Talking to Your Pets Is a Sign of Intelligence, Study Finds

Go ahead, chat with your cat!

Dog sitting across from girl on picnic table
Photo: Getty

Pets are great listeners. Sure, the language barrier could have something to do with it, but so does a pet’s devotion to the humans he or she loves.

Those who don’t have animals in their lives may see having a full conversation with your cat after work as a bit daffy. Well, they are missing out: A new study has found that speaking with your pet is a sign of your intelligence.

According to, Nicholas Epley, a behavioral science professor at the University of Chicago who helped carry out the study, found that conversing with pets is one of the many ways humans try to anthropomorphize them, a.k.a. a way we try to make our pets more like us.

This urge to assign animals human characteristics is our way of using the limits of our intelligence that separate us from other creatures.

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“Historically, anthropomorphizing has been treated as a sign of childishness or stupidity, but it’s actually a natural byproduct of the tendency that makes humans uniquely smart on this planet,” Epley said. “No other species has this tendency.”

Unfortunately, the study found as people get older, their conversations with their pets tend to ebb for fear of looking kooky. Don’t fear the judgement of others! Go ahead and ask your mom to put the cat on the phone so you can catch up — it’s just you exercising your brain. And don’t feel like you have to stop with your pets.

“We think our cat is acting ‘sassy;’ that the stock market is ‘angry’ or ‘working to recover;’ and we ask our car ‘why it won’t turn on’ and call it a ‘rickety old man’ when it starts to stall. This is just the byproduct of having an active, intelligent social cognition — of having a brain that is programmed to see and perceive minds,” Ebley added.

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