Most people don’t picture cats playing fetch or walking on a leash, but those activities aren’t out of the question for some of the smartest cat breeds in the world. Going against many typical cat stereotypes, the cats on this list are athletic, curious, and playful. They enjoy being around people and are often the center of attention.
With active minds and bodies, these cats often do best with a companion—another cat or even a dog—so when left alone they don’t get bored and mischievous. They also need a lot of attention. In fact, many of the cats on this list are also on our list of the most affectionate cat breeds. These cats are best suited to people and families that have time to spend with them and can satisfy their inquisitive natures.
Intrigued? Here’s our list of some of the smartest cat breeds.
The athletic and playful Abyssinian is one of the oldest cat breeds in the world. The origins of this cat are a bit of a mystery—some claim they came from ancient Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) while others claim ancient Egypt. Abyssinians are affectionate, but they won’t be satisfied sitting in your lap all day. They’re an active breed who genuinely enjoy playing fetch, jumping, and climbing. They can even be taught to walk on a leash.
2. Scottish Fold
Though they’re best known for their distinctive folded ears, not all Scottish Folds have folded ears. In fact, all Scottish Folds are born with straight ears, but the ears begin to fold in some cats at about 21 weeks. Those without a fold are known as “straights”.
The Scottish Fold was discovered accidentally in the ’60s by a Scottish farmer who noticed a kitten with folded ears on his neighbor’s farm. Intelligent, calm, playful, social, and adaptable, Scottish Folds enjoy puzzle games, playing fetch, and “watching” TV. Maru—of YouTube fame—is one of the most popular Scottish Folds.
Originally from Thailand (formerly Siam), Siamese cats are one of the oldest cat breeds and were cherished by royals and monks. They’re known as a handsome breed with their distinctive blue eyes and a light colored coat with darker patches on the ears, face, tail, and legs.
They loudly demand attention and may be mischievous if left to their own devices. Fans of the comedy podcast, My Favorite Murder, may be familiar with their sound since every episode ends with a loud meow from a Siamese cat.
Energetic, friendly, and vocal, Burmese cats thrive on attention and affection. They love a good lap but can also be a bit clingy and follow their owners everywhere. Burmese cats share ancestry with the Siamese and can live fairly long lives. The oldest known Burmese cat lived to be 24 years old. With a playful nature that lasts well into adulthood, they are often said to act a lot like dogs.
Known for their handsome leopard like coats, the first Bengals were created when an Asian Leopard Cat was bred with a domestic short-hair. Due to their Asian Leopard Cat ancestry, they’re immune to feline leukemia. Bengals are smart, high-energy cats that learn tricks quickly. They have dexterous paws and enjoy the water, making them fearsome hunters of any nearby marine animals.
6. Cornish Rex
A soft wavy coat with a long lean body and an exceptionally arched back give the Cornish Rex its distinctive look. The Cornish Rexes curly coat completely lacks an outer protective layer of guard hairs, making them very soft.
The Cornish Rex was first discovered in Cornwall England in the ’50s and was named for its uniquely wavy coat that resembled that of a rex rabbit. Though highly active cats, Cornish Rexes are also lap cats that thrive on attention. Many Cornish Rexes are trained as therapy cats as they thoroughly enjoy being touched and held.
What do you get when you mix a Burmese and a Siamese? A Tonkinese! Lap cats that will demand your time and affection, the Tonkinese enjoy being around people. They’re smart, social cats who love to talk and play games like fetch, tag, and hide-n-seek. The largest cat litter ever recorded was a Tonkinese litter of 19 cats, a large deviation from the usual five.
8. Turkish Van
Turkish Van cats love to jump and climb but are also quite clumsy, often knocking things off shelves. Hailing from Turkey’s Lake Van Region these cats are quite fond of water and enjoy swimming. Turkish Van Cats are recognized by their semi-long hair, white coat, and van pattern markings on the head and tail.
Due to their fondness for water they may want to go swimming in your tub, inspect the water in your toilet, and turn on your sink. Not ones to be picked up or cuddled, Turkish Van cats love to play and are very acrobatic, often catching items in mid-air and tumbling after toys.
If you’re up for the joy and challenge of having an intelligent kitty in your household, these breeds are some of the smartest around.