Why are cats so dumb? Discuss.

The word “dumb” means (a) stupid and (b) the inability to speak. Cats are not dumb on both counts. It is people who are being dumb in not recognising (a) that cats have a different kind of intelligence and (b) in failing to understand that cats communicate extremely well with other cats and humans through vocalisations, body language and routines.

People who understand cats through first hand experience of long term, intelligent cat caretaking recognise a cat’s abilities.

The title was given to me by Google. If you search for “dumb cat”, Google presents the question in the title as a top result.

What some people fail to recognise is that they are judging cats based on human values and preconceptions. People believe that intellectual intelligence is intelligence. If you have a PhD you’re intelligent. If you’re a brain surgeon, you’re intelligent. Firstly, this is not necessarily true. A lot of clever people are very stupid when it comes to common sense and how to live. Secondly, there are various forms of intelligence.

One type of human intelligence is described as “Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence- ‘Body Smart’. This is…

…the capacity to manipulate objects and use a variety of physical skills.  This intelligence also involves a sense of timing and the perfection of skills through mind–body union (Howard Gardner).

A cat, any domestic or wild cat, comes to mind as being very physically able; blessed with many athletic abilities. This is just an example.

What about Naturalist Intelligence – ‘Nature Smart’. This is described by Gardner as

…[the] ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) as well as sensitivity to other features of the natural world…..

This is meant to be a form of human intelligence but I have to state that it could well apply to your domestic cat. Cats are very nature-aware. They are very sensitive to natural phenomena.

Only recently has research shed light on the intelligence and skills of animals in general.

I have to state that pure, good old fashioned “gumption” applied with some considered thought and experience is almost all you need to be successful in life. If there was a lot more of that and less prejudiced and dogmatic thought many more people would realise that cats are neither dumb in respect of communication nor dumb in respect of intelligence.

7 thoughts on “Why are cats so dumb? Discuss.”

  1. For me this hits on a very important point which has directly to do with the failing of our culture.

    Intelligence should not be considered ‘knowing stuff’ – some of the most highly respected or qualified people are as dumb as sulky little 5 year olds so what is the difference?

    For me its simply that there are 2 kinds of intelligence.

    One is the kind we all know and which culture promotes and is taught in school. Simple, but not complete.

    The other is emotional. Emotional intelligence. Knowing how to handle yourself, how to react, how to respect, how to be kind, how to give space, how to share – these are things which most doctors and bankers never had timew to develop in their quest for power and culturally accepted success – and value promotion.

    Therein lies the paradox. Those in power do not have time to be emotionally intelligent by virtue of climbing the ladder to where they are. Yet they are kind of in control of our culture.

    Sucks a$$ but it’s true basically.

    Cats are not dumb. That is painfully obvious. Painfully.

    Like Ruth I can safely say I never met a cat I would call dumb.

    • Well said Marc. I agree that this is a very important subject because human arrogance places every other creature below him/her mainly on the basis that they are dumb or dumber. Totally wrong. It is the underlying cause of some much animal suffering and abuse.

  2. I’ve never met a dumb (as in stupid) cat in my life! They are in fact more intelligent than a lot of people are, including well educated ones who have the diplomas but no sense or compassion.
    Nor have I met a dumb (as in can’t speak) cat either. Cats can speak, just in a different language to us.
    I wonder how we’d fair in reverse, if we were the pets of cats, would we be able to convey what we want and need as well as cats can to us? I doubt it!


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