Pets: How smart is too smart?

Imagine that one day, your pet is suddenly noticeably more intelligent. For instance, perhaps your dog begins to understand English. She can’t speak, but she’s able to respond appropriately to anything you say, just as a mute adult human would. Or maybe your cat suddenly displays the ability to make basic representational drawings, as well as a five- or six-year-old kid.

Your first thought, of course, is “$$$:D$$$”. But you quickly discover that it’s not just your cat/dog/bandersnatch, but all such animals that now have this new ability.

What would you do? How would you feel? Would you be delighted that your pet is now even more interesting, or would you start to feel guilty about keeping such an intelligent creature captive? Would it make a difference if your pet expressed a desire to be free, or actively tried to escape? Would it depend on what the ability was, or the level of intelligence? Maybe you’d be fine with, say, tool use, but unnerved by the ability to communicate. Maybe rudimentary communication would be fine, as long as the pet has no grasp of higher concepts like time, death, or ethical questions. Maybe you’d welcome every level of intelligence, even exceeding your own. Or maybe you think animals are already too intelligent to keep as pets.

If you kept your pet, would you treat it any differently, or behave differently around it? Would you still let it see you naked, for example? Would you expect more from it, such as chores around the house, etc.? If your dog was suddenly functioning on the level of, say, Brian on Family Guy, you might well insist that he go get a job.

Me, I don’t know. At first, I thought I’d be uncomfortable keeping an intelligent animal as a pet, but then I considered my toddler, and realized, it’s kind of the same scenario in a lot of ways. If I’m taking good care of them, is that what’s most important? Or is that really just the paternalistic attitude often found in slave owners and colonizers?

What do you think?

I’d feel a lot more self-conscious about my dog watching me masturbate, that’s for sure.

I’d be glad my dog didn’t have thumbs. I used to have a Lab/Chow mix that figured out how to open doors. My house has levers for door handles instead of round knobs and she learned that if she stood on her hind legs and pushed down with her front paws, she could open the door. With a pair of thumbs, she might have been able to take over the world. :eek:

Why is he watching you now? Is he helping in some way? :dubious:

My cats are actually aliens with advanced technology and they communicate with me psychically. They say that they can’t control my thoughts, but I’m pretty sure they lie. The only reason I can say that is because I turned my office, where I am now, into a Faraday cage. Although once I post this and they see, it’s likely I will have no recollection of this post and it may even disappear off of the server.

anyway, the point is, that I already live with 2 highly intelligent “pets” and it’s really not all that bad.

It’s even more embarrassing than that. It’s a she.


My thoughts exactly.

I’d put his ass to work doin’ more than just barkin’ and killin’ mice! You’re gonna *earn *your dog chow tonight, buddy. Start diggin’ that trench I need dug.

It’d be like having a new foreign exchange student for life! Think about it-- students often understand more english than they can speak, customs and such take getting used to, they like certain different foods.

It’s nice, but I think I’d like it best when it was just family again.

M dog does that now. All pets doing it would be surprising though.

I like very intelligent dogs. Poodles are my breed. But, yeah, I think it would cause problems if they became a lot more intelligent than they are. Especially because most households probably wouldn’t give them enough attention or intellectual stimulation if they demanded more of it than normal dogs do now.

Look at captive parrots. Many parrots have a level of intelligence on par with toddlers, and that is why they are psychologically much more fragile than a lot of other pets.
They can very easily become emotionally disturbed if they don’t get enough attention, and most people aren’t really capable of giving them enough attention.
I think that we would have a massive problem with many emotionally disturbed dogs if they were more intelligent than they are. As it is, a lot of families can’t cope with the demands of a normal dog.

I guess I’d treat them like a 5 or 6 year old child. I’d reason with them when possible, and try to let them know what is best, but no I wouldn’t let them just wander off into the world on their own, because that would be dangerous for them if they had the mentality of a 5 or 6 year old.

I’d try to figure out a way to get her to communicate with me. Obviously she’d be able to answer yes or no questions, but I’d want to be able to hear her own thoughts and feelings. It’d be pretty interesting :slight_smile:

My elderly sheltie does that. He also taught my newer dog to open doors. :rolleyes:

My cat does not open doors. That’s too close to manual labor. Instead, she insists that I open them for her as a good slave human should. I read a book a while ago (can’t remember what it was or who wrote it, drat!) where cats were actually an alien species. Some members of this alien species got a dose of radiation that stifled their intellectual capabilities. So that’s how we got domestic cats. Made sense to me!

I’m not sure how I’d react to more intelligent pets. I guess the first thing I’d try to figure out is if they’re happy with the arrangement. Maybe they don’t want to be independent. I know expecting Her Highness, Lady Feline, to find a job would be unthinkable!

I do have a suspicion that pets having the intelligence of a small child is the worst possible scenario. Not smart enough to disobey me is great. Smart enough to understand why they should, if not obey me, at least cooperate enough to live in my house (e.g. not poop on the rug) would also work. However, being smart enough to oppose me without understanding why they do need to follow certain rules would be disaster!

My dog will not leave me alone when I get done eating until I show her both hands ‘empty’ and say “all gone” - then she will leave.

Tonite, she was in a rather boisterous conversation with the neighbor dogs - I open the door, she shuts up - I close the door, she starts barking agian.

She has learned the art of deception - I regularly check anything she’s chewing on - lately she will have her bone (allowed) and whatever she’s picked up (not allowed) - when she sees me coming over to check what shes chewing on, she switches to the bone and covers the other item up with a paw. (Item in question was a piece of hard candy found somewhere).

WHen she was young, she stole one of those flexible fed ex mailers - as she was running with it, it kept getting under her paws and tripping her - she stopped, folded the thing in half and picked it up at the fold and pranced off.

I say she’s plenty smart now -

But I still have video of her 15 minute fight with an oak leaf -

Once, I had a dream of my dog walking up to me, staring me in the eye and saying, “Did you know I could talk?”

I immediately woke up sweating and thought, “Thank God that was just a dream!” Hey, most of us have secrets we only share with our pets.

Any of you ever had pet rats? I have. Trust me, they’re smart enough now. Only their small size and lack of true opposable thumbs is stopping them from taking over the planet :eek:

I sometimes think all dogs and cats are as smart as the OP describes. They’re just also lazy and assholes.

But so friggin’ CUTE!