Your cat is clever, perhaps even crafty, but how smart is she? According to scientists, it’s not your imagination. While your dog might have a higher social IQ than your cat, she can solve harder cognitive problems, if she feels like it.

Her brain is only 2 inches long, weighs as much as a pair of dice and makes up about 0.9 percent of her body mass. While it’s smaller than your dog’s, its structure and surface folding is 90 percent like yours. Your cerebral cortex, the region of your brain that controls thinking and problem-solving, contains 21 to 26 billion neurons or nerve cells. Your cat has 300 million neurons while your dog only has 160 million.

Basically, your cat is as smart as an 18-month-old child. She can experience primary emotions such as happiness, anger and fear. “We don’t think cats can experience secondary emotions like forgiveness or vengeance,” says Dr. Susan Krebsbach, owner of Creature Counseling in Oregon, Wis. “How many times have you heard, ‘He urinated outside of the litter box because he was mad at me because I was gone for the weekend?’”

While your cat can’t appreciate all the colors you do, she has more nerve cells in the visual areas of her brain than humans and most other mammals. That’s why she zooms across the house chasing a speck of dust that you can’t even see.

But her world isn’t black and white. “Because cats are more active in the early morning and the late evening when light levels are low, their retinas contain eight times more rods than humans,” Krebsbach says. “So cats are more sensitive to light in the blue-violet and yellow-green range.”

Besides having top-notch vision, your cat has object permanence, an understanding that things exist even when she can’t see, hear, touch or smell them. That is, out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.

Her short-term memory spans about 16 hours. In a laboratory setting (mad scientist optional), she can probably solve food puzzles from memory. But Rubik’s cubes or sudoku are out of the question. While her long-term memory is difficult to gauge, it’s probably impeccable, which you already know if your fur baby bops you in the head at 6 a.m. She has an internal clock and seems to “know” when it’s time for things to start happening. She’s good at picking up on other regular indicators of the time, like bird songs and sunset. No, she can’t read clocks. Change the time on them to see if it makes any difference. It won’t.

If cats are so smart, why aren’t there any drug, cadaver or explosives detective cats? “Well, remember, cats have a different skill set, but that doesn’t make them less intelligent. As a matter of fact, we don’t have any bomb-sniffing humans.” Krebsbach says. Dogs come when they’re called, but cats take a message and get back to you later.

Puzzle Toys
“During the daytime, cats are loving members of our families with scratches behind the ear and sleepy moments on our laps,” says Frederik Lindskov, product developer at Northmate. “During the night, however, their instincts tell them to go hunting for mice…around the neighborhood. The greatest challenge for any cat owner is to make a home that reflects both sides of this double nature.” Enter puzzle toys. They ease boredom, encourage mental stimulation and reduce destructive behaviors. Here are three of our favorites:

1. Northmate Catch Interactive Feeder
Designed to kickstart your kitty’s hunting instincts, Catch by Northmate controls portion size, slows eating and prevents vomiting. Dishwasher safe and suitable for indoor and outdoor use, this specialized bowl is made of hard, phthalate-free plastic and has four anti-slip feet. Scatter wet or dry food across the feeder. Then your cat can push or grab it out from between its smoothly rounded spikes.

2. Nina Ottosson Melon Madness Puzzle & Play
Your curious cat will love Nina Ottosson’s Melon Madness Puzzle & Play. Cats bat at the pegs and swivel the seeds to uncover six hidden treat compartments that hold up to a quarter cup of food. Each puzzle is made from food-safe materials and comes with a tips and tricks info sheet. With no removable parts, you’ll also never have to worry about losing play pieces again.

3. Trixie 5-in-1 Cat Activity Center
Engage your smarty cat’s five senses with Trixie’s Activity Fun Board. Developed by cat expert Helena Dbalý, it has four transparent globes that can be filled with food for your cat to fish out. Its peg and alley centers allow her to MacGyver kibble around non-pointy pins and wavy walls. Its tongue center is best for liquid treats and has slits that prevent your cat from using her paws. Last but not least, its tunnel center is ideal for stalking and swatting hidden toys and treats.


Whether you’re a cat connoisseur, a crazy cat lady in training or a dog person transitioning into a cat person, the Fox River Valley Cat Club (FRVCC) can help you publicly proclaim your “cat-mance” to the world.

The half-century-old organization has 15 to 20 members. Their motto: care, advocate, teach and share. For their Paws to Talk About Claws initiative, they’re teaming up with Almost Home Kitty Rescue in Neenah, Wisconsin to educate the public about the dangers of declawing, such as infection, tissue death and lameness.

“Honestly, there isn’t a lot of representation for cats,” says Olycia Larson, one of the club’s household cat exhibitors. “When we’re at the WBAY (Green Bay) and Winnebago Pet Expos, we get a lot of comments about, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that something existed for cat people like us.’”

Part of the American Cat Fanciers Association’s (ACFA) North Central region, the FRVCC organizes two cat shows every year. The first is a Household Pet show, held in the spring. “It’s a small show. This year, we only had 25 cats and several of them were 4-H based,” says Barb Steele, the President of the FRVCC. “The judges look at the household pet’s personality—not necessarily breed standards.” No points are awarded.

The second is an American Cat Fanciers’ Association Pedigree and Household Pet cat show. “We usually have cat owners from six or seven states show up and eight different judges from around the United States,” Steele says. “A couple of years ago, we had a couple from Florida when there was a hurricane. They had no power, but they still got up here to attend our show.”

