By Terry Jester
Who is smarter? Your dog or your cat?
That’s really like comparing the proverbial apples to oranges. Dogs and cats are totally different species with different survival skills and instincts.
It would be much more fair to compare dogs to wolves and cats to foxes. Dogs and wolves are both pure predators, while cats and foxes are both predators and prey.
Since we don’t live with wolves and foxes (most of us, anyway), so, we’ll stick to cats and dogs.
Dogs, being more like people (humans are for the most part, predators) are usually thought to be smarter. As fellow predators, we think similarly and behave similarly in certain situations.
Cats, on the other hand, being prey animals as well as predators, think and behave much differently. Humans, being the arrogant types we are, tend to think that animals more like us are smarter, when in fact, they just think differently out of necessity.
If we take pure survival skills as a basis of smarts, the fact that there are thriving feral cat colonies amidst us while dogs left on their own frequently starve to death should lead us to believe that cats are much smarter than dogs.
But, dogs, like people, have the ability to conceptualize. Cats don’t do so well in that department.
Dogs need to be able to understand concepts because they work in packs. Cats are for the most part solitary hunters and don’t need to conceptualize. This lack of ability may make the cat look dumb, but it really isn’t a necessary step in the cat’s evolution as a species. Since cats hunt alone, concepts are not as important.
What do I mean when I say dogs understand concepts whereas cats do not? Let’s take the example of rain, or the concept that, “it is raining.” When your dog wants to go out, he brings you his leash, you open the front door, he sees that it is raining and he dejectedly walks back to curl up next to the fireplace. He understands the concept that it is raining.
Your cat, on the other hand, also wants to go out. She goes to the front door and meows to be let out. You walk over, open the door, and show her that it is raining. She immediately goes to the back door and wants out there. You again, show her that it is raining. She goes to a window, wanting out. RATS! She says, it’s raining there, too! She doesn’t understand the concept of rain. She’ll go to every exit wanting out being equally disappointed each time she sees the weather outside.
So, who really is smarter? My answer is that cats are smarter than dogs when it comes to being a cat, and dogs are smarter than cats when it comes to being a dog.
And both are smarter than people because just who has to work for a living in order to pay for all of the pet food?
Terry Jester is a nationally recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.