Are parrots smarter than cats

Are Parrots Smarter Than Cats? (With Infographic)

While numerous studies measure the intelligence of cats and parrots individually, there are no studies directly comparing their intelligence.

Determining overall intelligence isn’t straightforward as it can’t be simply defined by solving a single problem or performing a specific task.

Parrots and cats are among the smartest animals and they both excel in different areas of intelligence. Animal intelligence is measured by how well they can be trained, their ability to remember, communication skills, and problem-solving skills.

Comparing Cats And Parrots In Different Areas Of Intelligence

Intelligence cannot be measured based on one single factor. Animals show intelligence in various ways. There are also biological and anatomical differences between parrots and cats which can lead to inaccurate results due to one’s advantage in a particular domain. That is why we are going to compare their intelligence on different factors that are commonly used as indicators for cognitive ability. 

Cortical Neurons

Cortical neurons are neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain. The number of cortical neurons in the brain is often considered one of the indicators of cognitive abilities since the cerebral cortex is responsible for higher-level functions such as learning, memory, and problem-solving. 

A higher count of cortical neurons suggests a greater capacity for information processing and complex thought.

A cat’s brain has about 250 million cortical neurons. In addition to that cats have cerebral cortices with similar lobes to humans. (Source: Wikipedia)

In comparison, parrots have 227 million to 3.14 billion neurons in their forebrains. The number of cortical neurons is said to be double when compared with primates of the same size.

Also, given the density of neurons in parrot brains, and the differences in brain sizes, it shows that parrots have more cognitive power in terms of neurons in the brain. 

Self Awareness 

The mirror test is used to determine whether an animal is self-aware or not. In this test, the animal is put in front of a mirror with a colored mark on its body. If the animal is able to recognize itself, it will inspect that mark on its body. 

While cats and parrots are considered to be intelligent, they both fail the mirror test. They are surprised by the look-alike they see in the mirror and interact with it like another member of their group. 

Parrots commonly react with friendly gestures, vocalizing, and touching beaks with the mirror image. They can some grow too attached to mirrors, which can be problematic. 

Cats also cannot recognize themselves in the mirror and view their reflection as another cat. As curious creatures, they try to figure out what’s going on there, but cannot seem to understand it. 


Cats are known for their excellent memory. Their short-term memory is quite remarkable and surprising. Short-term memory is a small amount of information stored in the brain that can remain retrievable for a short period of time. This type of memory usually fades way in under a minute in most animal species. 

Parrots have a short-term memory of about 12-15 seconds, which is not bad at all. But in the case of cats, this memory period exceeds even the most intelligent species on the planet.

According to Current Biology, cats can remember the size and location of an object placed between their front and hind legs for up to 10 minutes. 

Cats also have good long-term memory. They can remember past experiences for many years, which helps them make better decisions in the future. However, they tend to forget things as they get older and their memory capacity starts to decline. 

However, there have been no controlled scientific experiments that have studied long-term memory in parrots yet. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some of the longest-living species of parrots are able to remember their previous owners for tens of years. 


Both parrots and cats are highly trainable. A cat responds just as well to clicker training as a parrot does and can learn many different tricks. The tricks the feline companion can do versus a parrot differs widely, but they are capable of some complex tricks and have the ability to remember them. 

Communication Abilities

It is hard to say who has the edge in social and communication abilities between cats and parrots. Parrots have an extensive repertoire of vocalization and body language signals that they use to communicate. 

Cats on the other hand have their own set of vocal abilities and nuanced ways to speak to their group and humans. They have a wide collection of 21 distinct vocalizations that are used to convey different emotions. (source

This is a narrower range compared to the 39 vocalization types that parrots are capable of. Still, feline companions are not bad at communication by any stretch. 

According to a study from Cornell University, cats have learned to make more pleasant vocalizations over the years to get what they want from their human companions. This is not only a testament to cats’ cunningness but also their social capabilities. 


Since parrots and cats have the opportunity to live among humans, they are able to build a fairly good vocabulary of human words. 

The fact that both animals can learn to associate words and phrases with specific actions shows that they have cognitive power and can do more than just recognize sounds. it implies the capacity to link those sounds to relevant concepts or actions.

An average cat can understand between 20–50 human words. (source) Parrots also have a similar vocabulary of words that they understand. However, they can speak a lot more words but they don’t always understand the meaning. 

Problem-Solving Skills

Cats are known to be independent with natural instincts to find food. On the other hand, parrots employ foraging skills routinely in their natural habitat. This makes both the animals highly skilled and persistent at problem-solving.

When given a novel problem, cats seem to learn by observation and trial and error. They are also capable of tool use to solve the problem at hand. 

Due to their foraging nature, parrots have exceptional problem-solving ability. According to Behaviorworks, parrots show a clear understanding of cause and effect in their daily behavior, as they make numerous choices based on past experiences to predict outcomes. 

For example, they approach food bowls anticipating access to food, step onto human hands expecting to be taken out of their cages, and scream to get the attention of their favorite human beings.

However, the problem-solving ability of cats and parrots has been measured independently on different types of tasks. For this reason, it is why is it difficult to judge who has the better problem-solving skills between the two animals. 

Emotional Intelligence

Cats have been wrongly labeled as being cold and aloof. While in reality, they possess a high degree of emotional intelligence. A study from Oregon State University suggests that cats may act aloof and cold when they are insecure or with people they are not attached to. 

Cats are very emotionally sensitive towards their owners and the people they care about. Their ability to read human emotions may even be better than parrots since they have been domesticated far longer. 

However, parrots are also able to process emotions. They experience a variety of emotions including happiness, fear, anger, and grief. They are also able to understand emotional cues from their owners and provide comfort when they feel low. 

Which Cat Breeds Are Known For Their Intelligence?

The Siamese cat, Burmese cats, and Abyssinian cats are considered among the more intelligent cat breeds. Siamese cats have an inquisitive nature and are fast learners.

Burmese cats are often loved for their sociable nature and adaptability to different environments. Abyssinians are curious-natured and quick learners. They are very independent and highly intelligent.

Which Is The Smartest Parrot Species?

The African Grey Parrot is widely regarded as one of the smartest parrot species. Their exceptional cognitive abilities and impressive mimicry skills make them highly coveted by parrot enthusiasts.

African Greys are quick learners and can develop a large vocabulary. They also learn to associate words with objects, which gives them a deeper understanding.


Determining a clear winner is challenging as both cats and parrots exhibit impressive cognitive abilities. Each species excels in different aspects, and their intelligence is manifested in various ways. In most tests of intelligence, cats, and parrots are quite evenly matched.

Dorson Joseph
Dorson Joseph

I'm Dorson, a bird enthusiast who's had a lifelong fascination for the avian world. I am a parent to my beloved Senegal parrot and budgie, which has deepened my love for avian creatures and taught me a lot over the years. I co-run a bird store and care center with my friends, where we work with experienced professionals to care for our flock. Now, I find great joy in sharing my knowledge with others, hoping to assist fellow bird keepers and enthusiasts in understanding birds and helping them live happy lives.

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