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Dogs vs. cats is a common debate that people love to discuss. One of the areas that always gets considered is intelligence. When it comes to dog intelligence vs. cat intelligence there is a lot to consider. I put a list together to explore the reasons that cats could be considered smarter than dogs. Check out the list and enjoy!
1. Do Cats Have Good Brains?
One of the most amazing things about a cat’s brain is its number of neurons in the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex in a cat’s brain contains almost DOUBLE the number of neurons than a dog’s brain – 300 million VS 160 million.
In the brain game, it’s not the size of the brain that counts, but the brain structure and surface folds that have more impact.
Believe it or not, the surface folding and structure of a cat’s brain have a 90% similarity to that of humans! So a cat’s brain is more similar to ours than a dog’s, and there’s more!
The cerebral cortex is the area of the brain used for processing cognitive information. This part of the brain in cats is far greater and more complex than that of dogs. Cats have more nerve endings in their visual areas of the brain (part of the cerebral cortex) than human beings do!
2. Cat Social Structure
The myth the cats are not social creatures is precisely that – a myth. The study of feral cat colonies and other cat social behavior indicates that cats do indeed form complex social structures, and they do this to ensure their survival.
There have been anecdotal stories about different mother cats going around to other litters of kittens and nurtured them as if they were their own.
According to the Center for Canine Behavior, this behavior is called ‘aunting,’ and cross-suckling and communal hunting are strong indicators of an intelligent symbiotic structure.
Communal feeding and cleaning were everyday events. This dynamic ensured that no kitten was abandoned or underfed, resulting in a high percentage of kittens that successfully achieved adulthood and a low rate of premature deaths.
Several female cats will bond together and defend their ‘den’ against other females, while the younger male members of the community will attack and drive off wandering males.
3. Cat Short Term Memory
As anyone with a dog knows, they have profound short-term memory loss- a bit like Dory from ‘Finding Nemo.’ The number of videos showing dogs falling for the same trick over and over again to the endless amusement of their owners is evidence of this.
In an experiment done by Dr. Maier, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and Dr. Schneirla, curator at the Dept. of Animal Behavior, American Museum of Natural History, a series of boxes were set up to measure and test memory and recall as a measure of IQ.
Many boxes were shown to both cats and dogs, and they were taught that only the box with the lighted lamp on top held the food underneath it. The light was then turned on briefly once the training was complete.
To test the animal’s memory, they were prevented from going to the box for a some time. The results showed that canine recall lasted no longer than FIVE minutes, while the cat could remember which box the food was under for an incredible SIXTEEN HOURS- that’s 960 minutes or 192 times LONGER than a dog!
When it comes to the ability to remember, cats have a far superior recall than dogs – so if you are looking to hide anything from your cat after they know where it was, keep this little snippet of info in mind!
This is also probably why your cat will continue and persist if they want something when they know where it is and sulks when you don’t give it to them!
4. Cat Problem Solving
Believe it or not, scientists have compared the problem-solving ability of adult cats to that of a three-year-old human child! Their ability to open doors by turning doorknobs, open cupboards, turn off lights, ringing doorbells, and even use the toilet just by OBSERVING their humans shows tremendous intelligence.
One may argue that dogs can do many of these behaviors themselves, but the difference is that dogs are TRAINED to do this by humans; they don’t mimic this behavior through observation! We’ll talk more about training a bit later on.
This is learning by trial and error, and the old saying that ‘Dogs have owners and cats have slaves’ probably is based on this particular skill as anyone who has had a three-year-old and knows how manipulative they can see how cats have been able to ‘train us’ to get what they want!
It makes you think. The next time you catch your cat watching you do something, keep this in mind!
5. Cats and Humans
Cats figured out a long, long time ago what makes their human owners tick and, as such, have fine-tuned their ability to control and manipulate us as they need. If you are not a cat owner, then this will seem a little far-fetched.
If you are a cat owner, right now, you are nodding your head in agreement! They are independent, have distinct personalities, and don’t ‘sit and stay’ as dogs do. Cats are not people pleasers at all and won’t usually engage in a behavior for the sake of pleasing their owner.
Cats are notorious for not obeying or repeating behavior that suits them, like stealing food or treats, knocking ornaments and other items of tables and ledges because these items are in their way, or they like to watch our reaction!
Here are some of my favorite cat products
In addition to checking out some other More Meows articles, I hope you’ll check out some of my favorite cat products as well. These are affiliate links, so if you end up using them, I’ll get a commission at no extra cost to you. These are the products I really do find most helpful.
Litter Box: I started out with normal, traditional litter boxes for my cat. Then, I tried this automatic litter box on Amazon (affiliate link), which helped reduce the litter upkeep. Finally, I am now a believer in the Litter-Robot 3 Connect on Amazon (affiliate link). This robotic litter box is not for everyone based on the price tag, but for me the benefits (very little upkeep, works efficiently, clean, mobile app) far outweighed the cost.
Cat Tree: I have purchased a couple of this Amazon Basics Cat Tree on Amazon (affiliate link). My cat spends a lot of time on and around this cat tree, which I position near my sofa. She uses the scratching posts on this cat tree multiple times a day, which means she is not scratching the sofa instead.
