Search the internet and there's a mass of articles debating the relative intelligence of cats and dogs. There's an excellent Huffington Post article from 2012 which summarises the debate well. Instead of assuming that because dogs do better in laboratory tests they are more intelligent, the article discusses the nature of intelligence and suggests what many cat lovers already know - their cat may not be intelligent in the academic sense, but it is certainly cunning, devious and capable of manipulating humans!
If you define intelligence as an ability to follow instructions, display loyalty and generally be easy going and affable then a dog is going to win hands down every time. Define intelligence instead as the ability to manipulate any situation to one's own ends, including enticing humans to be at your beck and call 24/7, then it is quite clearly the cat that is the smarter animal. Think of all the phrases that support this conclusion:
"Dogs have masters, cats have staff" (Anon)
"Dogs come when they're called, cats take a message and get back to you" (Mary Bly)
"A dog is a man's best friend and a cat is a cat's best friend" (Robert J Vogel)
"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get 8 cats to pull a sled through snow" (Jeff Valdez)
So to my mind, the answer is clear. The cat is clearly much more "emotionally intelligent" - it knows how to manipulate others whilst leaving the manipulated party feeling great about the relationship! As the Huffington Post article also notes, cats are cautious, independent and capable of looking after themselves. Contrast that with the dog that leaps madly at any human that approaches, licking and slobbering, desperate for affection and reassurance.
Are Dog Owners Brainier than Cat Owners?
There also seems to be consistent disagreement about which animal has the more intelligent owners. Here, I don't think there is a clear answer. I'm sure there are plenty of clever people who want the unquestioning friendship and loyalty of a dog just as an equal number might prefer the cool, aloofness of cats. Not really a sensible debate.
A better question to ask might be:
Which types of cat are the most intelligent?
Google tells us that this Cattime.com article is authoritative on the subject of cat breed intelligence.
We've been talking to cat customers on the phone for 15 years now and based on conversations I have had, I'd say that list is a pretty good one. We hear many tales of Bengals, Burmese, Siamese etc that "talk" to their owners and are fantastic at breaking into rooms/drawers/cupboards to get to food/toys etc. If you go back to my earlier conclusion that an intelligent cat is one that can manipulate their owner to its' own ends then I might say that our Ethel was pretty clever too!
Ethel: Brainy or just "Smart"?
How Do I Test My Cat's Intelligence?
Depends how far you want to go really! As a first stage we'd recommend Test Your Cat and Test Your Cat 2. These "gift" books are packed with practical ways in which you can test the IQ of your cat using everyday objects. Above all, they are inexpensive and they're FUN! There is a Test Your Dog version too.
Want to go further? How about teaching your cat to use a human toilet? The most famous toilet training system is Litter Kwitter. Just imagine how quickly you could repay that investment if you didn't need to buy cat litter every month!
Clicker training is a recognised method for teaching behavioural skills to dogs, but it can also be used to train cats. Clicker Training for Cats is the foremost book on the subject. Available from Amazon in either paperback or, for significantly less, on Kindle.
Given Ethel's advanced age, we're not going to start testing her intelligence now - we know she's a sassy little thing and has her Cat Mum and Dad well under control! And let's face it, if she's happy then we're happy.
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