Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a male mackerel (striped) tabby named Charlie. He walks twice a day on a harness and leash, he tells me when he wants to eat and go out by touching the door knob. When he gets kicked out of our bedroom at night, he continues to try to turn the door knob to get back in. He is a very small tabby cat with intelligence far superior to his size. Are tabbies typically this intelligent? I heard someone say it might have something to do with the amount of black in their mouths. Is this true?
Thomas: Well, of course! As a tabby cat, I can tell you that tabbies are far superior in intelligence when compared to other cats!
Bella: Oh, stop it, Thomas! You know black cats like me are the smartest of all!
Thomas: Actually, Cynthia, intelligence in cats is no more determined by our fur color than your intelligence is determined by your hair color.
Bella: So, what does determine intelligence? The intelligence of the parents, for one thing, and good nutrition both while inside the mother and in young kittenhood while the brain is developing.
Thomas: We’re quite certain that catnip use during pregnancy does not influence feline intelligence, so if you’re fostering a pregnant kitty, don’t be shy about giving her a bit of the ‘nip!
Bella: Intellectual stimulation during kittenhood can encourage brain development, so we encourage interactive play and some toys like puzzle feeders.
Thomas: We’ve also never heard of any correlation between the amount of black pigment in a cat’s mouth and intelligence.
Bella: Put simply, most humans are not foolish enough to believe that there’s any correlation between humans’ appearance and their intelligence level. The same thing is true of cats.
Thomas: There’s a philosophy phrase, correlation does not equal causation. What that means is, you may know a tabby cat who is exceptionally smart, but that does not mean the tabby coloration caused the intelligence, or vice versa.
Bella: The genes that code for intelligence have very little if any association with the genes that code for pigmentation of the skin and fur.
Thomas: So although I’d like to think that I’m exceptionally smart, the only thing my tabby and white coloration does for me is to make me strikingly handsome.
Bella: And humble, too.
Thomas: What about you other readers? Do you have any experience with exceptionally intelligent cats or families of cats? Do you know enough about genetics to comment on any connection between appearance and intelligence in cats? Tell us about it, and.
Bella: Oh, and tell us about the smartest — or the dumbest — cat you ever met!