Are Maine Coon cats smart?

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Although you’ll find a lot of articles on the Internet explaining why Maine Coon cats are smart – one of the smartest cat breeds – you won’t find a more philosophical discussion on the subject which I think is more important. Perhaps people want a definitive answer to the question based upon IQ tests as if a domestic cat is a human. I don’t think you can do that. Certainly nobody has done it. Therefore we don’t know the order of intelligence of the cat breeds from a scientific standpoint.

Maine Coon with human face
Photo: Catsvill County (a Russian cattery)

I don’t even think it is wise to try and pinpoint the levels of intelligence of the various cat breeds. Breeders do not breed into their cats a certain level of intelligence. They don’t selectively breed cats within their speciality, say Maine Coons, with the intention of creating a super intelligent animal. They breed for appearance, secondarily for personality and character and thirdly health.

What I’m getting at is that we don’t know whether the Maine Coon is smart or thick except through anecdotal evidence, personal experience and just general interactions with cats of this breed. People who live with Maine Coons like to think they are intelligent which is fair enough. I would say that they are no more or less intelligent than your average random bred cat or indeed most other breeds.

There may be some slight variations between the breeds in terms of intelligence but it won’t be very large. There may be far greater differences between individual cats. I do believe that each cat has their own personality and within that context they will have different levels of intelligence just like people.

The point really is that we don’t ask whether people from Indonesia are more intelligent than people from England. Or we don’t ask whether people from Alabama are less intelligent than people from New York state. The point I’m making is I don’t think you can group intelligence like this into different cat breeds unless, as mentioned, breeders of those cats are specifically directed to try and make their cat as intelligent as possible, which is not happening.

Blue Maine Coon
Blue Maine Coon. You won’t get a more impressive looking domestic cat. Awesome.

The history of the Maine Coon cat does not help us either. Maine Coon cats have a barn cat heritage living in the state of Maine, USA. They were often ship’s cats because they have a predisposition to polydactylism (more than the usual number of toes). In other words their history does not indicate that the Maine Coon should be more intelligent than say a Russian Blue.

My opinion is that irresponsible breeding which in this instance means inbreeding to excess, can result in cognitive impairment in domestic cats and therefore you might find that some individual cats of a certain breed are less than of average intelligence due to poor breeding. However, it is a different matter to selectively breed for high intelligence because there will be a natural limit to the intelligence of the domestic cat. That said, we should not try and measure the intelligence of domestic cats in the same way that we measure human intelligence. They have different skills, which is obvious.

If you want to know for sure that the Maine Coon is more intelligent than other breeds you’ll have to ask some scientists to devise a feline IQ test an apply it across all the cat breeds. If this was done you’d probably find that there was little difference between the breeds.

I would very much like people to comment to provide their opinions in order to create a rounded article.

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