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What House-Pets Are the Smartest?

Whether you have a dog who  isn’t quite a star student like this or some genius cats like this, every pet owner has had moments where they’ve wondered just how much their pet understands. In reality, intelligence varies across individual members of any animal species, and also across breeds of the same species. (If anyone happens to have both a jack russel terrier and a golden retriever at home, they can attest to this last point). This methodology is by no means scientific, but here is a ranking of common house pets by intelligence level.

#5 Reptiles: Reptiles have long had a bad rap for being some of the least intelligent animals, but it’s time to clear their name! Long thought to rely mainly on instinct and seen as lazy, recent research has shown that reptiles are actually more intelligent than once thought. For example, monitor lizards have shown the ability to solve complicated puzzlesto reach food, and actually improve at the task over time, displaying memory. A+ job Mr. Lizard.

#4 Cats: Cats are known to be intelligent through exhibiting the ability to adapt to complicated environments, and even dreaming complex dreams. However, the often mercurial and stand-offish nature of cats makes them seem less trainable, and less intelligent by human standards than dogs. However, cats can indeed be trained to do tasks as complicated as dogs can perform, and their brain composition actually suggests that they may have greater capacity for learning than dogs.

#3 Dogs: It’s very evident to every dog owner that man’s best friend is extremely intelligent–and it’s not just from nature alone. Dogs have been bred to interact well with humans over centuries, and their train-ability today shows how intelligent dogs were favored in the past. Breeds such as the German shepherd and Border Collie are revered for their obedience and intelligence. One famous Border Collie, Chaser, has shown he understands over 1000 words. In general, dogs are about as smart as a 2 year old child.

#2 Pigs: Pigs are very intelligent, social, and emotional animals. Some people do keep pigs as house pets, and they find them to be affectionate and fast learning. Extensive research has been done into pig smarts, and the findings are surprising. For example, one study by Michael Mendel at Bristol University in the UK found that pigs are actually capable of deceiving one another, a sign of high intelligence. Additionally, pigs are even capable of understanding mirrors!

#1 Birds: If someone calls you bird-brained, it usually means they think you’re dumb–but that’s a total misunderstanding. Some types of bird are extremely smart. Crows, while not often a house pet, are known to make tools, and may even operate crow vending machines someday! The african grey parrot can mimic human speech, and can build an impressive vocabulary. In some cases, these birds can even show that they associate meaning with many of the words in their vocabulary.

And that’s a wrap. From the star students to the pets that could use a little extra tutoring, they’re all special. No matter what pet you have at home, they don’t have to be smart to deserve a treat or be loved by you!

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