Dogs vs Cats. Who’s the Brainiac Pet?


There has been an ongoing debate about whether dogs or cats are smarter. Dog owners argue that dogs’ trainability and ability to understand human commands and gestures make them more intelligent. Cat owners counter that cats are more independent problem-solvers who can adapt to different situations. While the intelligence of pets is difficult to measure definitively, studies have explored the different cognitive abilities and brain structures of dogs and cats.

This article will examine the evidence around dog and cat intelligence in areas like brain size, problem-solving skills, communication abilities, memory, learning capacity, and instincts. It will aim to provide a balanced perspective on the unique mental capabilities of each animal. Understanding how dogs and cats think can help owners better care for their needs and form stronger bonds.

Brain Size

When it comes to brain size, dogs have the advantage. The average dog’s brain is larger than the average cat’s brain. For example, a border collie’s brain can be up to 170 grams, while a house cat’s brain is typically 25-30 grams (Source 1).

However, brain size does not directly correlate with intelligence. Researchers have found that dogs have more cortical neurons than cats, over twice as many. But the number of neurons alone does not determine how intelligent an animal is (Source 2). Intelligence is a complex concept involving reasoning, problem-solving, communication, and more. So while dogs have larger brains with more neurons, brain size alone does not mean dogs are smarter than cats.

Problem-solving Skills

Dogs are often seen as working animals that follow commands, while cats tend to be more independent thinkers and problem solvers. According to The Wildest, cats are well equipped to solve problems on their own without human guidance, thanks to their survival instincts, observational skills, and ability to map surroundings mentally For example, cats can often figure out how to open doors or get into cupboards to find food. Dogs, on the other hand, look to humans for help and instruction when faced with problems to solve. While dogs can certainly problem-solve too, cats seem to have an edge in independent thinking and problem-solving skills.

Communication Skills

Research has shown dogs have superior communication skills compared to cats when it comes to interacting with humans. Dogs are very attentive to human cues and body language. They watch us intently and often understand words, gestures, and facial expressions (1). Dogs can understand an average of 165 words and gestures, while cats can only recognize about 35 words on average.

Cats mainly rely on non-verbal communication and use more subtle signs like ear positioning, tail moves, and eye dilation to convey their messages. Cats communicate through scents by rubbing up against people or objects. They are not as focused on human interactions as dogs and have a more independent nature. Cats are still capable of reading human emotions and communicating their own needs, just in more understated ways compared to dogs.

Social Skills

Dogs are more social animals compared to cats.

Dogs have evolved to live in groups and have high social intelligence (“Cats vs. Dogs: Exploring Feline Intelligence and Canine IQ”, The Wildest). They actively seek out human companionship and interaction. Dogs understand human gestures better than cats do and look to their human owners for guidance.

In contrast, cats are more solitary in nature (Bondvet). They are independent and associative rather than cooperative with humans. While cats may show some affection towards their owners, they do not actively seek out human interaction the way dogs do. Cats tend to be aloof and can often entertain themselves.

Overall, dogs have higher social intelligence and a greater desire for social connection compared to the more solitary nature of cats.


When it comes to memory, dogs and cats have some differences. Studies show that dogs outperform cats when it comes to their short-term memory abilities. This leads researchers to believe dogs have better working memory than cats. However, cats seem to have an edge when it comes to spatial memory and being able to remember where things are located. One study found that cats could remember where an object was hidden 16 hours later, while dogs could only remember for about 2 minutes.

Both dogs and cats can form memories of previous experiences and retain them over the long-term. There is evidence that both can remember previous owners, trauma, or frightening situations for years afterwards. When it comes to long-term memory, dogs and cats appear fairly comparable in ability.

Learning ability

When it comes to learning ability, there are some key differences between dogs and cats. Dogs are generally considered to be more obedient and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. Dogs actively try to understand human cues and respond to training commands. With consistency and positive reinforcement, dogs can learn a wide variety of tricks and commands.

However, cats are still capable of learning. They can be trained to understand commands like “sit”, “stay”, or “high five”, especially when motivated with treats or praise. Cats tend to be more independent and less motivated by human approval. But with patience and persistence, cats can learn tricks and behaviors like using a scratching post, coming when called, or walking on a leash.

While dogs may have a slight edge when it comes to obedience and trainability, cats should not be underestimated. Both animals are intelligent and can learn with the right techniques and motivation.


When it comes to instincts, dogs and cats have evolved differently based on their histories. Dogs were domesticated by humans over thousands of years to carry out specific tasks like herding, hunting, and guarding. This close relationship with humans led to dogs developing strong instincts for understanding human cues, cues.( As pack animals, dogs also have innate social instincts and communication skills.

Cats, on the other hand, evolved as more independent hunters. While cats can be social animals, especially with humans, they are still closer to their natural predatory instincts as hunters. Cats are less reliant on human cues and communication compared to dogs. Their instincts help them excel at hunting skills like stalking prey, pouncing, and climbing. Overall, cats tend to be more independent in nature and rely on their natural instincts for survival. ( However, both dogs and cats demonstrate impressive innate abilities and intelligence shaped by evolution.


When it comes to emotional intelligence, dogs seem to have an edge over cats ( Dogs are highly capable of empathy and emotional bonding with humans in a way that cats are not. Over thousands of years of domestication, dogs have evolved the ability to read human emotional cues and respond appropriately. For example, dogs can sense human emotions like sadness or anxiety and often try to comfort their human companions. Cats do not demonstrate this same degree of empathy or human bonding. While cats can form attachments and relationships with humans, their emotions and social intelligence are generally focused more on bonding with other cats rather than humans. Ultimately, dogs’ greater emotional attunement with humans is a type of intelligence that makes them excellent companion animals.


Both cats and dogs demonstrate forms of intelligence and problem-solving abilities. While research indicates dogs may excel at social cognition and following human cues, cats also showcase strong spatial awareness, observational skills, and independence. Each species has adapted in its own way to thrive in the human world. Ultimately, intelligence is multi-faceted. Declaring one species “smarter” than the other oversimplifies a complex topic. Both dogs and cats form close bonds with humans and enrich our lives as companion animals. Rather than ranking their intelligence, we can appreciate the unique strengths and capabilities of each.

Overall, no definitive scientific consensus declares cats or dogs smarter. Different species possess distinct types of intelligence tailored to their needs. When it comes to pets, focus less on judging their intellect and more on cherishing the joy they bring into your life.

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