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are parrots more intelligent than cats?

Are Parrots Smarter Than Cats?

(Last Updated On: September 22, 2023)

Parrots and cats are among the world’s smartest animals. Unfortunately, testing their cognitive abilities isn’t easy because they show their intelligence differently.

Parrots and cats have comparable intelligence levels. Psittacines (parrot family members) have similar brain structures to humans, giving them human-like qualities and enabling them to mimic words.

Cats have excellent long-term and visual memory skills, recalling trusted humans and about 30-40 words. That’s why they (usually) respond when owners call their names.

While cats and parrots have high intelligence, both failed the mirror test (a measure of self-awareness).

How Smart Are Parrots?

Parrots are among the most intelligent bird species. According to PLOS ONE, parrots have a genome sequence that’s more developed than other birds.

The genome is responsible for the following:

  • Memory.
  • Language.
  • Mimicking skills.
  • Spatial awareness.

Researchers at the University of Alberta discovered that parrots have medial spiriform nuclei, the part of the brain responsible for their advanced cognition.

This neural circuit is similar to humans and primates. It connects the cortex to the cerebellum, enabling parrots to do the following:

Parrots’ brains are asymmetrical. The left hemisphere is responsible for language, enabling parrots to communicate with their flocks and enhance their survival chances.

How Smart Are Cats?

Cats have brain structures that are 90% similar to humans.

Their cerebral cortex, which is responsible for processing cognitive information, is also more complex and contains more neurons (300 million) than many other animals. They also have more nerve cells in the visual parts of the brain.

Cats can solve puzzles and have good short and long-term memories.

Animal Cognition details how researchers found that cats can recognize their owners’ names but choose to ignore them. This means that cats could be more intelligent than we think.

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What IQ Does a Cat Have?

No test can determine cats’ average IQ score.

However, within Jerison’s encephalization quotient, which measures brain size compared to body mass, cats measure between 1 and 1.71 compared to a human value of 7.44 to 7.8.

This is considered small relative to cats’ intelligence.

Are Parrots More Intelligent Than Cats?

We judge animals based on our intelligence when they don’t compare. That’s why we subjectively analyze cats’ and parrots’ intelligence to determine which animal is smarter. 

Both parrots and cats are considered intelligent in their own right. However, because there are few ways to put animal intelligence to the test, we must use experiments and observe the outcomes.

The Animal Mirror Test

The mirror test effectively measures an animal’s self-awareness levels, which indicates intelligence.

This test determines whether animals can identify their reflection in a mirror. Unfortunately, most animals fail the test because they think they’re looking at another animal, not their reflection.

To carry out the test, do the following:

  • The cat or parrot is sedated, ensuring they can’t tell where markers are placed.
  • Researchers place brightly colored markers, such as stickers, on the body once it’s unconscious.
  • The mark is put on the head or where the animal can only see it with a mirror.
  • Once the animal wakes up, it’s set in front of a mirror while the researchers monitor its reaction.

Researchers observe whether the cat or parrot sees its reflection, touches the mark, and investigates it.

Most cats reacted aggressively or not at all, while parrots tended to become angry and bite the mirror to fight their reflection. So far, no cats or parrots have passed the mirror test.

Even African grey parrots, considered the most intelligent parrot species, haven’t passed it. This suggests that cats and parrots have the same number of neural passageways and similar intelligence levels.

How Do Parrots Show Intelligence?

Parrots show their intellect in several ways, with these behaviors and abilities highlighting just how smart they are. These traits include:


Parrots, especially African grey parrots, have excellent mimicking abilities.

Owners who speak to parrots or leave on the TV or radio find that their parrots say words. While they don’t understand what they’re saying, this ability is a testament to their mimicking skills.

Body Associations

Parrots have the cognitive ability to associate human body parts with their limbs.

For example, if you lift your arm in front of the parrot, it’ll lift its wing to match your movement. This is why you can train the parrot to wave and bob its head and perform other fun tricks.


Many parrots love to dance. They don’t just do this because of a primal instinct – they do it for fun.

They can also process hearing music, allowing them to move to music spontaneously. Parrots dance unprompted and by seeing other birds dancing.


Parrots can remember objects and paths, which allows them to navigate in the wild or find hidden toys at the end of a maze.

They can also remember specific features. For example, parrots know if their owners have long hair. They can learn up to 100 words because their long-term memory skills are better than those of other animals.

Learn Dialects and Languages

Wild parrots develop unique calls that they use to communicate with their flock.

These calls change whenever they join new groups, allowing them to find each other. When they join a group, they learn the flock’s language to “talk” to one another.

In captivity, parrots assign unique calls to their owners, which they use to find you and check how you are.

Show Emotions

Parrots can become jealous and can recognize bonds between humans. They display many of the same emotions as us, including the following:

  • Anger.
  • Sadness.
  • Excitement.
  • Happiness.
  • Grief.
  • Boredom.

They also display their emotions with sounds and vocalizations, such as purring, chattering, and singing.

Solve Puzzles

Parrots can solve puzzles, like unlocking puzzle boxes and navigational games. Many parrots are also clever enough to break out of their cages.

How Do Cats Show Intelligence?

Cats show their intelligence through a range of subtle behaviors, such as the following:

Understand Owners

As mentioned, cats can recognize their owners when they call out their names.

This stems from kittenhood, as mother cats chirp and meow to communicate with their young. When cats leave their mothers, their owners take on the mother’s position.

So, they respond to human voices in the same way.

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Display Social Behaviors

Cats engage in socially complex behaviors.

Feral cats develop matriarchal social structures in small groups. Adult female cats form lineages with other female felines, securing resources and caring for kittens.

Hierarchies also develop amongst tame, domesticated cats. For example, established cats pick the best sleeping spots, while newer, more submissive cats find somewhere else to sit.

Learn Tricks

Cats are smart enough to learn tricks with clickers or positive reinforcement training. They can be taught to do the following things on command:

  • Give paws.
  • Fetch.
  • Sit and stay.
  • High-five.
  • Walk on a leash.

The only thing that’ll stop cats from doing tricks is their willingness. If they refuse to learn tricks, it’s more likely because they’re disinterested.

Unwillingness for Tasks

Some owners believe that a cat’s unwillingness to undergo tasks and participate in studies is a sign of intelligence as it shows they have free will and command over what they do or don’t do.

However, just because they don’t always react to sounds or commands doesn’t mean they don’t understand them. You’ll see the cat’s ears twitch slightly or its head raise in recognition of your voice.


Cats have excellent long-term memories, which are essential to their survival. They can remember where to find food, shelter, and water, their way home, and how to avoid danger.

Felines also have advanced visual memory skills, enabling them to recognize their owners and step over obstacles within familiar territory.


Cats dream in a similar way to humans. When they sleep, their paws, ears, and eyes twitch, and they sometimes make vocalizations in response to what they’re dreaming about.

Researchers believe they dream about things that have gone on in the past, like stalking a rodent. 

Parrots and cats are clever in different ways, making comparing and contrasting their abilities difficult.