While there aren’t any breeders in the club, half of the members show cats. Larson exhibited her barncat named Khan for four and a half years before retiring him. “The most challenging part of being an exhibitor is traveling. You have to figure out the logistics of having a cat in a hotel room because they don’t normally behave as well as a dog does,” she says. “We’ve had a few people have to take apart beds or get behind fixtures or furniture to get their cats out because they squeezed into those places.”

Becky Markvart has been a member of the FRVCC for three years and currently owns one Maine Coon and nine Ragdolls. “I showed my Maine Coon for two seasons. We call him Princess because he cries at every little thing,” she says. “He hates baths and being combed. He decided that he didn’t like being shown anymore. He’s very happy to be retired.”

Markvart started showing her Seal Bicolor Lynx Point Ragdoll, Duncan, at 6 months old in Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Minnesota. “You can only show kittens from four to eight months old. Duncan ended up being the sixth-best kitten in North America,” she says. Though he was diagnosed with seizures before his first birthday, last year he was the sixth-best alter in North America and the year before that, he was ninth-best. “That’s how I ended up meeting a lot of the AFCA cat people. I didn’t know much about all the different breeds,” she says. “You get to learn about what makes each breed different from the other and how to tell a good representation of the breed from a bad one.”

If you’re interested in joining the FRVCC, please call
(920)-979-3427, or visit


If your plugged-in, constantly on-the-go lifestyle has you on the fritz, or you’re cuddle-deprived because of your rental rules, fur-lergic partner or nomadic nature, Milwaukee’s first cat cafe, Sip & Purr, can fill that kitty hole in your soul.

Nestled by Black Cat Alley on Milwaukee’s East Side (2021 E. Ivanhoe Place), the cafe lets you rent time to hang out with cats, while sipping on Ruby’s Coffee Roasters and munching on vegan cheese from The Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The nearly 2,000-square-foot storefront has a full-service kitchen where Southwest burritos, hummus wraps and s’mores pies are all made in house. “We make our own vegan cinnamon roll with flavors that change with the seasons,” says founder and owner Katy McHugh.

Here, you can drink wine, beer or ‘cat cocktails’, with quirky names like Old Tom Cat and Meowmosa, while petting one of the 10 to 15 adoptable felines that are on the prowl in the cat lounge. They’re sourced by Lakeland Animal Shelter, which houses its cats in a cage-free environment. “They have a stress-free environment that really lets their personalities come out,” McHugh says.

In a typical shelter environment, many of these cats wouldn’t be adopted. There are fearful felines like Jordan who has a blank history and is petrified to socialize with other cats. “Instead of sending Jordan back to the shelter where we knew he didn’t have much chance of being adopted, we gave him his own cage in the back area. He loved it. We spent a lot of one-on-one time with him and gave him treats,” she says. “We left the door open where he could go and come as he pleased. By the time he was adopted, he was a lap cat.”

The cat cafe also rescues strays from Doha, Qatar, where there aren’t any shelters or humane societies. They’re spayed, neutered, chipped and vaccinated by Evenstar Charitable Organisation before they get the green light to make the 15-hour flight to the United States. “They’re fostered in my house for two weeks,” McHugh says.

Since Sip & Purr opened its doors on June 1, 2018, 174 cats have been adopted. McHugh, who has four rescue cats and two Bernese Mountain Dogs, worked as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines. She was inspired by a big yellow tabby named Gigi who sauntered over and curled up on her lap at a cafe in Amsterdam. “It had been a kind of stressful trip, and petting her released the anxiety. I told my husband, ‘I just want to open a place where people can drink wine and pet cats.'”

“We’ve done cat yoga every Sunday since we’ve opened, and they’ve been sold out since.” Led by a yogini from Yoga Squad Milwaukee, 10 students bend into cat-cow or prayer squat pose, while their yoga mats act as cat magnets. If adoptable cats like Marley or Zana aren’t stretching on your back, they’re either running on their exercise wheel or taking a break from all the attention while using their litter boxes in a private area.

“Anything with cats is more fun,” McHugh says. If you’re a bookworm or a movie buff, Sip & Purr has a monthly book club and a movie night where you can discuss novels like “Maid” by Stephanie Land or view “Weekend at Bernie’s” with other cat connoisseurs.” There’s also a singles mingle. “It was not my idea but it sold out. It’s a pretty good mix of guys and girls,” she says.

Sip & Purr also brought in Kitten Lady Hannah Shaw, a social media celebrity with 875,000 Instagram followers. There are several pop-up puppy and kitten adoption events already scheduled. The cat cafe has also started a Wednesday morning story time with cats geared toward younger kids. “Our cat lounge concierge wants to do a high tea with petit fours and cats,” McHugh says. While there’s a Drag Queen Bingo at The Wise in Madison, Wisconsin, the cat cafe has drag queen Sylvia Nyxx. She comes out to read bingo numbers and offer mini (sometimes cat-themed) prizes for the winners.

“We’ll be working to be represented at Milwaukee Pride’s Block Party and in its Parade,” McHugh says. “Singles, retirees, story time, drag queens. We want to have something for everybody.” All of the money from the events and cat lounge goes to caring for Sip & Purr’s cats. If you want to attend an event, you’ll have to sign up quickly. The cat cafe is busier than a three-legged cat in a dry sandbox. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday thru Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.