These clever cats are bound to impress you with their extraordinary curiosity and intellect.
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siamese cat sitting on woman's shoulders
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Whether they're running up to you at the crinkle of a treat bag or appearing aloof when it's time to go to the vet, cats have no problem showing us just how intelligent they really are.

But what does "intelligence" in cats look like? And how do we know which breeds are, in fact, the smartest cat breeds?

"Intelligence is both the ability of the cat to learn and also apply knowledge and skills in new situations," says Janet Cutler, PhD, CAAB, CPDT-KA, at Cat World. "In humans, intelligence is believed to be influenced by many factors, including education, environment, health, nutrition, and more. It's very likely that a cat's experiences and environment, as well as their health and nutrition, also impact their intelligence."

Cutler theorizes that some breeds of cat may have kept some of their skills that would've made them more successful in nature, and therefore, might have led to higher intelligence. While others, she says, could have been selected for their ability to fit into human lives and figure out how our households and societies function, possibly leading to higher intelligence.

"It's very possible that as we've been breeding cats, some have been bred to be able to learn more about how humans work, how to read and understand what we want, or how to interact with us, which we often take into account when looking at intelligence," Cutler says.

How Is Cat Intelligence Measured?

Although cat cognition and intelligence are still in their early stages, Cutler says cats have been shown to understand the concept of object permanence, quantity or amount, time, and look to people for information (e.g. seeing how they're reacting to something new and changing their behavior based on human moods).

Despite there not yet being a standardized or accurate way to truly measure the intelligence of individual cats, there may be a difference in personality traits that pet parents may favor or seek out when looking for a new forever friend.

"Certain cat breeds do seem smarter than others," says Chryle Bonk, DVM at Senior Tail Waggers. "While there are definite differences in individuals, some breeds overall seem easier to train, can learn to do tricks, and often get bored without mental stimulation during the day. These tend to be those more active breeds like Siamese, Abyssinians, and Bengals."

While every cat is undoubtedly brainy, below are some of the smartest cat breeds.

Abyssinian

abyssinian lying on cement
Abyssinians are total brainiacs and need lots of mental stimulation so they don't become bored.
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Recognized as one of the oldest and most popular breeds, the Abyssinian is a playful, smart, and athletic cat who loves his family. The Abyssinian, or "Aby," is a natural explorer with a taste for adventure—and attention. He's always on the go and loves to socialize with others, making him an excellent companion. An Aby is at his best when he has a plethora of toys to choose from and can put his innate senses to work.

Balinese

balinese lying on womans lap
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The luxurious, long-haired Balinese is the epitome of beauty and brains. A truly curious cat, the Balinese loves playtime—but most of all, she cherishes any time spent with you! Known to be a "Velcro cat," a Balinese will be sure to keep you company at any and all times, no matter if she's in a paws-on training session, playing games, or keeping a close eye on you from her hammock.

Bengal

Bengal cat walks on wood
Bengals are active and intelligent cats. To keep him happy and healthy, you need to give him ample mental and physical stimulation.
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Highly intelligent, active, and curious, a single look at the beautifully spotted Bengal, and you might just mistake her for a wild cat—and rightfully so! Bengals are the only domesticated cat breed to have these eye-catching rosette markings due to their wild Asian leopard ancestry. However, the Bengal is a cuddly and chatty cat who tends to get along with everyone with proper socialization. These natural athletes revel in any kind of playtime or adventures, whether they're climbing cat trees, playing with toys, or walking on a leash. Bengals are social felines who prefer to have a pal to keep them entertained and revel in fun activities together, like playing in a shallow tub or animal-watching from a window perch. Prepare for fun, little chirps!

Burmese

Burmese cat walking on green grass
Burmese cats are playful and have a high prey drive. If you harness train her, she'll be your best adventure buddy.
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If you're looking for a cat who's more like a dog, look no further than the Burmese. The Burmese is an incredibly friendly, clever, and energetic cat who enjoys being around anyone and everyone. Known to be a "Velcro cat," the Burmese loves his people and getting showered with attention and affection. This loyal feline revels in putting on a show for you and playing games of hide and seek, tag, and even fetch.

