Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats?


FOTCM Member
I always love to toss this one out because I'm just a confirmed dog and horse person... though I can tolerate cats to some extent.

Dogs are smarter than cats, research shows

Cats are not as clever as we think, scientists claim.

By Murray Wardrop
Published: 6:55AM BST 17 Jun 2009
The thought processes of 15 cats were tested by attaching food to the end of lengths of string and observing whether they could figure out that pulling the line brought the treats closer.

The cats had no problem with tackling single pieces of string. However, when faced with two options, experts discovered that unlike their canine counterparts, cats were unable to consistently pick a baited string over a dummy.

Psychology lecturer Britta Osthaus, who conducted the study, said the findings shatter the myth that cats are smarter than dogs.

Mrs Osthaus, of Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, said: "This finding is somehow surprising as cats regularly use their paws and claws to pull things towards them during play and hunting.

"They performed even worse than dogs, which can at least solve the parallel string task."

She added that the results show that cats do not understand cause-and-effect connections between objects.

The experiments involved attaching fish and biscuit treats to one end of a piece of string, placing them under a plastic screen to make them unreachable.

They were tested in three ways, using a single baited string, two parallel strings where only one was baited, and two crossed strings where only one was baited.

With two crossed strings, one cat always made the wrong choice and others succeeded no more than might be expected by chance.

Mrs Osthaus added: "If we know their limits we won't expect too much of them, which in turn is important for their welfare.

"I am not trying to say cats are stupid, just they are different. We are so anthropomorphic we can't see the world through their eyes."

Dogs are smarter than toddlers, IQ tests show
Border collies and other bright canines can learn up to 250 words

By Jeanna Bryner
updated 11:45 a.m. ET Aug. 9, 2009

The canine IQ test results are in: Even the average dog has the mental abilities of a 2-year-old child.

The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year-old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20 percent in intelligence can learn 250 words.

And the smartest?

Border collies, poodles, and German shepherds, in that order, says Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia. Those breeds have been created recently compared with other dog breeds and may be smarter in part because we've trained and bred them to be so, Coren said. The dogs at the top of the pack are on par with a 2.5-year-old.

Better at math and socializing

While dogs ranked with the 2-year-olds in language, they would trump a 3- or 4-year-old in basic arithmetic, Coren found. In terms of social smarts, our drooling furballs fare even better.

"The social life of dogs is much more complex, much more like human teenagers at that stage, interested in who is moving up in the pack and who is sleeping with who and that sort of thing," Coren told LiveScience.

Coren, who has written more than a half-dozen books on dogs and dog behavior, will present an overview of various studies on dog smarts at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in Toronto.

"We all want insight into how our furry companions think, and we want to understand the silly, quirky and apparently irrational behaviors [that] Lassie or Rover demonstrate," Coren said. "Their stunning flashes of brilliance and creativity are reminders that they may not be Einsteins but are sure closer to humans than we thought."

Math test

To get inside the noggin of man's best friend, scientists are modifying tests for dogs that were originally developed to measure skills in children.

Here's one: In an arithmetic test, dogs watch as one treat and then another treat are lowered down behind a screen. When the screen gets lifted, the dogs, if they get arithmetic (1+1=2), will expect to see two treats. (For toddlers, other objects would be used.)

But say the scientist swipes one of the treats, or adds another so the end result is one, or three treats, respectively. "Now we're giving him the wrong equation which is 1+1=1, or 1+1=3," Coren said. Sure enough, studies show the dogs get it. "The dog acts surprised and stares at it for a longer period of time, just like a human kid would," he said.

These studies suggest dogs have a basic understanding of arithmetic, and they can count to four or five.

Basic emotions

Other studies Coren notes have found that dogs show spatial problem-solving skills. For instance, they can locate valued items, such as treats, find better routes in the environment, such as the fastest way to a favorite chair, and figure out how to operate latches and simple machines.

Like human toddlers, dogs also show some basic emotions, such as happiness, anger and disgust. But more complex emotions, such as guilt, are not in a dog's toolbox. (What humans once thought was guilt was found to be doggy fear, Coren noted.)

And while dogs know whether they're being treated fairly, they don't grasp the concept of equity. Coren recalls a study in which dogs get a treat for "giving a paw."

When one dog gets a treat and the other doesn't, the unrewarded dog stops performing the trick and avoids making eye contact with the trainer. But if one dog, say, gets rewarded with a juicy steak while the other snags a measly piece of bread, on average the dogs don't care about the inequality of the treats.

Top dogs

To find out which dogs had the top school smarts, Coren collected data from more than 200 dog obedience judges from the United States and Canada.

