We are becoming more stupid and so are cats. Discuss

Cat and human intelligenceHumans are entering a permanent phase of “reverse selection” making them thicker; and cats, taken as a whole, are less intelligent than they were 10,000 years ago because of domestication, which has eliminated the need for natural selection.

I’ll have to add some detail to that bold statement. A recent study, which I find very believable, indicates that Victorian era British were, smarter, quicker and more creative than the British of today. In our impregnable arrogance, we probably believed that we were steadily becoming ever more intelligent. Sadly not.

The reason is not clear, but Dr Woodley, who co-authored the study, postulates that the decline in intelligence in Britain is because the cleverer people are having less children. He describes this are “reverse selection”. You might add that the less intelligent are having more children, dramatically compounding the decline.

Clearly Britain does not represent all countries and places on the planet but in the Western world the same process is probably, or possibly, occurring.

As for cats, domestication removes the need for natural selection to take place. Natural selection is the process, described by Charles Darwin, in which the fittest survive the best, thereby gradually creating more smart and more fit animals (and humans). By fittest we must include superior intelligence.

It is accepted that the wild cats and wild cat hybrids are smarter than the average domestic cat and of all the domestic cats it is probably fair to argue that the purebred, pedigree cat is the least intelligent. This would be due to intense selective breeding for appearance and nothing else.

The feral cats should be smarter than the full-time indoor domestics because they have to survive the wild way – almost.

Where there is no requirement for the domestic cat to exercise his brain in order to survive, over time, he becomes slightly less intelligent. You can add to this process the rapid decline in the numbers of nearly all species of wild cat. The wild cats are a pool of cat intelligence. If there are less of them, the overall intelligence of the world cat population declines.

What to do about it? Well the cat breeders could start selecting cats for intelligence, for a start. The trend towards keeping cats indoors all the time is arguably bad for the domestic, over the long term, as it takes away the natural stimulations that the outdoors brings.

If the clock could be turned back to the era when domestic cats were barn cats and outdoor cats that would benefit the cat from the perspective of cat intelligence. The problem is that as the human continues to breed and fill up the planet, and as human activity makes the world more dangerous for outdoor cats, the direction the domestic cat is going in, is towards a safe indoor life lacking stimulation and challenges, together with the destruction of wild cats in their habitat. Without the need for the domestic cat to overcome survival challenges, he will become ever more stupid.

I’ll finish on humans. Why are the clever people in Britain having less children? The common sense answer is that the clever person feels uneasy about bringing a child into the world. This is sensible.

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We are becoming more stupid and so are cats. Discuss — 23 Comments

  1. I think clever people are not having as many children because they have a social conscience, they work for their living and pay their way and don’t expect society to pay to keep their offspring.
    Here in the North of England girls have baby after baby and live on benefits, they bring their children up the same, to expect hand outs instead of working for what they need.
    Some young people can’t even talk properly, the letter T disappears, as in wa-er (water) Gangs talk in gobbledegook we can’t understand, we always think we are going back to cave man talk lol
    I think too that sensitive people are not having children, I was a sensitive child and suffered because of that. Bring your child up decent and caring and he/she gets bullied by the selfish confident type. I wouldn’t want a child of mine bullied or to be a bully.
    I don’t think cats are stupid, deep down they retain their intelligence from the wild, but who can blame them for taking advantage of the provision of shelter, food and love given by humans?
    Put a person in the wild and put a cat in the wild, which would have the most chance of survival?
    I think the cat would!

    • A lot of people in Britain would agree with you, Ruth. I don’t think cats are stupid either but, through no fault of the cat, the domestic cat as a species is becoming less intelligent over millenia. That is the argument anyway!

        • Very good point, Ruth. By domestication we have taken intelligence from them. Well, I speculating and this not hard science, far from it, but there is some sense in the argument.

          I have often wondered whether domestication is a good thing for the cat in the 21st century. It was a good idea back in the days when farmers wanted rodent catchers. That initial purpose has long gone.

          I love having a cat and wouldn’t do without a cat but….questioning domestication of the cat in general is a worthwhile exercise. It takes us back to basics and makes us ask some difficult questions and by doing so it may make us more respectful of the cat.

  2. I think Gigi is becoming a very intelligent cat. I think so because she looks at everything and has a natural curiosity that is very strong indeed. From the day I met her she would look right into my eyes. She loves to watch my computer screen and she’s even past the stage of trying to get things out from behind it 🙂 I also think this because she needs alot of mental stimulation and is less into to cuddles or less sophisticated play. She goes through things and then it’s time to move on. I don’t know why. Others have said it about her – that she always seems to be taking things in and ‘looking’. In almost every photo I take she is staring right at the camera. She even goes for my hand and not the red dot when I use the laser pointer. She also is obsessed with my phone and all the different things it does. Whgen it does something new, like a new sound, she is right there tapping the screen. She has successfully answered it and successfully switched off my alarm clock. Obviously I encourage her. A friend said she was suprised how brain dead other cats seem compared to mine sometimes. I think so much depends on upbringing when it comes to domestic cats, especially indoor ones.

