Of all the pet animals, the cat is perhaps the fastest learner due to its ability to get and retain information to find a solution to problems. When an adult cat is placed in a room which it has never seen before, every corner and nook is inspected with the help of its instincts. According to behaviorists, this necessity to carry out “basic research” gives the cat important, life-surviving information about his environment. So, the saying “curiosity killed the cat” is a misnomer, since it actually gives the cat its reputation for having 9 lives.
The highlight of a cat’s intellect is his ability to utilize the information retained to address problems. Cats have the skill to form “learning sets”, which used to be done only by primates. For instance, when trained cats pulled boxes on wheels, this revealed that they could combine that skill and their insight to solve other problems.
As an example, a cat pulled a box to a certain place, then used it as a stool to get a reward he wants – like food on a string hanging from the ceiling. Though no one knows their range of cognitive capabilities, cats continue to surprise their owners with their remarkable abilities.
Just like humans, cats learn by observing, imitating, trying, as well as committing errors. There are countless stories about cats opening doors by turning doorknobs, ringing doorbells, turning off lights, opening cupboards, plus using the toilet based on their observation of owners doing the same thing. A lot of cat behaviorists and also child psychologists agree that an adult cat’s intelligence is equivalent to that of a toddler who is 2 to 3 years old. At this age, children are very clever and manipulative, so it is not surprising that cats are better trainers than their owners are to them.
Though the cat is considered as the smartest among all domestic animals, cat owners should understand the limitations of their pet’s thought processes, since attributing human motivations to the pet cat can affect the patient, and systematic approach is needed to treat behavioral problems.
For instance, cats cannot remember the past or make future plans. So, it is useless for an owner to scold a pet cat for something it did moments ago or when caught in the act, since the cat cannot make a connection between an action and punishment. Its actions are not influenced by revenge for what an owner said or did in the past. These can be blamed on the stress brought about by its owner’s actions.
The behavioral problems of cats are triggered by humans, and when cats are not provided with the necessary things to naturally behave like a cat, this can have a negative impact on their human owners.