He found the top dogs, in order of their doggy IQ are:

1. Border collies
2. Poodles
3. German shepherds
4. Golden retrievers
5. Dobermans
6. Shetland sheepdogs
7. Labrador retrievers

At the bottom of the intelligence barrel, Coren would include many of the hounds, such as the bassett hound and the Afghan hound, along with the bulldog, beagle and basenji (a hunting dog).

"It's important to note that these breeds which don't do as well tend to be considerably older breeds," he said. "They were developed when the task of a hound was to find something by smell or sight." These dogs might fare better on tests of so-called instinctive intelligence, which measure how well dogs do what they are bred to do.

"The dogs that are the brightest dogs in terms of school learning ability tend to be the dogs that are much more recently developed," Coren said. He added that there's a "high probability that we've been breeding dogs so they're more responsive to human beings and human signals." So the most recently bred dogs would be more human-friendly and rank higher on school smarts.

Many of these smarty-pants are also the most popular pets. "We like dogs that understand us," Coren said.

We also love the beagle, which made it to the top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in 2008 by the American Kennel Club. That's because they are so sweet and sociable, Coren said. "Sometimes people love the dumb blonde," Coren said.

And sometimes the dim-wits make better pets. While a smart dog will figure out everything you want it to know, your super pet will also learn everything it can get away with, Coren warns.

Even though Shelties made the list, and we raise shelties, I think my collie is smarter and much more affectionate.


FOTCM Member
That’s great Laura; besides our dogs, we have had cats forever too. Now I know why my cat never listens, can’t make him sit, ignores me constantly unless it suits his desires. They do have a knack for finding heat, as mine lays between my writing desk and a crake against the wall where heat rises up. This is tolerated, even though his hair is drawn to the computer screen like a magnet.

Our cat Shadow (13 yrs) seems to have this other side (as the his name implies), something along the lines of “High Strangeness”; living in the country, he for the last year, has been hunting squirrels at night and bring back headless bodies, not only that, my wife and I sometimes find these bodies devoid of internal organs as they are splayed out beside the body in a scene reminiscent of a type of necromancy – this has us a beside ourselves in eerie concern.

Remembered reading something about cats in ancient Egypt, all residents were made to have one; the cats were said to leave the houses at night as spy’s, reporting on their masters, or some such lore.

All this being said, can’t see us not having a cat, however, I will put away the flash cards and try training no more.



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The Living Force
I do think dogs are smarter than cats and I'm an avowed "cat person". They are more personable and interactive and seem to actually learn things. All the cats I've had just like to lie about and get petted, some more than others. I do love cats though but I think a small part of that is due to their being easier to take care of than dogs.

I hope my cat doesn't read this. :/


Jedi Master
You can teach a dog alot more than a cat, but I can't say if that makes the dog 'smarter'.
Different for sure I'd say.

I only have cats, because we have no room for dogs at the moment. My 4 cats have VERY varying degrees of 'intelligence', as I'm guessing is the case with dogs too.

I bet you can find a certain cat being 'smarter' than a certain dog, because a dog is not 'just' a dog, and neither is a cat. (same with humans actually).Depends how far along the animal in question is on his/her path towards 3D maybe.

But generally speaking, yes, a dog seems to be smarter than a cat.


FOTCM Member
I like both dogs and cats though I never possessed neither. However, even if cats seem to possess more Independence, more presence, or consciousness, they are completely selfish and sadistic with small animals. A cat of one of my neighbours, even well fed and treated better then the average human beings, kills bunnies :O


FOTCM Member
mkrnhr said:
I like both dogs and cats though I never possessed neither. However, even if cats seem to possess more Independence, more presence, or consciousness, they are completely selfish and sadistic with small animals. A cat of one of my neighbours, even well fed and treated better then the average human beings, kills bunnies :O

Yes... our well-nourished cat, Penelope, regularly kills baby bunnies in the spring, baby squirrels, baby birds, and once in awhile, a mouse or mole (which is okay by me - I'm at war with the moles). Fair gives me the willies.

On the other hand, my baby just likes to talk to us, to play ball, and be loved as often as possible. And she is certainly as soft and fluffy as any cat!


(For more of our 2 D children: )


The Living Force
I'm a dog person as well! Our whole family in fact! We've never had cats. I just offered a friend to take over her cats when she emigrates. They are completely foreign to me... I don't know the first thing about them. But my doggies! They're human!

I don't like that aloofness of cats. No thanks.


The Living Force
This caught my eye:
"I am not trying to say cats are stupid, just they are different.
We are so anthropomorphic we can't see the world through
their eyes.

So by what standard do we attempt measure: Intelligence?

For some subjective reason, I tend to think that cats are
independent and dogs are dependent, although, I have no
research to support it. It's just my experience and I had
both for pets, and it tends to lead me towards that observation,
although, I could be wrong.

