How Does a Cat Brain Work? And Are We Really Smarter Than You?

When humans discuss how smart cats are, it’s usually through their own points of view. Do they equate smarts with social skills? A college degree? The ability to understand ethics and morals? Honestly, a lot of human beings fail in these areas too.

But cats are smart in ways humans aren’t. We have the ability to sense danger long before humans can. We are extremely sensitive to the moods of those around us. We have an amazing ability to focus on something that we really, really want.

So in a lot of ways, the type of smarts that are important to humans don’t matter to cats… but not necessarily vice versa! Because humans could mostly benefit from the cat traits mentioned. So who has the smarts now?

The truth is, each species has its own intelligence. But if you want to look at a cat’s specific brain power, here are some interesting facts:

Cat brains are small but mighty

Your cat’s brain (and mine) is just 2 inches in length, and weighs a mere 25-30 grams — that’s just 0.91% of our body weight! Human brains are much bigger — about 3 pounds, or 2% of their total body weight. But as small as it is, a cat’s brain structure is pretty similar to a human’s. 90% similar in fact! And with a cerebral cortex of about 300 million nerve cells, our brains are pretty complex!

While cat brains and human brains are similar, different parts are emphasized

We cats have a proportionately larger cerebellum because our body functions like coordination and balance are important for our day to day lives. Humans have a larger prefrontal cortex because they need it for planning and the other complex things that humans consider important, like goals and values.

Cat brains and human brains are oriented differently

A cat’s brain is oriented front to back, while the human brain is oriented from the top down. This makes sense, considering that cats walk on four legs, and humans walk on two. In case you are wondering, dog brains are oriented the same as a cat’s.

Cats have excellent memory retention

This is for both short term and longterm memory. My favorite study compared cats’ short term memory to dogs’, and while dogs only retained information for about five minutes, cat retained short term memory for 16 hours! Which is arguably more than many humans too.

As for longterm memory, cats have been known to retain information for as long as 10 years! Which is a significant chunk of our lifespan. It also explains why cats hold grudges, so you’d better be on your best behavior around your cat.

Cats understand time

Yes, we may nag you for an early dinner, but we do know what time we really get fed! Research has proven that cats understand the passage of time. Some cats have even been able to discern a difference of seconds. When you consider how precisely feral cats function in the wild, this really isn’t surprising.

Cats learn by observing and doing

The term copycat exists for a reason! We can learn how to do something by watching it enough times, and trying it ourselves. Binga learned how to walk on a leash by watching me doing it repeatedly. Your cat may learn how to open the treat drawer by watching how you do it. And we are active learners, who retain what we know best by repeating the action. Which is why, once a cat learns something, like leash walking or feeling safe in the carrier, it really helps to keep up the routine.

These are just a few facts about our amazing kitty brains! How much did you know? And do you think you’ll retain this knowledge? Let me know in the comments.

Other posts you’ll enjoy:

10 Little Known Cat Facts – Impress Your Friends!
Keeping Your Intelligent Cat Busy and Out of Trouble (With Video)
How to Work With Your Cat’s Love of Routine

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​ Are we kitties as smart as we think we are? Here are some facts about cat brains, and how they work!
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