A common idea in science fiction is dumb animals -- cats, dogs, pigs, dolphins, etc. -- evolving so that they have conceptual consciousness. I don't think it will ever happen in reality.
First, it would be cruel if an animal like a cat had concepts. They don't have opposable thumbs. They can't manipulate tools. They could use a computer keyboard only laboriously, tapping out letters with their two front paws. Even then, they would constantly be hitting the wrong keys. I do it often enough, and I have these superior fingers.
Worse, they can't talk. It would be difficult for them to learn concepts and even more difficult to communicate concepts.
And cats spend a lot of time grooming themselves. Licking themselves. How fast would that get old if they had half a brain? They would bore of it, or be embarrassed by it, and stop doing it. Then they would begin to stink.
Every aspect of a cat's life, from purring when petted to eating food from a bowl would be a source of humiliation to a creature with intelligence.
It would be worse for dolphins, who must live in water. Try reading a newspaper under water. To be condemned to an existence of endless swimming and eating live fish and making idiotic noises -- it would be a cruel fate to wish on a creature that could think.
Humans would be at a terrible disadvantage without the thumb. Which raises the question: How is it that humans evolved conveniently with conceptual consciousness AND the ability to speak words AND opposable thumbs? Is it a coincidence? Is it an argument for God? Wouldn't such perfection of form demand a designer?
I have a wild-ass guess as to why humans evolved with thumb, speech and a mind. I won't honor my guess by calling it a theory or a hypothesis; I won't pretend to be a scientist.
My guess is that the thumb and speech came first and then accelerated the evolution of consciousness. The pre-human creatures with thumbs would have been able to use their thumbs in countless ways with crude tools. Existence with a thumb would have rewarded the most intelligent of these humanoids. The one who first figured out he could pick up a rock and dash out the brains of his neighbor would have survived longer and had more children.
The ability to speak would also have accelerated the evolution of consciousness, as these pre-humans would have been able to give their concepts the auditory symbols of language. Without the ability to speak words, their minds would have remained in a state of chaos and percepts. Later they would write down their language with the help of those invaluable thumbs.
So that is why dumb animals with paws, hooves or flippers will never evolve conceptual consciousness. Without a thumb and speech, intelligence has no survival value.