In my opinion how cats learn is very different than dogs. Designers of animal IQ tests and dog owners maintained that cat’s score badly compared to dogs on the IQ test.
I do not think this was a completely fair test to the feline. Because such results were simply reflections of how trainable dogs can be measured against the non-responsive nature of cats in the same situations.
This in turn arises from the biological disposition within dogs to form a group or pack. This behavior is not relevant to the cats more solitary hunting nature where it has to learn to make individual evaluations about a situation and then act on them.
An individual dog is a cog in a machine while the cat is the entire machine. In addition because of their more solitary lifestyles cats are not as concerned with a pecking order in their social organization as dogs.
This means they do not have the need to be submissive or in other words they do not need to learn to be obedient. They learn things that they need to improve their own lives.
Our cat Riley pictured below learned to hold her plate down with her paw. She got tired of chasing the paper plate across the floor with every lick of wet food. She researched and developed the solution on her own. Our other cat watched her do it and applied the same technique.
Why Cats Learn Things
When you understand the true nature of the feline, and how it lives and survives, it becomes clear that it’s a waist of time for a cat to receive instructions in what to do.
Cats simply don’t have a suitable mechanism for learning in this way. They are self-motivated learners. Only when it’s in the cat’s best interest to accomplish a task, will they learn it quickly.
In fact, they can accomplish tricks, similar to those of dogs like opening door latches, following elaborate routes to gain access, opening cabinet doors and so on.
Most mammals have lengthy periods of development after birth. Kittens are born at an early stage of development compared to some other mammals, so they have a relatively long learning period.
However, the feline instincts may be affected by environmental influences. Most significantly, this alteration of instinctive behavior has enabled cats to integrate with each other and other animals.
Even though the feline is a relatively solitary animal they have analyzed the situation and found the benefits can outweigh the negatives.
This is why we can keep them as pets in homes with many different species of animals. Cat owners and feline caregivers can change how a pet learns something by showing them whats in it for them.
Lets just touch on something important about instincts and the territory nature of the feline. A good example of how cat instincts have been altered by environmental conditions is its territorial behavior.
It use to be a popular belief that cats patrolled the boundaries of their territory.
Although this still has merit a much more popular theory today is the idea that cats spend more time in areas in which they are confident within their territorial boundaries.
This might suggest that the instinctual behavior has been altered over time by the current conditions. The new set of instincts in modern cats is all about staying in areas in which you feel more confident.
Travel more if you need more food. Although instincts might provide a framework for such behavior the modern cat has adapted to changing parameters. This is how cats learn to be more flexible about their territory and environment.