feline intelligence and check out the journal papers that pop up. Seriously, it’s good stuff.

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