• January 5th, 2022
    Written by: Kimberly

    We depend on dogs to accomplish all kinds of tasks, from finding lost hikers in miles of wilderness to serving as guide dogs. Not to mention, many dog owners swear their dog knows what they’re thinking. But if you have ever interacted with a cat, you cannot deny that knowing gleam in their eye before they knock something off the counter or tempt you to come pet them. While dogs may act more intelligent, cats frequently seem like they know more than even you do.

    So which animal is smarter? The trainable dog or the cat with its sharp hunting instincts? Although people have lived with cats and dogs for dozens of years, the research into animal intelligence is still rather new and scientists do not have a definitive answer yet. Instead, we can put results from some of the latest studies together to make a guess at which animal is smarter.

    Dogs *May* Be Smarter - But it Depends On How You Measure It

    Like any study, these results are general. You may have a trained cat that willingly does tricks or a dog that just cannot seem to figure it out. But in general, some factors point to dogs having greater intelligence in some key areas.

    First, dogs have more neurons in their brains. These are the cells that send and process information, and dogs have about twice as many as cats. This is not just because many dogs’ brains are physically larger either. Dogs simply have more neurons in every square inch of their brains.

    Researchers have also done testing on animal behaviors. Animal scientists divide intelligence into a few key categories. Here, cats and dogs are more similar in intelligence:

    • Social Intelligence - In the context of pets, social intelligence is how an animal relates to humans. Perhaps surprisingly, both cats and dogs test high in this category. They can distinguish their names, often prefer people over inanimate objects, and will return to people who previously gave them attention.
    • Problem Solving - Cats tend to be better problem solvers than dogs. Part of this is due to dog breeding over the past years, as breeders emphasized trainability over the problem solving capabilities of dogs in the wild. 
    • Concept Recognition - This is the process of making generalizations after an experience. For instance, your dog may recognize which toys are his, and which toys are your kids'. Some dogs have also learned dozens of commands or words. There is less research on cats, but anecdotal evidence suggests cats have some concept formation abilities.

    But before dog owners start bragging about their pet’s intelligence, it is important to remember that dogs and cats evolved for very different purposes and trying to compare them is like trying to compare you with a cat or dog. The cat is great at hunting, but you and the dog are not. You may be good at math, while your cat and dog cannot even do basic addition.

    In the end, while your dog may have more neurons, both animals have the skills they need to be loving pets and a part of your family, and the studies we have on intelligence are questionable at best. Both animals are brilliant, and any discussion of which one is smarter is only going to be a guess.