It seems to me, that cats & dogs are attuned for specific tasks,
and there is a "small" overlap between the two and yet, there is a
wide gap between the two. For example - try to get a cat to 'fetch'
something for you, with most dogs - no problem? I cannot imagine
a cat getting the newspaper for you - but then again - maybe the
cat knows that the newspapers are not good for human consumption? :lol:

As for the cat - is it more sharply attuned to catching a mouse better
than a dog? Cats have sharp eyes, claws, fast-moving etc., but a dog
has eyes, and "claws" too but do not have the same ability? Their physical
attributes are very different from one another - including how they "think"
and "respond" to specific stimuli? And yet - from all of the different cat/dog
breeds out there - they are so different from each other even that of their
same class.

It seems to me, dogs are more attuned emotionally towards
humans, but cats seem to be more attuned towards itself and
less toward humans, and will respond only when it feels like it
or when it wants something - like food or to be belly rubbed?

Also - does one wonder why there are more 'dog trick shows'
than there are 'cat trick shows', and yet, I have never, not
even once, seen a 'cat trick show'? Does this say that dogs
are more obedient and trainable than cats? Has anyone seen
a 'cat trick show'? Just wondered.

Some cats are self-cleaning, but for dogs, are they cleaner
than cats? Cats shed hairballs everywhere you look and you
can never get rid of the hairs, but can the same be said for dogs?
I guess it depends on the hairs they both grow? There was a thread
somewhere that Laura claims that dogs [tongues] can clean a
[computer/tv?] screen better than cats? :lol:

Please understand that I love them both for what they are, and both
of these are wonderful pets and are a joy to have and experience!


The Force is Strong With This One
I wouldn't say dogs are necessarily smarter, just think they are a whole lot more willing (and adapted) to react on human demands (or whims), while cats don't really care for anything but themselves (in most cases).
Whatever, I personally can't decide which of the two I like better, adore both, but must add when watching how my dog and cat interact (they don't really like each other, so it's constant competitiveness), it at least seams that cat is rather superior, cunning even.

And yeah, it is sad that cats can't stop with killing small animals (ours constantly hunts birds, so she's mostly kept under surveillance when outside, good thing she's not much into walks around neighborhood), but in the same time there's nothing quite like having her sit in my lap and purr.


We had dogs for pets when I was a kid. Max was a collie and Clyde was beagle/poodle mix. They were wonderful friends and I still miss them. Because we now live in an apartment we can only have cats. We adopted 2 long hair cats about 11 years ago. Harry, a very large Maine Coon. died about 2 years ago. We still have Prissy. She is a beautiful long haired cat who is affectionate and sociable. Since we live in the city, our cats are indoor cats only. We don't have to deal with the predatory nature of cats. I've loved all pets, but I do have a preference for dogs.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Like you Laura I am heavily biased on this one.
For one thing the dogs advantage when judged by humans stems from the fact they are pack animals which means they have highly developed social intelligence.
Judged by our standards dogs are definitely smarter. Judged by 2D standard they are not.
On one to one bases cat will almost always outsmart the dog, in fact contrary to popular belief dogs are most common victims of cat-dog encounters. But when faced with pack of dogs cats get wrong end of the stick. Even then, not so often -mostly very young, very old or sickly cats get to be harmed by dogs.

I think humans invested so much in dogs and horses that they have become special category in animal kingdom unlike any other animal.

But as I said I think I am very much biased.

Funnily enough this afternoon I was contemplating how much we can judge animals by our own standards.
During lunch I was observing a flock of ducks and my jaw literally dropped when the brutal gang rape scene unfolded.
I heard of this before but noting could prepare me for the brutality of real life event. When it was finished, to my utter amazment "poor" female duck seemed not even slightly disturbed with the whole incident. Only few minutes ago I cringed as it seemed that sex frenzied drakes will kill her, but there she was image of tranquility, just shook her feathers and continued her business as usual, while the crazy gang was already chasing another female. It was me who was shocked the most with this whole rape scene.
I think the reason I was so shocked with this scene is because we are conditioned with images of birds as gentle lovers, like doves or swans for example.
In fact most male birds do not have any equivalent of a penis. Sex between consenting birds involves lining up two holes, one in the male and one in the female, so they really do have to be consenting. It is for this reason that the world of birds has evolved such elaborate courtship rituals, much more so than any other type of animal; because the sexual act requires the co-operation of both parties.
Of course in nature there's always an exception.
Male ducks, known as drakes, have enormous sexual organs. These are known as phalluses rather than penises, and can be as long as the drake. This enables a drake to enjoy sex without the co-operation of the female. Therefore the rape is as common in the duck world as foraging for food.
Female ducks have even evolved to counter the threat of undesired insemination by having correspondingly long and complex genital passages, known in birds as the lower oviduct. The duck's oviduct is not just a straight tube but has side passages as well. The female duck can store the sperm in a side chamber, and later eject it if she isn't ready for fertilization.

