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Who's Smarter: Cats or Dogs?

Donna has been a cat parent and writer for many years and her passion is to share her love for cats with others.


Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?

The age-old debate that everyone wants to know the answer to who is smarter, cats or dogs? Dog lovers think dogs are smarter than cats, and cat lovers think felines are smarter than dogs.

Different Skill Sets

Cats have different skill sets than dogs do but that doesn't mean they're not as intelligent. We know that dogs were domesticated long before cats were, and dogs are easier to train and are sociable more than cats.

Who is smarter—cats or dogs?

Who is smarter—cats or dogs?

Cats and Scientific Testing

Scientists have a challenging time testing how smart cats truly are because it's not within the cat's nature to cooperate or obey commands, especially during testing. Scientists have conducted intelligence testing in the cats' own home environment . . . but the cats didn't cooperate! The results were inconclusive because the cats grew tired of all the testing and therefore, just walked away!

How to Test a Cat's Intelligence

  1. First, show your cat one of her toys and hide it behind a thick piece of paper or another object of your choice.
  2. Second, wait a few minutes and watch what she does.
  3. Does she realize her toy is behind the paper and does she look for it and find it?

If she finds it, scientists say that she is as smart as an 18-month-old child! That's incredible!

Common Traits Between Cats and Dogs

  • Seeking out human interaction and love and affection.
  • Both strive for bonding and closeness with their humans.
  • They need to feel safe and loved.

Cats and dogs love their humans, and they learn this when they're first brought home due to, they are fed, nurtured, loved, and made to be as comfortable as possible.

This helps both cats and dogs to associate all aspects of their care from their humans and therefore, the bonds are sealed for life!

My human bothers me so bad, it's like eating a bird's feet then hopping like a rabbit.

My human bothers me so bad, it's like eating a bird's feet then hopping like a rabbit.

Cats Have Strong Cognitive Decision-Making Skills

Felines are very impatient and have strong cognitive decision-making skills; they grow bored easily. For instance, they will play with you until they become bored and then they walk away to find something else that catches their fancy!

According to

David Grimm writes in Slate that two leading animal researchers with whom he has spoken about cat intelligence had great difficulty working with their subjects because cats simply wouldn't participate in the experiments or follow instructions. One leading animal researcher Dr. Ádám Miklósi went to the cat's homes to work with them because the cats were too uncooperative in his lab.

A cat's brain

A cat's brain

Researchers at Vanderbilt University

Regarding Neurons:

  • Dogs have 530 million neurons
  • Cats have 250 million neurons
  • Humans have sixteen billion!

According to

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Last year, a supercomputer built by IBM successfully simulated the brain of a cat, requiring 25,000 processors. (IBM is trying to simulate the human brain, which will take 880,000 processors and about seven more years of work.)

Felines Respond to Human Emotions

Studies show felines respond to human emotions, distinguish between voice commands, and solve simple food puzzles! Dogs look to their humans for help if they can't solve the problem, while cats try until they get it! Thus, dogs look to their human parents for help more than cats do!

Researchers in Japan

Cats respond to their pet parent's facial expressions, and they discern which food bowl they ate out of compared to the bowls they haven't touched (all this in 15-minute intervals!)

According to Dr. Lorie Houston and PetMD:

The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and decision making. Cats have the ability to store both long-term and short-term memories. Memory is important because it shapes the ability to learn. Kittens learn survival skills such as hunting and grooming from observing and then copying their mother. They also learn social skills from playing with their littermates. For cats, learning is a matter of practice makes perfect.

Territorial Traits

They both have distinctive territorial traits and it's written in their genetic code passed down from generation to generation.

Dogs are great protectors—if someone broke into your house and you have a dog, albeit he will defend you with his life. Cats, on the other hand, will save themselves, run for cover, and hide until the intruder leaves.

Cats instinctively know how to survive in the wild.

Cats instinctively know how to survive in the wild.

Is There Really a Difference?

They both have distinctive territorial traits written in their genetic code passed down from generation to generation.

  • Dogs need to be taken outside to do their business several times a day (depending on the weather, this can be a pain), unlike cats who are trained to use the litter box.
  • Cats bathe themselves and keep themselves exceptionally clean whereas dogs don't.
  • Dogs need baths because they just don't clean themselves.

More Differences

  • A cat fends for itself because it is not a pack animal like dogs who oftentimes depend on the pack for hunting food in the wild.
  • While most cats hunt by themselves, some cats (such as lionesses in the wild) strategically hunt together to capture and kill their prey. They are responsible for the entire pride's food, including the lion king[s] of the pack, junior males, and the cubs.
  • Dogs are instinctively social animals and run-in packs in the wild to increase their chances of making a kill when they hunt.

It Doesn't Matter to Cats or Dogs

It's apparent that dogs love their owners—not only are they happy to greet you when you come home, but they show you by wagging their tails and running to the door. Cats, on the other hand, don't even budge when you walk through the door, they just keep napping or just yawn as they look at you like, "Oh, your home!"

Dogs are more verbal—they can learn tricks and they love being your traveling companion; they especially love everyone that comes over for a visit. While cats, on the other hand, run and hide until your company leaves unless, of course, she takes to someone. No matter what, cats and dogs are a special addition to any family!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Donna Rayne


Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on January 15, 2020:

Thank you very much, Mel, glad you enjoyed it!

Blessings always,

Donna Rayne

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 14, 2020:

The older I get, the more I appreciate cats. Any affection a cat gives you is the real deal because, like you say, cats are very independent. Dogs, on the other hand, are kind of sycophantic, working the boss for brownie points. Entertaining article.

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