This is a deeply personal viewpoint which many will disagree with but the topic lends itself to this kind of approach. I don’t believe it is wise or practical to ask whether humans are smarter than cats. It is a very difficult and, I believe, unhelpful subject. It does not advance the sum total of human knowledge to compare cats and humans in terms of intelligence. It is not useful and it can be detrimental to both humans and cats to make this comparison i.e. it can encourage animal cruelty.
The two species have a different kind of intelligence. Cats can do things that we can’t and vice versa. The two species have different abilities. Humans can do science and technology. They can build machines and speak in complex languages. Cats are sharper in detecting what is happening around them. They are more reliable and predictable. It is easier to have a sustainable, steady relationship with a cat or dog than another person. The high human divorce rate indicates a lack of emotional intelligence.
If cats were the dominant animal on the planet, they would be able to create a more balanced, sustainable world, I’d argue, probably because they are much nearer nature and their origins. Humans have lost their connection with nature which is partly why they are, as a whole, insensitive towards it.
However, received wisdom is that humans are far more intelligent than cats and all other animals. Although collectively it could be a argued that humans are as thick as planks because they are determined to destroy the planet which sustains them. Cats would never put themselves in such a stupid situation. I am referring to climate change and how humans are hooked on using fossil fuels. And the current coronavirus pandemic which is caused by humans’ unhealthy relationship with wild animals. Humans like to use the natural world voraciously an in an unsustainable way. It is self-destructive human behaviour which belies a lack of collective intelligence.
Religion, classically Christianity, paints humans as dominant and more intelligent than all animals. And when people started to domesticate animals, thousands of years ago, they decided that animals were there to be used to their advantage which indicates that they feel superior them. The fact that humans can use and exploit animals indicates superior intelligence but humans show a lack of intelligence on how to use their intelligence.
Animal and cat intelligence is often underrated by humans. This is partly because humans tend to be arrogant and feel superior. There is an argument that humans have become too intelligent for their own good because they are unable to use it collectively to the advantage of all. Human intelligence has created deviousness and other unpleasant and damaging traits.
I have deliberately chipped away at human intelligence to even the playing field.
Let’s not ask if humans are smarter than cats. Let’s ask how we can better live in harmony with all animals including wild and domestic cats. Let’s ask if cat domestication has been a success. And if we see too much failure (cruelty and millions of unwanted cats) let’s question whether we should have domestic cats at all. These are far better questions.