Frontal lobes only 3.5 percent of a cat’s brain

All cats’ frontal lobes are 3.5 percent of the brain compared with dogs’ at 7 percent and we humans at a whopping 29 percent. I learned this from the wonderful book I’m reading, Animals Make Us Human. Written by the champion of animals, Dr. Temple Grandin, the book’s chapters are divided into dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and other poultry, wildlife and zoos. I started reading about cats first because I live with the mysterious little beauty in the picture whose name is Autumn.

Dr. Grandin explains a lot of mysteries I’ve wondered about in Autumn and all the cats I ever owned, and indeed a lot of mysteries remain to be solved.

Just because a cat’s frontal lobes are a smaller part of the brain, does not mean they are stupid. Indeed, they are, according to research veterinarian Dr. Karen Overall, who investigates behavioral medicine, “. . . really bright, inherently cognitive individuals. [People] forget the most critical need [for cats] which to me is the intellectual one. I think we haven’t given cats or dogs the credit they deserve for their cognitive capabilities. I think we’ve got an epidemic of understimulated cats whose intellectual needs aren’t being met.” “Intellectual needs”, indeed!

On the basis of what Drs. Grandin and Overall say about cats’ needs to be stimulated, I performed a simple, unscientific, stimulation experiment today. I took all Autumn’s toys away except for his well-loved foil ball which he hasn’t been interested in for a long time. I put it on a table where it usually isn’t found. After he’d eaten his breakfast, he found it immediately on his tour of his house, and later when I was at the computer, he meowed several times from down on the floor. There he was , the ball in his mouth for me to throw, a game he used to play with me when he was a kitten. He played fetch down the long upstairs hall at my house even batting it into another room at one point, until I had to go back to the demanding computer. A happy little experience for Autumn and for me thanks to Dr. Grandin’s book.

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