Are any breeds of domestic cat bred primarily for their intelligence? If so, which breed(s)?

By "Intelligence", I mean problem solving ability. This would include such things as the cat attempting to open doors using the handle where other cats would simply miaow to be let through, or turning lights on/off, or learning by example by watching another cat or human perform a task.

By "primarily", I mean that after consideration of the health of the kittens, the parents are selected first for their intelligence and their appearance is only considered after that, unless it is a matter of the breed's health.

I am aware that breeds like Abyssinians, Bengals and Siamese are known for their intelligence, but is the intelligence of any of these or other reputedly intelligent breeds accidental, secondary to that of appearance, or primarily selected for?

  • To clarify, I don't care about trainability, I am just interested if anyone has tried to breed a lineage of smart cats. If that makes them more or less trainable or more of a nuisance to live with, that's irrelevant, the increased intelligence in question is for the cats' benefit, not ours as far as I am concerned, the purpose for which intelligence is bred for is irrelevant.
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 12, 2018 at 23:29

3 Answers 3


In short, no. Cat breeds are bred primarily based on looks, then health, then mental stability. Intelligence doesn't come into the picture at all. That being said, the Siamese/Oriental class seems to be generally the most intelligent, although they aren't specifically bred to be smart -- they just happen to be.

On the other hand, intelligence as you're describing it is more based on training/experience (it is possible to train cats, you just have to understand their needs/instincts and work with them instead of just giving a command and demanding for them to comply without question), so it'd be logical to presume that a regular stray who has to problem solve to get every meal would be a lot more intelligent than a pampered cat who's been living the whole live in a protected, controlled environment.

Anecdotally, I've had a lot of cats in my life, mostly moggies, but I'd also been breeding Siberians for a couple years and took part in quite a few cat shows, including as a steward/judge assistant, so I have a bit of experience with purebred cats, too. And the most intelligent cats I've ever had to deal with were moggies who used to be strays. Which is not as fun is it might sound, especially if you can't lock a room from a cat even for a little while because said cat easily opens door bolts. Or when a cat regularly raids your fridge no matter what you do to protect it.

  • 1
    Can confirm your "intelligent stray" idea. Our current 3 cats are all ex-strays, and they are incredibly practical and clever compared to house cats. Because we now run the AC at night, one of them who really dislikes fans/ACs keeps stealing clothes off the rack to use as a blanket. He prefers clothes we just took off as they're still warm. He's also shown remarkable aptitude in hiding out of sight so I don't see him and can't stop him from running past me when I open the front door.
    – Flater
    Aug 8, 2018 at 13:31

To the contrary, breeding for temperament (a common goal) clearly reduces intelligence. Wild felids (and canines) have larger brains than closely related domestic ones, and they show more signs of intelligence as well. This is not surprising since wild cats need to work much harder to survive than a pampered pet or even feral cat.

Bengals, Savannahs and other hybrid breeds are highly intelligent precisely because they bring back wild genes that had previously been bred out of domestic cats. Moreover, the continued one-way flow of genes from the wild into these breeds (unlike the fixed gene pools of non-hybrid breeds) confounds any attempt, intentional or not, to breed them back out again. Even breeding for looks, which is a much higher priority for these breeds than temperament, is quite difficult for the same reason.


Cats are notoriously hard to train. Not because they lack the cognitive ability, but because they tend to not seek out social contact.

A dog wants your attention, and it is therefore naturally attuned to reading your response. While that is mostly so it can figure out how to get even more attention from you, humans have learned to apply negative feedback to steer the dog away from bad behavior as well.

However, a cat doesn't have the initial desire to interact with you, and therefore has not learned to take feedback (at least not the same way dogs have).

Note: I am oversimplifying. There are apathetic dogs, and there are cats who do seek contact. But the point remains that cats don't have an innate desire to interact with humans and learn from it.

And because of that, it makes little sense to breed cats specifically for their problem-solving ability, simply because we can't reasonably expect to utilize it anyway.

  • 3
    This doesn't answer the question. It is irrelevant to my question if humans can directly benefit from having a smarter cat, I just want to know if any breed of cat is bred to be smart, to be able to open doors that defeat other cats, or keep trying different ways to get something it wants, where other cats might lose interest.
    – Monty Wild
    Aug 7, 2018 at 12:55
  • @MontyWild: Why would humans breed a cat to be smart if humans can't benefit a cat being smart? I can understand the relevance of asking whether such a cat exists, but you're specifically asking if someone is breeding them. No one will breed a particular trait in an animal if the trait doesn't benefit the breeder. It's impossible for me to conclusively prove a negative, so I am simply reframing your question to highlight that it's illogical (or at least counterintuitive) to expect that people breed a particular trait if people don't benefit from said trait..
    – Flater
    Aug 7, 2018 at 12:57
  • People do breed cats as companions. A smart, playful cat is a more fun companion. Aug 7, 2018 at 17:19

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