Animal Planet has ranked the majority of better-known cat breeds by intelligence, giving each breed a score out of 10. Unfortunately, the criteria for this ranking system are unclear and there is no reliable intelligence test for cats, so the following rankings are somewhat subjective. There is also significant variation within breeds because each has its share of geniuses and less intelligent individuals, so rankings should be considered averages rather than IQ scores for all members of a breed.
Animal Planet’s top-ranked cats for intelligence
The Sphynx, a “hairless” breed (the cat actually has a fine peach fuzz coat like soft suede), was the only cat to receive a 10 out of 10 ranking. Owners rave about the intelligence of this breed.
A number of additional breeds received a high 9 out of 10 score, including:
- Balinese (essentially a long-haired Siamese)
- Bengal (a wild Asian Leopard Cat/domestic cat cross)
- Colourpoint Shorthair (a breed developed from the Siamese and American and British Shorthairs)
- Havana Brown (a cross of the Siamese and black British or American Shorthairs)
- Javanese (an Oriental Shorthair-Balinese cross)
- Oriental (developed from numerous breeds, including the Siamese)
- Siamese (a naturally occurring breed)
All of the breeds with very high intelligence ratings are derived from the Siamese except for the Bengal, a wild-domestic hybrid. Although there is no doubt that Siamese cats tend to be very bright, cat breeder Norman Auspitz notes that the breeds considered most intelligent also tend to be among the most active, which suggests that there is a bias toward rating more energetic cats higher on intelligence scales.
Cat breeds ranked as very bright by Animal Planet
Other breeds scored in the relatively high range for intelligence. Breeds that ranked 8 out of 10 on this scale included:
- Devon Rex
- Egyptian Mau
- Japanese Bobtail
- Norwegian Forest Cat
- Russian Blue
- Turkish Angora
- Turkish Van
Cat breeds that achieved a respectable ranking of 7 out of 10 included:
- American Curl
- American Wirehair
- British Shorthair
- Cornish Rex
- Maine Coon
- Scottish Fold
Among these mid-to-high-range cats there are plenty of naturally occurring breeds that arose in various geographical locations and adapted well to local conditions, as well as a few that resulted from mutations, such as the Scottish Fold and American Curl.
Cat breeds ranked mid-range to low on intelligence
Several additional breeds just barely made it onto the top half of the intelligence scale, with rankings of 6 out of 10:
- American Shorthair
Of course, many fans of these breeds would beg to differ. A Google search turns up plenty of articles in which these cats are described as very intelligent.
The Persian fared even worse with a rating of just 4 out of 10, although the unofficial holder of the “Smartest Cat in the World” title is a Persian named Cuty Boy who has made newspaper headlines for his apparent ability to solve mathematical problems and understand 8 languages.
Exotic Shorthair and the Himalayan received scores of just 3 out of 10. Both breeds are derived from the Persian, though the Himalayan is also a Siamese cross. It’s impossible to determine whether these breeds are truly less intelligent or raters are simply mistaking docility for dullness.
Problems with ranking cat breeds by intelligence
Are more curious, active cats more intelligent, or is this simply an anthropomorphic bias? Because there is no good test of cat intelligence, it’s impossible to say.
Given that cats apply their intelligence to problems relevant to cats rather than those that interest humans, feline intelligence remains an elusive concept, and because most cats are not cooperative research subjects, it is difficult to assess their problem-solving abilities.
To learn more about these cat breeds, visit the main Cat Breeds page.
For answers to more cat questions, see the main Cats page.