Home » Are Parrots Smarter Than Cats? [Intelligence Comparison]
are parrots more intelligent than cats?

Are Parrots Smarter Than Cats? [Intelligence Comparison]

(Last Updated On: November 3, 2022)

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

Parrots and cats have similar intelligence levels. Both have similar brain structures to humans, which gives parrots human-like qualities and enables them to mimic words and learn dialects.

Cats have advanced long-term and visual memory skills, so they can recall humans and understand when their owners are calling their names.

While cats and parrots have higher intelligence, both failed the mirror test for measuring self-awareness.

How Smart Are Parrots?

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

This genome is responsible for the following:

  • Memory
  • Language
  • Mimicking skills
  • Spatial awareness

Parrot brains are similar to humans because they’re so well developed, giving them human-like qualities.

Researchers at the University of Alberta discovered that parrots have medial spiriform nuclei, which is the brain region responsible for their advanced intelligence.

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

  • Imitate what they hear
  • Talk like humans
  • Communicate

Parrots’ brains are uniquely shaped to be asymmetrical. The left hemisphere is responsible for language, enabling parrots to communicate with their flocks, which enhances their chances of survival.

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.

do parrots get along with cats?

What IQ Does a Cat Have?

There’s no IQ test that cats can take, so there’s no 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 in the context of a cat’s intelligence levels.

Are Parrots More Intelligent Than Cats?

We tend to judge animals based on our intelligence when the two don’t compare. That’s why we must 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 have to use experiments and observe the outcomes.

The Animal Mirror Test

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

This test aims to determine 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:

  • The cat or parrot is sedated, ensuring they can’t pay attention to where markers are placed.
  • Researchers place brightly colored markers, such as stickers, on the animal’s body once it’s unconscious.
  • The mark is put on the head or somewhere 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:

Mimicry

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 in context. 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 your parrot, it’ll lift its wing to match your movement. This is why you can train your parrot to wave and bob its head, as well as many other fun tricks.

Dance

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.

Memory

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 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 are capable of becoming jealous and can recognize bonds between humans. They display many of the same emotions as us, including:

  • 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, such as 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:

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.

do cats like parrots?

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 to do so. 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 your cat’s ears twitch slightly or its head raises in recognition of your voice.

Memory

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

Dreams

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, such as stalking a rodent. 

Parrots and cats are clever in different ways, making it difficult to compare and contrast their abilities.