    The one thing which makes me sad is that these days people are all about super clean and minimal apartments and houses. This must be so awfully boring for a cat. I often recieve bikes in big cardboard boxes and I keep them all for the cats. They have a whole maize of places and corners and hiding spots they can go to. It makes their world so much bigger to have stuff all around. Minimal places are soul destroying for cats I feel, and people to some extent. It’s a desperation for cleanliness or something in order to balance our overloaded minds. I believe this is an important factor that effects a cat’s intelligence. Stimulation is so important. I think in the days before television people and cats were more intelligent. It’s all well and good to know stuff because you watched a documentary but it’s almost totally pointless after the fact in 90% of the cases yet people hold onto that justification for dear life. Knowing facts almost gets in the way of intelligence. It’s merely a test of your memory, not totally useless but not applied or active knowledge or brain agility either. I think people spent more time with their cats before the TV. Now they watch TV while the cats sleep. I have lived without a TV for nearly 20 years and yet I have watched many things of all kinds on my computer when I want to but never had to deal with the soul destroying side effects of adverts and reality shows that make people incredibly insecure in the long run.

    The one thing I hate about the computer is that my cats don’t like it because all of a sudden I am in the room yet I am somewhere else. This must be very strange for an animal. To them it’s as good as me being asleep I guess. It takes getting used to and I remember Gigi being very confused by it for some time when I initially went on for long bouts of POC and research and reading.

    I think this article rings true and I don’t want to end up being a part of it if I can help it. I try not to switch off until I go to sleep. I try to read when my cats are sleeping or otherwise occupied.

    Yes I think cats and humans are getting more and more insecure and brain dead with nothing but a lot of images of total nonsense flickering through ours and their very lazy brains. It makes us mentally weak. Unable to listen actively. Unable to calculate. Unable to stay awake somehow. Our culture is designed perfectly to make us switch on our things and switch off our minds and bodies. The last and ultimate pitch of pure consumer lifestyle. It’s killing everything and being less intelligent we don’t even care to see that. Who designed this awful system that grows and functions purely for financial gain… There are some hugely important ingredients missing from this system of modernity and industry. Morals, shame, love, empathy – a system without those ingredients ensures that we and our cats will not even know whats happening, nor care.

    • Wow, that is a really excellent comment, Marc. There is a lot there. I read the whole lot 😉

      I think we have created something that is wrong for us and our cats. It feels wrong. It feels like we are going in the wrong direction and the points you make are some of the reasons.

      Gigi is a smart cat, I guess, probably made smarter and more alert by stimulation at home.

      There is a conflict between what humans want in a home and what it should look like and what cats want. The classic, desirable, human home is not suitable for a cat. Homes should be cat friendly if a person keeps a cat.

      Is this a major weakness in our relationship? It is a modern problem. When cats were first domesticated the problem did not exist.

      I believe we can do a lot more to make homes suitable for cats and people.

      • Sometimes I ramble around a topic without a proper direction – I try to keep it in check by the end though 🙂

  3. Who says the people living off benefits and having children are less clever or intelligent than those supporting themselves and concluding for economic or other reasons that having children is not practical? The smartest student I ever taught, easily a genius– I wish I had her intellect– has a child, is living off benefits and did not complete her education. It’s not that she couldn’t do more– she chooses to do less with her life. Were welfare benefits not available she would have made far different choices. But she’s certainly intelligent, as is her daughter. But will her daughter choose education and a career or pregnancy and welfare?

    We are as inherently intelligent as people were in the past. We just use technology too much instead of our brains. I asked one of my tutoring students the other day how he could check a long division problem without using a calculator. He immediately and in all seriousness said, “I could Google it!”

    I don’t think knowing lots of facts makes you less intelligent, but you have to know how to use and apply those facts. Education professionals criticize memorization as “just rote learning” but it is important. You don’t stop there, but please let’s not skip that step. Kids in public schools here don’t have to learn their multiplication tables by heart. We have kids in high school counting on their figures and drawing rows of dots on paper to do basic arithmetic. They are lost without a calculator. A calculator is a nice tool, but doing math with your brain feels good. What right do we have to take that away from them? And when they know no basic math facts they hit the wrong button on the calculator and have no idea that the answer they got makes no sense.

    Our cats aren’t dumber either, they just have acquired a different set of skills. Monty knows how to manipulate me to get what he wants. That takes intelligence. Are his hunting skills what they would have been had he stayed wild? No. But he has a new set of skills to enable him to enjoy his life with me.

    • Great point Ruth. I see it both ways actually. Just because alot has to do with upbringing so it depends on the parents education. I’m somewhere in the middle although the trend that the article expresses does ring true somehow yet what you say contradicts it. I hold the parents fairly accountable for a good portion of whether or not a child turns out intelligent or not. Memory is important and a part of intelligence I guess. Certainly not all of it as some might say.

      It’s actually a very hard topic – it’s good you brought up your points like this because I wasn’t thinking about that plus you seem to have experience in the matter. I certainly don’t.

    • Well, I tend to disagree with you! The lady you refer to is probably an exception.

