We love cats and dogs equally and rarely compare the two, on anything, especially intelligence. But since there is always that question out there of which pet is smarter, we thought we’d explore it, just for fun.
Dog people are certain that dogs are smarter because they are so easily trained and perform tasks for people. Cat people maintain that cats are smarter because they are their own boss and refuse to do things they don’t want to do. So who’s smarter ¬– the obedient dog or the independent cat?
It’s nearly impossible to compare dogs and cats because they have different natures. Dogs are hard wired to be social creatures, and therefore have “social intelligence” says author and professor Jeffrey Masson, Ph.D., who takes issue with the notion of intelligence of any being. He believes each species has the intelligence it needs to live in its own world. It benefits dogs to interact and cooperate with others, because in the wild it takes a pack of dogs working together to bring down a larger animal for dinner. Masson says there is a certain prejudice for dog intelligence because their social nature is more like our nature.
Dog and Cat Intelligence is Based on Their Separate Natures
Dog people place a high value on the social nature of dogs, because it serves us so well. Dogs are willing to learn to do what we want them to do.
A cat’s nature is completely different. They are independent creatures. A cat doesn’t need the help of another cat to snag a rodent or bird, which is just enough for one cat’s tummy, so it doesn’t make sense for them to hunt together. Cat people place a high value on cats because their independence makes them so easy to live with and care for.
People judge dog intelligence based on training
If you’re basing intelligence on the ability to learn commands, the dog clearly wins. But it’s an unfair test because although cats can and do learn commands, and can even perform tricks, they are generally not all that interested. A human has to work harder at motivating a cat.
It’s no different with people. If you send two kids to dance class, one who dreams of becoming a dancer and the other who thinks dancing is ridiculous, the first will participate and learn the skills, while the other will sit and watch with disdain, or find something else to do to pass the time. So which kid is smarter? Obviously, this is no measure of intelligence.
People Judge Cat Intelligence Based on Independent Thinking
If you’re basing intelligence on the ability to be an independent thinker, doing as one chooses, whether or not it meets the approval of others, the cat clearly wins. But that too is an unfair test, because to a dog, being separated, physically, mentally or emotionally, from the people or dogs he considers his pack, tops his list of "Truly Awful Things", followed closely by doing something that does not please his owner.
Again, it’s the same with people. There are some who cherish their individuality, who are not concerned with what others think of them, and would be very happy living alone, going out for social interaction as it suits them. Others thrive on being with people and would go stir crazy alone, and therefore strive to fit in with the people they care about. Which type of person is smarter? Again, this is no measure of intelligence!
The truth is, dogs are much smarter at being dogs, and cats are way smarter at being cats.