Cats are smarter than you think | Sunday Observer

Cats are smarter than you think

Cats are ubiquitous animals of various colours and sizes. There are lean, fat and fluffy cats. Some of them are fairly big, others are so small that you can carry one of them in your brief case. Sometimes I wonder why we keep cats at home. Most children love them and play with them. Adults have different attitudes towards cats. Some adults keep them to get rid of rodents. Others keep them as pets.

Unlike dogs, cats usually do not show their loyalty to their owners. A dog would wag its tail when the master comes home after work. A cat would dose off when he sees the master. So we have a problem in understanding cats. Most domestic cats remain aloof and mysterious. Sometimes, they disappear for days and return home as if nothing has happened to them.

Stray cat

Are cats smart animals? Randall Lockwood, an animal behaviourist at the Washington D.C. headquarters of the Humane Society of the United States says, “They are very smart. If you ask your cat to play chess, he would seem pretty stupid. Still, if your cat asks you to climb up a tree and catch a sparrow in flight, you won’t seem smart either.”

Sometimes, you do not need an expert to tell you that cats are smart. Recently, we moved into a new house far away from our old one. We kept the doors and windows closed to prevent mosquitoes coming into the house. After a few days we found the stray cat we used to feed in our former house. She was on a familiarization tour.

She checked every nook and corner probably looking for mice or any other small creatures. It is a mystery how she found our new house. What is more, now she has settled down in our new house.

Certain animals can be trained to do particular tasks. Dogs are easy to train, but it is difficult to train a cat because it is always asleep.

Joan Hendricks, a University of Pennsylvania veterinarian who studied cat sleep for many years says cats snooze about 80 per cent of the time. While sleeping they sort out different sounds they hear. Even a cat that is fast asleep would wake up if you open a tin of canned fish. When it hears the sound of opening a can of fish its ears flip towards the kitchen. Its legs stiffen and rush to the spot where the action is.


What do cats think when they are awake? Nobody knows the answer, but they must be thinking of food. When awake they observe the environment very carefully. The slightest movement of an object keeps them on the alert.

Sometimes, we see cats staring into empty space. May be they see a different world. Unlike humans, cats’ eyes have tremendous light-gathering capabilities and they can see better at low light levels. But, in normal light their extraordinary light gathering mechanism malfunctions.

For a cat any horizontal movement is a powerful stimulant. If you dangle a fish vertically, a cat would not take any notice. If you leave it on the floor horizontally, the cat would snap it up. If you have the time, watch how your pet cat moves its ears in different directions simultaneously. By doing so, they locate a prey or pick danger signals. Cats also have a superior sense of smell. They know exactly where a small creature is hiding. However, a cat’s urine smells to high heavens! But the scents from a cat’s glands in its cheeks, forehead and flanks are virtually odourless.

Why do cats rub against our legs passionately? According to a cat expert, it is telling us that it loves us. Apart from such rare expressions of affection, cats do not try to communicate with humans. An animal behaviour therapist Peter Borchelt says, dogs have a desire to serve their masters. However, being solitary creatures, cats do not see any need to serve their masters. In that sense, a dog is a reliable pet but a cat will not fall into that category.

Although we think that cats do not respond to humans, Ian Dunbar, the author of “Cat: Social problems” says, both cats and dogs can be trained to respond to human words. However, it would take a long time to train a cat. If you cannot train a cat, you should try to understand it. Research shows that cats can make 15 simple sounds and combine them into 10 more complex phrases. This does not mean that cats have a language of their own. But they have distinct vocalizations for different situations. We usually hear a cat’s “Meow.” It is a sound reserved for humans. Cats make low-pitched sounds when they become aggressive or scared of something. They make high-pitched sounds when they anticipate something good. Some children can mimic their sounds, but cats hardly respond.


Whether you like them or not, cats have enriched the English language quite unwittingly. When you bell a cat, you take the leading part in a dangerous plan of action. My friend thinks he is the cat’s pyjamas since he got the job. When you say ‘curiosity killed the cat’, you mean that showing too much interest in other people’s affairs can be dangerous for you. Some people ‘grin like a Cheshire cat’ meaning they smile broadly. There are some more idioms connected with the cat. Some of them are ‘a cat burglar; a cat may look at a king; let the cat out of the bag;’ and ‘a cat on hot bricks’.

There is a nonsensical nursery rhyme titled “The cat and the fiddle” dating back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I and her court. Differing theories exist about which of the characters in the rhyme might be represented by real life people around the Queen. It is speculated that Queen Elizabeth I was one of them. Others say the rhyme has something to do with star constellations.

The Cat and the Fiddle


The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon;

The little dog laughed to see such fun,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.


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