Friday, September 18, 2009

Are Cats Smart? Smarter Than Dogs Even?

By Julia Williams

I can hear the dog owners scoffing and the cat owners saying, “Heck yeah!” I’m not really going to get into this age-old debate. For starters, I don’t believe there has ever been a scientific study which clearly proves either species is more intelligent than the other. Dogs and cats are both smart, in different ways. Furthermore, any study done is negated in my eyes by the fact that they are measuring intelligence in terms of what “humans” would do or are capable of. As I see it, you simply can’t measure the intellect of a dog or cat through human means.

Animal behaviorist, cat owner and cat expert Randall Lockwood said it best: “A cat is very smart at being a cat. Does it better than anybody.” If you asked a cat to write an 80-page thesis on nuclear fusion or the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, he would seem pretty dim-witted, wouldn’t he? But if your cat asked you to go out and catch a gopher with your bare hands, without getting so much as a scratch on you, you wouldn’t seem so bright either.

Dog owners often claim that because their canine companion learns commands and tricks much quicker than cats do, this translates to a higher degree of intelligence. However, what they fail to take into account is that dogs are pack animals with a strong desire to please the “top dog,” which coincidentally happens to be the human doing the teaching.

Cats, on the other hand, are inherently solitary creatures that are motivated more by the need to survive than to please. Moreover, felines have survived thousands of years in radically different environments and living conditions, which demonstrates just how crafty and adaptable they are. If we measured an animal’s intelligence solely by the ability to be self-reliant and resourceful, then cats would clearly be smarter than dogs.

Cats are smarter than dogs at cleaning themselves and covering their own waste. But dogs are smarter than cats at understanding “cause and effect” and memorizing commands. Then too, dogs will “protect and serve” but cats rarely work for anyone other than themselves. Cats almost never eat garbage or rotten food, but most dogs will wolf it down and suffer the gastric consequences. But perhaps the most compelling argument in the “cats are smarter than dogs” debate is that dogs are trained by humans, whereas cats train humans to do their bidding. Or, as the saying goes: “Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”

I hope you know that all of this is meant in fun. I’m not championing the intelligence of cats over dogs or vice versa. In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: some cats are smarter than dogs, some dogs are smarter than cats, and all of them are far more intelligent than any human can possibly comprehend. Further, cats and dogs all have the ability to make us laugh with their antics, and to make us want to be close to them every day. That means far more to me than any measure of intelligence.

Read more articles by Julia Williams


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