Real Question: Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs?

Anyone who has ever owned a cat will agree with the fact that many cats are deceptively smart creatures. Although, dogs also have their places where their intelligence is outmatched. The debate of which domestic animal is smarter than the other is older than time itself. For decades, people have been asking “how much smarter are cats than dogs?” or vice versa. 

One professor from a University that studies canine cognition put it the best way possible: “Asking which species is smarter is like asking if a hammer is a better tool than a screwdriver.” Cats and dogs both have their areas of intelligence, some that may outshine the other in certain ways. That being said, there isn’t much scientific proof that cats are smarter than dogs. Since both have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. 

One study says that dogs may be the smarter domestic animals due to their social behaviors. However, it can be argued that dogs have been domestic pets for longer than cats have in history. Dogs also have a higher capability of being trained, unlike cats. Of course, there are those special cats out there who learn and pick up on things quickly. And are even able to pick up on learning a trick or two.

Cat Intelligence Versus Dog Intelligence

First of all, cat memory span is a lot longer than they are given credit for. Cats are well known for remembering the time of day that they are supposed to be fed or that their human parents do certain things around the home. A cat’s memory span has also shown to be able to remember certain phrases and what they mean, such as “dinner time” meaning for them to come to eat. 

Some cats have great cognitive abilities and have also been said to learn how to perform tricks like fetch or to come when they are called. Cat lovers may argue that cats don’t always catch on to learning tricks due to their independent personality in addition to endless laziness. Cat intelligence more so aligns with their desires rather than to please their humans. 

Dogs do have a larger brain to boast compared to cats, in addition to many more years of domestication and adapting to human behaviors than cats do. There is also a specific personality component that should be considered. Dogs, by nature, are people-pleasing. Not all breeds of dogs, but many of them learn tricks and behaviors so easily because of their drive to please their humans. 

There are also arguments that go on to defend that dog brains are larger than cat brains, therefore they must be smarter. One study showed that dogs have a larger cerebral cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for intelligence. Not only was their cerebral cortex larger, but they also had a vast number of cortical neurons. Neurons are what are responsible for firing the messages from the brain, or for “thinking capacity” to put it simply. 

In this same study, the brain of a dog was compared to an African Lion. Of course, the lion had a larger brain, which means the lion had a larger cerebral cortex proportionally. However, the golden retriever had more cortical neurons than the lion. Long story short, size doesn’t always matter when it comes to intelligence.

One could wonder whether the same thing could hold true when comparing a dog's brain and cortical neurons to that of a cat. In this particular study, a cat was also compared and was no match for the brain of a dog. But this study was rather limited as to the sample size of cats. Meaning, there are likely cats out there that have the aptitude to outsmart some dogs. 


All in all, when comparing the intelligence of a dog to the intelligence of a cat, you really need to think about the position that the animal has in your life. For instance, if you want a pet that can learn to perform tricks and guard your home, a cat is not the pet for the job.

A cat will never be capable of learning to perform complicated tricks such as lay down and roll over or how to perform life-saving measures. However, cats are notorious for being smart enough to manipulate humans or even open doors and get into places they shouldn’t be. A cat’s intelligence stems from their own desires, with no drive to please their humans. 

Dogs can be lazy and cuddly like a cat can, this isn’t much of a learned behavior. But for someone who wants a pet that can guard the home from intruders, herd farm animals like cows and sheep, or be an adventure buddy who knows how to behave in the car and around strange people, a dog is the more intelligent animal in that case. Dogs and cats are both incredibly intelligent in their own right. 

How to tell if your cat is smart?

There are a number of ways that you can gauge your cat's intelligence level. Cats, as a species, are intelligent. Some more than others. Some cats can be trained to perform certain tricks, like “sit” or “give paw” using treats as a reward. Many cats are also smart enough to come when their name is called.

Are cats smart animals?

Cats certainly are smart animals by nature. Oftentimes animal lovers will stand by the idea that “We own dogs, while cats own us.” Cats are very cunning and manipulative. They learn what makes their human’s tick very quickly. That way they can get what they want when they want it from us. Generally, the thing they want is food or to be given attention.

How good is a cat’s memory?

A cat’s memory is generally really good. For instance, you may notice that your cat has an internal clock and is always hungry at the same time every day. Not only will your cat remember what time breakfast and dinner are, but also where in the house they are supposed to eat. Meaning, if you are in the habit of taking up their bowl after each meal, they will meet you at the spot that their bowl belongs to right before each meal.

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Written by Petsmont Editors

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