6 shocking facts about cats’ brains: one of the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom, yet few people know it

Hangai Lilla

2022. November 18 - Source: Photos by Getty Images Hungary

The term intelligent cat is not an oxymoron. These silent, silky-furred mammals are certainly among the smartest in the animal world. Perhaps the reason why public opinion has pigeonholed them into the group of the less intelligent is because, thanks to their self-righteousness, they are less easy to teach and don't follow people's every wish with excitement. But let's not waste time, let's see how the cat brain works!


We define intelligence as the ability to retain and utilize the knowledge we have learned from an experience to solve future problems. Intelligence resides in the brain, but while a cat’s brain is about 5 cm long and weighs roughly 28 grams, we realize that the entire surface area and structure of the organ is much more important when it comes to intelligence. It’s an incredible fact, but these two data are 90% similar to the attributes of the human brain. In humans, the cerebral cortex, the region of the organ that controls thinking and rational decision-making, contains 21-26 billion neurons. Dogs have 400-600 million neurons, while cats have 250 million. That high-octane brainpower powers this impressive little machine.

1. Their brains are positioned front to back rather than top to bottom

Think of it this way: cats and dogs stand on four legs in a horizontal plane, while we stand on two legs in a vertical plane. Accordingly, it is logical that the parts of our brain are oriented from top to bottom, while the brains of cats and dogs are oriented from front to back.

2. Proportionally they have larger cerebellum than humans

As mentioned earlier, the structure of their brains is very similar to the human brain, but the differences are perhaps even more significant. For example, we have a much larger prefrontal cortex than they do. This area is associated with planning, short-term memory, and complex behavior. Cats, on the other hand, have a proportionally larger cerebellum, which controls balance and coordination. Of course, they need this for their daily activities such as jumping, hunting, climbing and watching for prey even from greater heights.

Because of these differences in brain structure, what fascinates a cat is not necessarily what fascinates a dog or you. Think about this when you choose a toy for him or take him in for some fun.

3. They can remember certain details for up to 10 years

The cerebral cortex not only controls the higher functions of rational thinking, but also problem solving. And as it turned out, although this area in the brain of cats is relatively small, it is still capable of amazing things.

Memory actually fulfills the role of storing information learned from the brain’s past experiences. Part of the long-term memory system is episodic memory, which provides answers to the questions “what”, “where” and “when”. It’s amazing, but house tigers are able to recall and use the information given to the “what” and “where” questions from just one experience, which they store in their minds for 10 years or even longer.

4. Their intellectual level is of a 2-year-old child

Based on many studies, behaviorists believe that the intelligence of an adult cat is comparable to of a 2-year-old toddler. The tests also pointed out that cats also have a recognition of object permanence. This means that they are also aware of the existence of objects that are not directly visible. In other words, they recognize that the lack of visibility does not mean that something has ceased to exist.

5. They can also interpret concept

Human infants learn about the concept in 6 stages during their first 2 years. They reach the 5th stage at about 1 year of age.

The researches clearly shows that cats have made their way to the stage 5, some even to stage 6. But when the special method was used which was developed for them, they were almost always successful. In stage 5, the kittens were shown the object and then hidden behind a box, and the subjects went on their search and found the objects. In stage 6, they hid these objects without the cats seeing the process.

What does this mean in everyday language? Cats can remember an object and figure out its location. Your pet knows exactly where you keep the new toys and snacks. And they probably think about them often…

6. They can also get brain freeze

Have you ever seen adorable yet creepy videos where cats lick ice cream and freeze from the shock caused by the cold? The official name of the phenomenon is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, which means cold-induced headache. It occurs when the cold rapidly constricts the blood vessels in the mouth and throat. You have probably experienced this before, and we know that this experience can also happen to cats.

From a scientific point of view, it is interesting and extremely instructive, but we definitely do not encourage you to test it on your own pet. Having experienced it yourself, you know that this is an unpleasant experience, and there is no need to force your pet to feel the same.

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