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Are Dogs Really Smarter Than Cats, Or Is This A Myth?

Are Dogs Really Smarter Than Cats, Or Is This A Myth?

I have been a dog person my whole life, and I have always claimed how dogs are indeed smarter than cats.

It’s not like cats are not intelligent, just, I always thought that dogs are capable of learning more.

What science has to say about this topic? A study from 2017, published in the Frontiers in Neuroanatomy journal [1], has analyzed the number of neurons in our two favorite pets. Neurons are the cells that send and process information in animals’ brains.

The results showed how cats have about 250 million cortical neurons, while dogs have 530 million neurons!

So, can it be concluded that dogs are twice as intelligent as cats?

Let’s first see how we can even observe and compare intelligence in two different animals. Things might not be so simple.

Social Skills

dog and cat cuddling with owner indoors

A myth about dogs being smarter than cats has a lot to do with dogs’ personalities – most dogs are social and outgoing with people. 

But, cat parents from my surroundings state how dogs can never be as cuddly and as gentle as cats. 

The truth is that we teach our dogs to be well-behaved and socialized. We take them to the dog parks, and try to socialize them with as many people and other dogs as possible.

But, it is also true that dogs have far better social skills than cats. If you are lucky to have a dog that belongs to the group of the friendliest dog breeds, all your relatives and friends probably enjoy the company of this social dog, too!

The same cannot be said for cats. They will usually be less social and will not have as developed social skills as dogs have.

So – in terms of social skills – dogs significantly outweigh cats.


woman gives command to a dog in the park

Every dog owner certainly loves to see his furry friend learning new tricks. You can teach dogs to do so many things, especially if you are blessed to have one of the smartest dog breeds.

Cats might not be as trainable and, especially, as obedient as dogs. They are quite more independent, and there is a high chance that a cat will simply give up on learning something when she gets bored.

Take a look at this beautiful Doberman showing off some tricks in the video below. 

Just look how graceful, smart, and obedient this dog is! There are so many tricks and commands we can teach our dogs. The average IQ of a dog is around 100. The average dog can understand about 160 dogs, while highly intelligent dogs can understand over 200 words!

According to AnimalPath [2], an average cat can understand 20 to 40 words. Some highly intelligent cats can understand up to 50 words.

So, no wonder dogs are far more trainable than cats are – they can understand more words, and also show a greater willingness for learning. 

Working Abilities 

guide dog helping blind woman in the park

So many dogs work as police dogs, search and rescue dogs, therapy dogs, etc. Cats aren’t known to have similar tasks, so, this has to mean that dogs are smarter than them?

According to the Washington Post [3], there were around 50,000 active police dogs in the United States in 2010. I believe the number of these dogs has increased a lot until today!

So, some dogs are so good at learning that they can become excellent as police dogs. And, what about cats? Well, there are no police cats. 

But, I have to give some credit to cats. I can’t say that they are lazy animals. Actually, they are fast, resourceful and nimble, and in many situations they can even outwit people.

Also, there is one task in which cats surpass dogs. As a big dog lover, I have to admit – there is no better hunter than a cat. So, if we compare the hunting ability of our two favorite pets, I think the cat will be the honorary winner.

But, when I compare their working abilities in general, the dog will still be more capable than a cat. Cats are not the animals that help disabled people, or the ones that help cops – this is a dog’s job!

Problem Solving

shetland sheepdog sits in front of a obstracle course at home

Dog breeders have been mostly focused on the dog’s training for years, so, the problem solving has somewhat been neglected in this process.

This does not necessarily mean that cats are better than dogs in problem solving – it just means these two animals have a different approach to these types of tasks.

To understand this better, take a look at the video below that shows how cats and dogs approach the same obstacles in two different ways. 

So, cats are more independent than dogs, will strive to solve the problem, and they will not so easily ask their owners for help.

While dogs are more careful and think more before they act, it seems that cats act right away. 

On the other hand, dogs will think more about their next move. Thinking before acting is also an important sign of intelligence in animals!


cat walking on a meadow and exploring

Even cat people will admit that dogs have better social skills, and are far way better in showing love to their owners.

So, many dogs will not want to leave their owners’ side, while cats are more independent. Actually, many cats will enjoy having time for themselves, and will perhaps think of you only when they become hungry.

If we would measure an animals’ intelligence in terms of being able to take care of themselves, then the cat would defeat the dog. 

Dogs are more dependent on humans than cats, mostly due to their long history of living and socializing with people. 

If you would leave a cat in the wild, she would find a way to survive. I am not so sure about our canine companions. 

So, Is A Dog’s Brain Superior To A Cat’s?

Many dog owners and cat owners, as well as many scientists have been asking this question for so many years. But, the truth is – dogs and cats are two different animals, so, is there really a point in comparing their intelligence?

Well, I have to admit that cats are fast thinkers and quite independent animals. But, dogs are the ones capable of performing so many working tasks. Dog is an animal with remarkable social skills, and a pet you can train to do so many tricks!

I may be biased, but I would still say that dogs have an advantage over cats when comparing certain aspects of intelligence.

And, it is not only me – remember that science also says how dogs have far more neurons than cats. Also, dogs are capable of learning a lot more words than cats.

So, I am not saying that cats are not smart; I’m just saying that dogs may be too strong rivals for them.


[1] Jardim-Messeder, D., Lamber, K., Noctor, S. et. al. (2017). Dogs Have the Most Neurons, Though Not the Largest Brain: Trade-Off between Body Mass and Number of Neurons in the Cerebral Cortex of Large Carnivoran Species. Front. Neuroanat., Volume 11/17. DOI, retrieved February 23, 2023. 

[2] How Many Words Can A Cat Understand? DOI, retrieved February 28, 2023.

[3] Ingraham, C. (2015). The surprising reason more police dogs are dying in the line of duty. DOI, retrieved February 28, 2023.