      Not all people on benefits are stupid. Far from it but they tend to be lazy and laziness is a disadvantage when it comes to exercising the brain.

      Also the study I have referred to in the article is not about people on benefits but a lowering of intelligence, the reason being unknown at this time.

      Monty is smart but in 10,000 years time Monty will seem like a cat Einstein. The domestic cat will or might become a ball of long fur much like a plush toy.

  4. Hi Michael,

    Following up on your statement-
    ~It is accepted that the wild cats and wild cat hybrids are smarter than the average domestic cat and of all the domestic cats it is probably fair to argue that the purebred, pedigree cat is the least intelligent.~

    Not agreeing or disagreeing, but I’d like to know how cat intelligence is measured/ tested/ defined, and the basis for your statement “it is accepted that..”

    I am thinking that it’s possible to miss certain aspects of intelligence in cats it one never tests for them.

    Anecdote:
    Tootsie is very box avoidant. I was interested to see if I could entice her to walk through a box, open on both ends. I’d put on the “entry” side, and offer her treats, so that she had to walk into the box (box tunnel) to get them. I started by placing the treats inside, but close to the “entry” side where she was. She would go in and retrieve them, go back outside the box to eat them. Gradually, I got her to go further and further into the box tunnel to retrieve the treats.

    Oh, good, I thought, I can get her to walk all the way through the box tunnel. But, noooo… much to my surprise, when I placed the treat just a little more than halfway in (from “entrance side”), she looked at it, and then walked around to the “exit” side and retrieved it from there. Tried same other times. Same result.

    I was pretty amused and impressed by this episode.. Most notably because Tootsie evidently was very good at calculating distances (at the box level of scale), and then choosing the shortest route to the treat, even when it meant walking around to the other end of the box tunnel. I mean, she did something that I had in no way expected- abandoning the “entry” where treats were first the closest, and employing a totally new strategy to go inside the box and retrieve the treat so that she had to travel into the box by the shortest distance. I figure there had to be some fairly sophisticated “reasoning” going on in her mind. And, quite intelligent, considering that she doesn’t like going to boxes.

    I wonder if we miss how smart domestic cats are because don’t know how to test for all the dimensions of intelligence.

    • There is no measure of cat intelligence so my statement is shaky but a more responsive cat and a cat with quicker reactions and one that is more alert and demanding indicates intelligence.

      • Needless to say, another topic I find fascinating. Hope the discussion will continue anon, after you get a good night’s sleep. (Uh, no snark there, just meaning I know it’s late your time.)

        • As a PS to my last comment. The general consensus in discussion about cat intelligence is that the wild cat has to use his brain a lot more to survive. It is a basic concept but makes sense. This brain exercise makes the cat sharper.

          When you think that the domestic cat has been domesticated for 9,500 years, it is a short time. What will the domestic cat be like in 100,000 years and more?

          I say the cat will be more stupid and there will no wild cats in their habitat to measure cat intelligence by.

        • Only on PoC could Michael come up with a topic entitled “We are becoming more stupid and so are cats. Discuss.” and nobody says, “Hey, who are you calling stupid?” but we just get down to discussing.

          • Thanks Ruth. I do ask unusual questions and the regulars answer them so well, which puts PoC above almost all other top cat sites. I deliberately ask tough questions because I see no point in asking the same questions as other mainstream cat sites. I think we have a duty to push the boundaries if we can. It is not easy, though.

    • I wonder if we miss how smart domestic cats are because don’t know how to test for all the dimensions of intelligence.

      There is quite a lot of discussion about that subject too. Cat intelligence should not be gauged according to human intelligence methods. Even tests regarding human intelligence are considered limited in their worth as far as I am aware.

      I believe people, in general, still greatly undervalue animal intelligence. It is due to the great human weakness: arrogance and the belief that we own the planet.

    • What a cool experiment showing cat intelligence, though that wasn’t what you originally set out to do.

  5. Your dumbed-down cats are already smarter than you are. This is why they can so easily escape from your required supervision. Every cat lover uses the phrase “my cat out-smarted me.” And you want cats that are even smarter than your present level of intelligence”? (i.e. you are already dumber than your cats if they can out-smart you) Look up the definition of the word “moron”. In short it means someone who is too stupid to even realize that they are stupid. In the case of cat-ownership this becomes a self-evident proof to show everyone just how far down the intellect scale that inbred Brits have slid. Surprising, especially in light of the fact that cats depend mostly on their reptilian brain-stems for survival and use very little cerebral gray-matter to begin with. Easily inferring that cat-owners’ minds are functioning on levels far lower than even their reptilian brain-stems.

    • the intellect scale that inbred Brits have slid

      This made me laugh. Pure insult with no foundation in truth. It is actually defamatory. You might be think about that Woody.

      I recall you telling us that, at one time, you were a cat owner yourself. I guess, therefore, your comment applies to you.

  6. Hi Woody,playing with your mouse again?
    We don’t need to look up the definition of moron because we all know one

    YOU

    no matter which alias you use.

    lol lol lol

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