Are cats smarter 보다 dogs? The answer isn"t straightforward.(Image credit: shooting by supervliegzus via Getty Images)
Dog and cat owners make a lot of assumptions about their four-footed companions" intelligence. That course, we all favor to imagine our Fido or Felix is the smartest animal ever to fetch — or pounce ~ above — a ball. So have the right to we work out the age-old debate? Which species is smarter: dog or cats?


Turns out, the answer isn’t as straightforward as pet lovers could like.

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"Dog-cognition researchers execute not examine "intelligence" every se; us look in ~ different elements of cognition," Alexandra Horowitz, a an elderly research fellow who specialization in dog cognition at Barnard university in brand-new York and also the author of "Inside the a Dog: What dogs See, Smell, and Know" (Scribner, 2010), told Live science in an email.


"At its easiest form, cats are smart in ~ the points cats should do, and also dogs at dog things," she said. "I don"t think that makes any type of sense at every to talk around relative "smarts" the species."

Brian Hare, a professor of evolutionary anthropology at battle each other University, agreed v that assessment.

"Asking whether a dog is smarter 보다 a cat is like asking whether a hammer is a much better tool 보다 a screwdriver — it relies on what it to be designed for," the told Live science in one email.

This is no to say that pet behavior researcher haven"t tried to measure dog and cat intelligence — or, more precisely, cognitive abilities past those needed to sustain life.

Kristyn Vitale, an assistant professor of animal health and behavior at Unity university in Maine, said animal intelligence is commonly divided into three vast areas: problem-solving ability, concept formation (the ability to kind general concepts from specific concrete experiences) and social intelligence.

Vitale primarily studies cats, and also her current focus on the inside life of cat revolves about social intelligence. Frequently stereotyped as aloof and disinterested in humans, cat actually display a high level of social intelligence, "often at the very same level as dogs," she said Live science in one email.

For example, studies display that cats can distinguish in between their names and similar-sounding words, and also they have actually been found to prefer person interactions come food, toys and scents. Human being attention makes a distinction to cats: A 2019 study published in the journal behavioural Processes uncovered that once a human paid fist to a cat, the cat responded by spending an ext time with that person.

In among the rare studies straight comparing cats and dogs, researchers uncovered no significant difference in between the species" capacity to find hidden food making use of cues from a human"s pointing. However, the researchers noted that "cats short some materials of attention-getting behavior compared with dogs." (Pet owners who"ve watched a dog beg in ~ its feeding bowl while a cat walked far know specifically what the researcher observed.)

Related: How much do cats and also dogs remember?


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Cats and also dogs are intelligent in various ways. (Image credit: Jessica hurts via Getty Images)

Then, there"s mind size. A typically held id is that mind size dictates loved one intelligence, and also if that were constantly true, dog would appear to prevail.

Hare said he and University that Arizona anthropologist Evan MacLean recruited an ext than 50 researchers roughly the people to apply a check they developed across 550 animal species, consisting of "birds, apes, monkeys, dogs, lemurs and also elephants," that said.

The idea to be to check one cognitive trait, self-control, or what researchers speak to "inhibitory control," throughout species. Their test, report in a 2014 paper published in the journal Proceedings the the national Academy the Sciences, was the pet version of the famed 1972 Stanford University research in which kids ages 3 to 5 were tested on their capability to delay eating a marshmallow.


The cross-species study showed that "the enlarge the brain an animal had, the more self-control they confirmed in our animal marshmallow test," Hare said. The capacity to exercise technique is one of the indications of higher cognitive function.

But there is one catch: cat weren"t had in the test, therefore while we have the right to speculate exactly how they might have performed based upon their mind size, we don"t actually know.

Another point to save in mind as soon as doing this type of knowledge assessment is the we may treat dogs and cats differently, Vitale said.

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"For example, dog are frequently well socialized and attend puppy classes, walk for rides in cars and go to the dog park," she said. "Cat owners provide their cats less of these varieties of socialization and also training opportunities."

So, ultimately, that wins? The takeaway might be to evaluate your pet"s particular kind the intelligence, particularly the social knowledge that renders them delightful companions.