5 Smartest Cat Breeds To Adopt If You Want A Clever Companion

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It's a truth universally acknowledged that if you're looking for a smart pet, cats are a pretty good way to go. But figuring out the smartest cat breeds depends on how you define smarts. Cats aren't actually that obedient when it comes to standard intelligence tests. Professor Mary Bly explained to Purina, "Dogs come when they’re called; cats take a message and get back to you.” However, the breeds that are deemed to have the most intelligence when it comes to humans are the ones who are the most sociable and willing to learn — so if you're looking for a hyper-intelligent cat, you'll be recommended a breed that has a reputation for showing off its smarts. Many other cats may be perfectly intelligent, but have no inclination to demonstrate it at all.

My own domestic shorthair, who is a mixed-breed, can open doors and come when she's called, but only figured out her cat tree has a top level after five months. We've known that cats can learn through conditioning, like dogs, since the late 1800s, but new information about cat intelligence turns up regularly; for instance, Japanese researchers only recently found that domestic cats recognize their own names (though whether they respond is another thing). Some cats, regardless of breed, will be easy to train; others will lick their paws and go to sleep.

Be warned that if you want an intelligent cat, you'll likely adopt an animal that thinks for itself — and might outsmart you on the regular. Here are five of the smartest cat breeds.

1. Bengals

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These chatty beauties are among the top most intelligent cat breeds, according to research by Purina. Bengals have only existed in their current form since the 1980s, and are crosses between domestic cats and Asian Leopard Cats. Bengals are marked by their ability to learn tricks, though their own intelligence means they make the choice about whether to obey or not. They're also one of the sole recommended cat breeds for leash training. Bengals are hyper-interested in their environments and will do everything from switching off lights to opening windows and cupboards. They also love water and will play in baths and puddles whenever they get the chance.

If you want a Bengal, you should make sure you have earplugs; they're one of the most communicative cat breeds, and will meow to you about everything.

2. Abyssinian

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The Abyssinian cat is a beautiful animal — females are small and sleek, while males are huge and can look like orange lions — that pairs image with intelligence. The breed is thought to have emerged from Ethiopia, and made its way over as a pet to Europe in the late 1800s. Abyssinians are also known as "Aby-grabbies", according to Purina, because of their tendency to get hold of anything that grabs their interest, from toys to human appliances to wires.

Abyssinians are climbers and explorers, so it's wise to have space for them to move. They're also not necessarily lap cats, though many absolutely love human company.

3. Siamese

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The classic "intelligent cat," the Siamese slim-faced breed is generally blue-eyed and pale with large ears. It originally hails from Thailand, and is extremely affectionate and trainable, hence its reputation for smarts. Like Bengals, Siamese are incredibly chatty, with a particular vocalization known as the "Siamese wail" unique to the breed.

Siamese cats can also be leash-trained, and do extremely well with puzzle toys and other complex means of stimulation. They don't cope well with nothing to occupy their minds, and are excellent hunters who may completely wreck a space if they're bored.

4. Singapura

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Never heard of the Singapura? Prepare to fall in love; these beauties, also known as Puras, are extremely intelligent pocket rockets, and are relatively rare in the U.S. They were imported from Singapore in the 1970s after developing in the drains of the Singapore docks, and Purina calls them "pesky people cats"; their intelligence shows in their extroversion and love of people.

Their sociable nature means they're not massive fans of being left alone for hours, so other cats or cat-friendly dogs are good companions for them, or owners who are around a large portion of the day.

5. Burmese

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Burmese cats originated in Burma, now called Myanmar, and were brought to America in 1930, where they were selectively bred with Siamese cats, according to Purina. They have a Siamese temperament but a smaller, stockier build and wide eyes, and are one of the most adaptable cats, willing to learn a large amount of tricks. They're chatty, though quieter than Siamese cats, and are thought to be more emotionally intelligent than other cat breeds, which makes them very good pets; they 'read' their owners' moods and can give comfort when needed.

Burmese are also one of the longest-lived cat breeds; they can live for over 16 years. That means they'll be your companion for a long time.

Purebred cats can often end up in shelters because owners can't take care of them, and that's particularly the case for intelligent breeds, who can be demanding and require a lot of work. If you do want to adopt one of these breeds, check out shelters and specialty purebred rescues; it's possible that a very smart, very happy cat will be waiting for you.