Cornish Rex

cornish rex standing in grass
Cornish rex cats have short, curly coats that are easy to care for. Instead of brushing, they just need a weekly ear and paw cleaning session to keep oils from building up.
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The Cornish rex is a unique beauty with a taste for adventure and tons of mental enrichment. (So much so that you may have to cat-proof your home!) Fueled by her high intelligence and inquisitive nature, the Cornish rex is constantly on the move, searching for a person or playmate to entertain. She's a social butterfly who has a lot of love—and energy!—to go around. You can always count on a Cornish rex to be up for playtime in the form of interactive toys (e.g. puzzle toys or battery-operated mice) or clicker training.

Havana Brown

Havana Brown laying on a chair
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Quiet. Bright. Rare. Havana Brown cats are a loyal, adaptable breed who make wonderful companions. These striking felines enjoy spending time with their family, no matter if it's playing with their favorite toys or napping somewhere nearby (aka your lap!). The Havana Brown loves to investigate, often examining objects by holding them with both paws, according to Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) Animal Hospitals. This makes interactive toys a must-have for the super-smart Havana Brown. These cats are good with children, and if you have other pets, you can expect them to run around your home to play a game of tag.

Japanese Bobtail

Japanese Bobtail standing on railing
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Characterized by their bobbed tails and dog-like behaviors, Japanese bobtail cats are exceptionally unique. (And not to mention, rare.) The oh-so silly yet deeply intelligent Japanese bobtail is forever young with her endless energy and desire to be the center of attention. She loves to be around her person, preferably fetching and playing with her most treasured toys.

Korat

korat lying down with a green background
Though Korat cats date back to the 1300s, they didn't make their way to the U.S. until 1959.
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The Korat is an ancient breed with a laid-back and loyal personality. Known in Thailand as a "good luck cat," the Korat is a devoted family member who loves playing as much as he does snoozing. His favorite pastimes include playing games, training, and getting his daily mental enrichment with food puzzles. He also loves scratching posts, window hammocks, and of course, toys!

Savannah

Golden Savannah kitty plays with fluffy toy on couch
Don't expect Savannahs to be a lap cat. While loving, they're highly active felines who want to keep their paws (and mind!) moving.
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Savannah cats are brainy, athletic, and loyal. These big, spotted cats are a rare breed who love to go out for walks on a leash, play in the water, and spend time with their families. Don't let their wild look deceive you—they are loving companions who are great with children and dogs. Savannah cats respond well to clicker training and are at their best when they have plenty of cat trees, interactive toys, and scratcher toys.

Scottish Fold

gray scottish fold cat being held
With their down-turned ears, some say Scottish folds look like a cross between an owl and a cat.
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Quiet and wise, the Scottish fold is a rare breed who's simply happy to be around you. These calm, easygoing felines love attention from their people. At the same time, they're not overly demanding and are content with doing their own thing if need be. These affectionate cats aren't the most active compared to others on this list, but they do love playing with interactive toys, exploring, and being trained to do tricks.

Siamese

siamese cat sitting on woman's shoulders
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Siamese cats are constantly ranked as one of the most popular cat breeds in the U.S.—and for good reason. These gorgeous felines are just as loving as they are brilliant! Siamese cats are described as being dog-like because of their loyal, social, and charming personalities. They also love to talk and interact with their people—and by "interact," we mean "constantly being cuddled and held." Siamese cats delight in fetching, scratching posts, and interactive toys to combat boredom. While these adoring felines prefer human interaction, they also fancy the company of a playmate as well.

Singapura

Singapura cat
Though they're small, Singapuras have big personalities and an immense love for their humans.
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Known as the smallest domesticated cat breed in the world, the Singapura is a pint-sized kitty filled with massive amounts of love, energy, and smarts. These teeny tiny extroverts thrive on attention from their family, meowing for all the pets and cuddles. Along with being sweet companions, they're also extremely playful and have an affinity for climbing tall cat trees and mental enrichment in the form of puzzle toys or clicker training.