Coming back to the topic of this thread the same thing is known to happen amongst cats during the mating season. The difference being queens get serious injuries by their rapers.
I don't think this is possible in dogs. The bitch is always the one who says yes and there is no way she will let any dog mount her unless she is ovulating. Male dogs just follow her around hoping she will bestow this honour on them. In addition the bitch is truly in charge as she is capable of delivering offspring of several different fathers in the same litter.
So by our standards dogs live in matriarchal society while cats live in patriarchal ( another nature exception like in birds world - lions, although male lions will often slaughter the offspring of other males when they take over to insure only their genes are carried, this behavior is also seen in stray cats that are forced to live in urban colonies) equivalent of our monotheistic world.
Also dogs will never play psychopathic games with their pray as cats do for sheer fun.

So to add some food for thought - If we follow the premise as above so below and if cats are representative of psychopaths or OP's and dogs of souled individuals the key is networking and connecting with higher denizens in STO manner like dogs do

If I manage I will post something more about very interesting animal that is considered to be evolutionary link between cats and dogs.

PS. I resent this automatic editing of b word. It is legitimate scientific term for a female dog, and why do female cats get to be called queens :P


The Living Force
Human beings have a difficult time judging the intelligence of other humans let alone other species. Intelligence tests designed by one culture have been observed to have problems measuring the intelligence of another human culture, let alone an entirely different, alien if you will, species. I have read in more than one source that dogs are better at reading humans than any other animal including apes and other humans. Dogs, like many other animals can read our emotions, sense muscle tension; they can smell disease in our bodies and often appear aware of our intentions before we are. Alfred Payson Terhune, a popular author from the 1930s era, wrote many maudlin but entertaining dog stories that often featured collies, and he claimed that collies were prejudiced against dark skinned people, but what more recent research and observation has shown is that dogs reflect the biases of their owners. More than one scientist claims that dogs chose to bond with humans as a survival strategy and over the millennium, with selective breeding, dogs have evolved in an almost symbiotic fashion with people each seeking to please the other for mutual gain. This interdependent bond that has developed between two species of social pack predators skews their way of thinking about each other IMHO. Dogs are more trusting of humans than they should be and humans tend to romanticize and mirror dogs more than any other species of animals. So it seem like a logical extension for humans to claim that dogs are smarter than cats and most other creatures.

Cats to some extent also domesticated by hanging out with people; by killing the vermin that threatened grain supplies they were rewarded by being allowed to live close to people, but cats, due to being solitary predators, never “joined the pack.” Cats are historically some of the most maligned and misunderstood animals part of which is because we are often horrified by their killing techniques which ironically humans also engage in—torture, and by the fact that they don’t suck up to us the way dogs do. Dogs, on the other hand, have the notoriety of being the only animal that will attack and kill other animals and humans on command to please their human handlers. Many of us find cats to be very affectionate and even trainable but they only behave that way if they like you and trust you. Unlike dogs who must respect the people they will work for, cats only have to like and feel safe around their people. My cats follow me around the farm, go for walks with me and my collie mix dogs; the cats hang out where I’m working, sit on my lap, kiss and are wonderful loving, and very smart pets. This whole dog cat dichotomy mystifies me—why does it have to be either or for so many people?

So, from a lifetime of living with cats and dogs and horses, I do not think that one species is more intelligent than another—I think they all have very different ways of perceiving the world. I think that dogs measure closest to what we humans consider smart behavior because they reflect our own ideas about what is intelligence. Considering the mess we have made of the planet their allegiance is remarkable and is a sign of what we humans see as one of their nobler characteristics—loyalty to the point of self destruction—which may be heartwarming to us but is it smart?

clerck de bonk

Dagobah Resident
Vulcan59 said:
Nice summary shellycheval. Thanks for posting it. :thup:
I second that :D, not much to add but I would like to stress this one
shellycheval said:
...This whole dog cat dichotomy mystifies me—why does it have to be either or for so many people?
Truly, why?
clerck de bonk said:
I second that :D, not much to add but I would like to stress this one
shellycheval said:
...This whole dog cat dichotomy mystifies me—why does it have to be either or for so many people?
Truly, why?

Of course I can only speak on behalf of myself, but I think the reason behind me preferring cats is that I have been attacked by a dog and therefore feel uncomfertable around most dogs. Based on this bias (I think), I prefer the cats way of being. A cat would get out of a situation it doesn't want to participate in and demands respect where as I see the dogs way of being as very submissive, which I don't find equally smart..

Moderator's note: The quotes have been fixed.
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