Are Cats or Dogs Smarter?

While scientific researchers wrestle with studies defining animal intelligence and comparing species, these two veterinarians have a little fun with their take on what’s really special about your favorite feline’s particular brand of smarts.

Remember, these veterinarians are a little biased (like you), because they love all the ways that cats show preference, cleverness, and connection with people. This board-certified feline veterinarian says cats can learn tricks (like dogs), may know more human words than we thought, and develop special meows , trills, and chirps to communicate with their staff (err, owners).

The alluring aloofness and independence cats display doesn’t mean they need less medical care than more vocal, more attentive pooches. Researcher Kristyn Vitale shared details of her work delving into feline intelligence looking at name recognition, attention to human moods, and, most importantly, a cats preference for time with their owner over a chance to eat.

What is the IQ of a cat?

The domestic cat is attributed a value of between 1–1.71 ; relative to human value, that is 7.44–7.8.

Are cats intelligent?

Cats are among the smartest creatures in the animal kingdom. They often get short shrift on the perception of intelligence, especially when compared to dogs, but not because dogs outsmart them.

It seemed so cut and dried when last year, researchers at Vanderbilt University declared that yes, dogs were, in fact, smarter than cats. Their findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, concluded that canines had significantly more cortical neurons in the brain than felines. These little gray cells are largely associated with thinking, planning, and complex behaviorall considered hallmarks of intelligence.

The article references a recent study published in the journal Learning and Behavior , which makes exhaustive comparisons between dogs and a menagerie of other animals (including cats) to find that, while dogs are indeed unique, there is no current case for canine exceptionalism. Dogs do have an excellent sense of smell, but similar abilities have been found in other animals, including pigs, horses, and cats.

Physical cognition in dogs is not unique, and their performance is about the same as wolves, cats, bottlenose dolphins, and horses. Brian Hare, the founder and director of Duke Universitys Canine Cognition Center warns of applying human-centric standards on animals:

Dog and cat owners make a lot of assumptions about their four-footed companions’ intelligence. Of course, we all like to imagine our Fido or Felix is the smartest animal ever to fetch or pounce on a ball. So can we settle the age-old debate? Which species is smarter: dogs or cats?

This is not to say that animal behavior researchers haven’t tried to measure dog and cat intelligence or, more precisely, cognitive abilities beyond those needed to sustain life. Often stereotyped as aloof and disinterested in humans, cats actually show a high degree of social intelligence, “often at the same level as dogs,” she told Live Science in an email.

For example, studies show that cats can distinguish between their names and similar-sounding words, and they have been found to prefer human interactions to food, toys and scents. In one of the rare studies directly comparing cats and dogs, researchers found no significant difference between the species’ ability to find hidden food using cues from a human’s pointing.

The age-old question among self-described dog people and cat people is, “Which animal is smarter?” People who prefer dogs are inclined to say that dogs are smarter than cats, while cat people will, of course, claim the opposite to be true. The truth of the matter is, scientific research continues to explore the intelligence of both animals. “The answers animals can give us about their capabilities are only as good as the questions we ask them,” explains Dr. Annie Valuska, Ph.D., senior pet behavior expert at Purina Cat Chow. “Perhaps a dog outperforms a cat because the study was conducted in a lab environment, and cats are prey animals that have a suite of (adaptive) behavioral responses in a potentially scary situation that leads to them not participating.”

Dogs are typically introduced to strange people and places as part of their daily lives (walks, car rides, doggie day care, and so on) and have a long history of cooperation with humans throughout our species’ evolution,” explains Dr. Valuska.

Who’s Smarter: Cats or Dogs?

While scientific researchers wrestle with studies defining animal intelligence and comparing species, these two veterinarians have a little fun with their take on what’s really special about your favorite feline’s particular brand of smarts.You love your cat. So you want your cat to be smart—smarter than dogs, more clever than your least favorite relatives, and certainly picky enough to pick you as her No. 1 favorite human. You want proof cats are smarter than dogs and to know if your cat is particularly brainy. Our veterinary experts have some serious (and entertaining) opinions on this.

Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?

To find out, one researcher counted neurons in brain tissue: Cats had less, dogs had more. (You can hear from researchers in this PBS Newshour video about whether cats are smarter than dogs.) The more neurons, the more capacity for thinking, tasks and intelligence, right? Sure, but to do what? Animals are smart enough to survive in the world they live in. If one animal can use tools, another animal picks up on your emotions, and a third picks up on your hand motions, well, which is smarter?Another researcher checked to see if pets would look at something you pointed at and figure out you wanted them to look at it; dogs, for sure, did, but—surprise!—cats did, too.It turns out that veterinarians who’ve spent years looking at domestic cats have opinions about how smart and special your feline friends are. Remember, these veterinarians are a little biased (like you), because they love all the ways that cats show preference, cleverness, and connection with people.

What Makes Cats Smart?

Anna Foster, DVM with the national hospital chain Veterinary Emergency Group, says it comes down to what you value. When it comes to loyalty and the “smarts” behind social connection and bonding, maybe dogs win. (Don’t read this story about a senior dog hovering around her owner’s graveside if you don’t want to cry.) But if we’re talking about hunting in the wild, cats win. (Does your cat need you around to go hunting when he wants to snatch bugs, lizards, birds, and other small animals? Nope.)Cats don’t need you to have a good time, according to Foster. “The ability to think and act independently? Cats have this. They wait for you to walk away before they do stuff.”Dr. Kelly St. Denis, current president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners, thinks cats’ independence rules their roosts: “Dogs have masters. Cats have staff.”“This obviously suggests that cats are smarter, because they employ—rather than serve—humans,” St. Denis jokes.This board-certified feline veterinarian says cats can learn tricks (like dogs), may know more human words than we thought, and develop special meows, trills, and chirps to communicate with their staff (err, owners).Dogs seem to win out in these discussions because they learn what we want and do it. Cats are different.“Cats have a specific agenda and seem to require that we mold ourselves to their plans, not the other way around,” St. Denis says.The alluring aloofness and independence cats display doesn’t mean they need less medical care than more vocal, more attentive pooches. Cats’ independence can mask disease and illness, says St. Denis.“Humans often assume that because cats are not complaining, and are so independent, that they don’t need to see a veterinarian,” she says. “Their ability to hide illness makes their visits to the vet all the more critical.”

Which Cats Breeds Are the Smartest?

If you’re a smart cat owner in need of a particularly talented feline, there are a few smart cat breeds with particular dispositions that might make a fabulous fit for you. Some cats, like Siamese, are big talkers. Other breeds, like the Abyssinian, Scottish fold, and Savannah cats, are addicted to play. And Tonkinese cats love attention. This doesn’t mean every member of these breeds match these exact characteristics, but you may have a better shot at a better fit.

Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?

Put to the test, we asked a veterinary expert which pet exhibits more intelligence.The age-old question among self-described dog people and cat people is, “Which animal is smarter?” People who prefer dogs are inclined to say that dogs are smarter than cats, while cat people will, of course, claim the opposite to be true. The truth of the matter is, scientific research continues to explore the intelligence of both animals. “The answers animals can give us about their capabilities are only as good as the questions we ask them,” explains Dr. Annie Valuska, Ph.D., senior pet behavior expert at Purina Cat Chow. “Perhaps a dog outperforms a cat because the study was conducted in a lab environment, and cats are prey animals that have a suite of (adaptive) behavioral responses in a potentially scary situation that leads to them not participating.”Here, we asked Dr. Valuska to explain how intelligence in these animals is defined and put to the test., and the results of studies.

The Definition and Test of Intelligence

What is intelligence? In people, intelligence generally refers to the ability to remember details, like facts, as well as the ability to solve complex and creative problems. Scientific studies seem to test for whether dogs or cats are able to learn commands or perform certain tasks. “Dogs are typically introduced to strange people and places as part of their daily lives (walks, car rides, doggie day care, and so on) and have a long history of cooperation with humans throughout our species’ evolution,” explains Dr. Valuska. “Dogs have also been selectively bred for specific behavioral traits. The result? Dogs are primed for success when scientists want to take them into a lab or barge into their homes and ask them to perform.”But this technique for testing cat intelligence does not work. This is because cats have different social lives and most likely domesticated themselves. Cats are not selectively bred for desired traits like dogs, and they tend to be more independent. “As a result, getting cats to participate in the same experiments that have shown off dogs‘ smarts can be difficult,” explains Dr. Valuska. “However, I think it is a mistake to assume that this difficulty speaks to a lack of cat intelligence!”To test intelligence in cats, scientists look at the following categories: Object permanence or, in other words, “If you hide something from your cat’s view, does he know it’s still there? Bonus—memory: will he remember it’s there even if you distract him for up to 30 seconds?” Another is cause and effect: “Anyone whose cat has learned that knocking something off the table is a great way to get your attention can testify that many cats pass this test with flying colors!” says Dr. Valuska. Plus, an understanding of time (at least in reference to when it’s time to feed them) and human cues (If you point at something, does your cat follow your finger? Does your cat respond to their name?)Dogs are tested in additional categories, like whether they can learn commands, understand different quantities and learn words such as the names of toys. “A few ‘genius’ dogs are capable of learning the names of around 100 different toys, and selecting the right toy out of a pile when asked,” says Dr. Valuska.