Which are smarter, cats or dogs? New study gives us the answer

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/11/30/which-are-smarter-cats-or-dog.html






Our Australian Shepherd mix dog is definitely much smarter than any cat. He excels at getting into T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

If only we could harness his powers for good!



My pug is stupider than just about any other dog or cat around. He’s also the happiest, most affectionate pet I’ve ever had. He’s getting old and saying good bye to him in a year or two is going to be hard.


Yeah, I don’t think “cat” vs. “dog” is really adequate. I’ve never thought cats were all that bright, but while some dogs seem quite smart, others seem very, very stupid.


Indeed. Cats seem to be uncannily good at some things, but I chalk that mostly up to having super senses and super jumping ability. Take that away, and they’re mostly just aloof murderous assholes.


Even my dog seems to get annoyed by other, much dumber dogs.

Cats seem lower variance on intelligence, maybe?


It’s more involved an absolute count, since neurons stay roughly the same size while brain mass tends to increase with body mass (and thus, possesses more neurons) although not linearly. There’s an “encephalization quotient” which has been calculated to help sort out the differences on which Dogs rate 1.17, while cats are at 1.00 (note that humans tip the scale at 7.44).

This is only true for mammals, however. Birds tend to have smaller / denser neurons (which makes the inclusion of Ravens in their sample graph a little odd). It also depends on what “type” of intelligence we’re talking about. Dogs are pretty good at being dogs and doing dog things, and same with cats; neuroplasticity and the ability to voluntarily modify behavior is probably a better measure, since that requires the ability to abstract action from instinct and assert voluntary control.


Forgot the link, sorry about that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encephalization_quotient

Tada! Now there’s a link.


If we’re going to have such a list, let’s measure all of the relevant types of species that can be included in this kind of study - there’s a species of dolphin, the Long-finned pilot whale, that has more than double the human number, at 37.2 billion.

Though, really, to be fair, this kind of examination excludes cephalopods, which have an entirely different kind of nervous system and thus an entirely different kind of intelligence.


Welcome to BoingBoing and may I say holy buckets, that is a heck of a first post. Thanks for sharing!


Is it really about the number of neurons or how animals use those neurons? I’ve had smart dogs and really dumb ones. The same applied to my cats.

The cat I have now behaves in a way that is far more intelligent than my canine pets. She doesn’t let me get away with anything. The dogs could’ve cared less about stuff that makes her act out until she gets her way. Geez, I miss having dogs…especially when the cat sees me typing and decides to walk on my keyboard.


I wonder if this has anything to do with being social animals. Dogs depend on communicating and cooperating with other members of their species to survive in ways that cats generally don’t.


Thanks for the info and:

this :point_up: especially. Intelligence is multidimensional and contextual. Comparing the intelligence of two different but similar species is a fool’s errand.
In addition*, i would think the similarity of social structure between humans and dogs would affect how we perceive their intelligence. Most canids, as i understand it, are social animals, as are humans. Felines, and i believe specifically the ones that evolved into our house cats, are more likely to be solitary or nearly so (with notable exceptions). So we are more able to understand a dog’s manner of thinking and a dog will have an easier time integrating into the local pack/tribe/pride.

* After the fact hat-tip to @Brainspore.


Dogs are social animals. Dogs can learn all sorts of jobs. Cats aren’t typically social (I’d be curious to see how lion intelligence compares to a say a tiger’s). Cat’s are much harder to train to do tasks. The results shouldn’t be surprising.
Pound for pound cats are much better hunters and don’t need the intelligence so much.


Which makes them equivalent to most humans, I guess.


“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” she added, “but with that disclaimer…”

Yeah, yeah. I guess at least she declared an interest.


If this is the last word on this (it’s obviously not), then why does Max so badly want in that library?


Completely disagree on this statement. Cats may have instincts to hunt, but that does not make them murderous, it’s just their instincts. Being aloof? My cats follow me everywhere I go in my house. They actually enjoy my company and they enjoy me interacting with them and they’re just god damned sweet. Folks who make statements like this simpy don’t know cats or didn’t take the time to interact with them.