Are Dogs Smarter than Cats?

Depending on if you are a cat or a dog person, you might have a very strong opinion regarding which species you prefer but are dogs smarter than cats?

Today we take a look to see if research can end this debate.

Dogs Have a Bigger Brain, so are Dogs Smarter than Cats?

Just to set a baseline, a dog’s brain takes up about 1.2 percent of its body mass while a cat’s brain is .9 percent of its body. This means that by body mass comparisons, a dog has a “bigger” brain. But does that really mean that dogs are smarter than cats?

A study from 2017 tried to answer this exact question. The researchers of the study took a look at the brains of many different large carnivores. Here are just some of their findings:

“We find that the golden retriever dog has more cortical neurons than the striped hyena, African lion, and even brown bear, even though the latter species have up to three times larger cortices than dogs.”

 Wow! Now, just because a dog has a bigger brain doesn’t mean that they are smarter. But, what is important is the number of neurons. This is shown through another finding of this study: the brown bear. The brown bear has the biggest brain of these carnivorous mammals. But guess what? They have as many neurons as a small cat. So, size isn’t the issue — it’s the number of neurons.

Different Kinds of Intelligence

It’s not fair to pit one species against another. Each animal has developed abilities that keep them alive and well. In this way, asking which animal is smarter is kind of like asking which tool is better. But what are you trying to do with that tool? A hammer isn’t going to help you turn a screw. And in much the same way, one animal’s “smarts” is really dependent on how they have developed and what they are being asked to do.

Dogs have evolved for thousands of years with people. It simply makes sense that dogs would be able to do things that please people. While cats have always been a little more on the wild side, some cats might not be so willing to please people.

So if we are trying to determine which animal is smarter, what’s the task? If you’re asking which animal is better at hunting prey, the obvious advantage goes toward cats. They are equipped with sharp claws and teeth which make them a force to be reckoned with. They have developed better night vision than humans, which gives them a great advantage when stalking prey at night. If you’re asking which animal is easier to train, most people would give the advantage to the dog. The differences in these animals shouldn’t affect how much we love our pets, though. Both cats and dogs have the ability to bring love and joy into our lives. It’s almost a disservice to pit these animals against each other.

Brain Boosting Exercises for Dogs

No matter which animal you like better, there are still ways you can challenge their minds. If you’re looking to give your dog a mental work-out, here are a few things to try:

  • Give them a job or a task
  • Have them meet as many new people as possible
  • Give new toys and rotate out old ones
  • Work on a new trick with them
  • Give them a treat puzzle

Brain Boosting Exercises for Cats

Cats too can get a great mental workout with a few simple tasks:

  • Let your cat play with water or ice
  • Have your cat forage for food by placing their food around the house
  • Try to teach them tricks

Not every cat is going to be as eager to please as a dog might be, but you can still give them lots of mental stimulation.

Does it Matter Which Species is Smarter?

Of course not! It’s not a competition, but it is fun to explore the neuroscience of our beloved pets. What matters is your relationship with your pet.

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