Cat Water Fountain: I love this cat water fountain on Amazon (affiliate link). There are three main benefits to having a water fountain like this for your cat. The first benefit is that it keeps water running so that your cat doesn’t need to drink still water. The second benefit is that it filters the water. The third benefit is that it will keep your cat hydrated!
6. Cats on the Internet
Now, while this is not a direct reason why cats are more intelligent than dogs, as they don’t control the content on the internet ( or do they?), their undeniable dominance on social media channels says something about their appeal to ALL humans.
I mean, if you want to take over the world, the best way to do that is to rule the information superhighway and capture the attention of the world and be THE MOST VIEWED ANIMALS ON THE PLANET!
Perhaps one could argue that cats have figured out that their natural and exceptional athletic ability combined with abject cuteness and the occasional very clumsy jump or fall is the perfect combination for getting great heaps of attention and rewards!
They have taken that insight and the apparent positive reaction they get from their human underlings and realize that performing for the camera puts them in a position of power over both humans and dogs and so achieve domination of the world in a peaceful yet playful manner.
That sounds like a brilliant method that would elevate them to a position of rule with no violence or other intimidating behavior required.
7. Cats Can Solve Puzzles
Another fascinating aspect of feline intelligence is the ability of cats to solve puzzles without human guidance or dependence.
Dogs will look to their humans for guidance and direction when puzzle solving, while cats will persist until the solution is achieved!
The motivation here for dogs is to please their owners, while cats appear to persist for their reasons and not for the approval or reward from their owners.
Consider that humans have bred and trained dogs for centuries to be dependent on us for guidance in solving problems and not encouraged them to be independently able. The aloof nature of cats and their lower inclination to accept social training has allowed them to evolve their independent problem-solving abilities.
This skill is more likely to have developed from their base nature as predators, and this would have honed problem-solving skills like how to catch hidden prey and remember where that prey was hiding or last seen.
8. Cat Nose Sensitivity
There have been many stories over the centuries of cats being able to identify illness in people. While there are as many stories of dogs doing the same, cats seem to have what can only be described as advanced intuition regarding sickness and death in people.
Oscar ‘The Therapy Cat’ has been living at Steer House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Providence, Rhode Island, since 2005.
He is frequently seen doing rounds in the facility and would end up sleeping next to terminally ill patients that pass away a few hours later.
The argument may be that changing chemical processes in bodies that are in the process of death emit smells that cats can interpret, but there is more to this than just olfactory changes. Research done by Sciencedirect.com shows that cats are believed to be better able to differentiate between a wider diversity of smells.
Researchers believe this ability gives cats the upper hand in detecting illness and imminent death in people.
9. Do Cats Communicate with Body Language?
Cats rely on body language as an integral part of communication with other cats and other species, including humans. To be successful, cats need to be in tune with biological and behavioral changes.
This is one area in which is where they trump their canine counterparts.
Cats can sense changes in body temperature as this is part of the biological changes they are most attuned. This sense, along with their highly developed sense of smell differentiation, borders almost on intuition. This is why cats like Oscar and many others can detect impending death and illness in people and other animals.
10. Cat Motivation
While there are some other indicators of feline intelligence, like learning complex routines and engaging in complex social behavior, we will look at one of the most significant differences between cats and dogs lies in their training.
The evidence suggests a fundamental difference between the motivation in dogs and cats when performing specific actions for reward.
We have all seen many programs on how to train dogs with the ‘food reward’ system, but research shows that while dogs will perform to either get praise, a reward, or both from their owner, cats had an additional consideration.
That consideration was whether the activity was exciting and fun for the cat! Cats will often opt out of action if they have no interest in it as they get easily frustrated and bored, which is why cats don’t always do what they are told!
Cats are, by nature, more impulsive and have less patience. This means cats won’t tolerate boring activities for long and instead engage in something more stimulating or rewarding.
The higher social IQ of dogs means that they will do anything for a positive response from their owners, whether it’s a smile or treat, but cats can solve more challenging problems and perform required tasks IF they feel like it!
11. Cats Are Mysterious
It’s clear that cats are more intelligent than dogs in some ways, and the same can be said for dogs having certain areas where they hold the advantage.
Realistically it’s a little unfair to compare the two species against each other. Dogs and cats have different places and a very different history of domestication with humans.
Dogs played multiple roles from hunting to protection, transport (dog sleds), search and rescue, and companionship, while cats expanded their natural hunter role to become valued as pest killers and then adopted us into their lives.
Over the years, cats have shown us both their tender side and their wild side, mixed with physical feats of skill that leave the very best athletes green with envy and the average human scratching their heads in disbelief.
What is undeniable here is that, like the oceans of the world, we know relatively very little about cats compared to dogs. As our knowledge and understanding of these phenomenal creatures grow, they will continue to amaze us with their abilities and intelligence for centuries to come.
In conclusion, cats are awesome animals with high intelligence that are still mysterious. Some ways that cats are smarter than dogs are their social intelligence, short-term memory, and problem-solving abilities. If you enjoyed this article, please read a few more: