If you have ever owned a dog and a cat at the same time, you will be able to see just how different they can be. Dogs often want to spend every second of their lives with you and tend to be easily trainable, while cats are quite happy doing their own thing and often won’t ‘sit’ for a treat. One species is social, while the other is more independent, and there are often debates over which one is smarter, so we decided to do some research of our own.
To start of with the science side of things, a cat’s brain is not only smaller than a dogs in actual terms, but also relatively; with a dog’s brain occupying 1.2% of its body mass, while a cat’s only takes up 0.9% of their body mass.
Brain size, however, does not indicate intelligence, and while cat’s may have smaller brains, within them they have 300 million neurons (the method of communication for the brain) compared to a dog’s 160 million. The bottom line of these figures is that intelligence comes in many forms and an is better measured through practice.
Theory of Mind
Theory of Mind is the ability to understand what another animal is thinking, it’s what allows a dog to understand when a human gestures for them to do something. For example, dogs don’t speak English, however they can learn that a certain gesture and the word ‘sit’ means they should do so.
The dog not only does this once, but is able to store the memory that the command is a que for him to ‘sit’ and this strengthens the argument that they have Theory of Mind. Similarly, this capacity for thought has also been attributed to cats, who are also able to learn a human’s gesture and remember things like: which houses will feed them as they roam the streets.
One well known test carried out to compare canine and feline intelligent is to give the animals an impossible problem. In this scenario a dog will look to the observing human for help when they realise they are unable to sold the issue themselves. On the other hand, a cat will continue to tackle the problem alone – as a solitary creature would. This has sometimes been considered as proof that dogs are more intelligent than cats because they know when to ask for help – but this is not the case.
Dogs are not only social animals, but have also been living alongside humans for tens of thousands of years longer than cats. Therefore, as a social animal, a dog would be willing to give power to their owners if they know they can help, while a cat would not.
Take the example of a shut door, a dog may have the ability to open the door for themselves but will often look to their owners to open the door for them; contrastingly, cats often teach themselves to open doors.
In conclusion, what is often seen as higher intelligence in dogs, in reality is just better social skills as a result of so many years of domestication. Cats are infamously difficult to work with due to their independence and so it can’t be said definitively which is smarter than the other.