Pet Talk – Week of May 4, 2020

In my last article, we started looking into the issue of who is smarter, dogs or cats. Unfortunately, the scientific community was unable to give us a definitive answer. 

I think that testing cats and dogs in a clinical setting may taint the findings. I think we would get a better result by observing their behavior while they are in a comforting environment. So let’s take a look at these critters’ behavior in their homes.

Ok, let’s start with learning and reasoning. Now, it’s well known that dogs are good at learning tricks with practice and food as reinforcement. One of my dogs had learned a whole mess of tricks, but when I gave him the command to sit, he not only sat but laid down, rolled over, and gave me his paw. So he didn’t understand what I asked him to do but connected all his tricks learned as one command. 

So is he smart or just easily conditioned by repetition and positive reinforcement of treats? Now cats, on the other hand, don’t do tricks. They will accept treats if offered, but they won’t perform for them. 

Does that mean they are too numb to learn or too smart to be manipulated? But on the other hand, how smart are they if they are fooled into chasing a laser light all over the house?

Self-reliance. I know this may not seem like a measurement of intelligence, but an animal’s ability to adapt to his surroundings and fend for himself does show awareness of environment and self-preservation. Cats are notorious for being capable of fending for themselves. If a cat is abandoned or born in the wild without human contact, they will revert to their basic instincts and become feral. 

Even among domestic cats, many are standoffish. They also will hunt and kill mice, birds, and other small animals, even though their owners feed them. My Siamese will leave me gifts from time to time, which consists of a dead rodent minus its head. Her way of thanking me for providing shelter and food.

Dogs don’t have that same ability. They rely entirely on their owner to provide food and water. Most dogs (at least all of mine) will eat all the food you put down and then look for more. Cats will eat until they are satisfied and leave the rest for later. 

Now true, biting the heads off of rodents may seem less than smart, but some dogs have the bad habit of eating poop. After all my research and reading, I think I’ve come away with a better understanding of cats and dogs.

Our first mistake is trying to compare the intelligence between cats and dogs. The only thing they have in common is humans claim them as pets. Dogs were domesticated from wolves and became an intricate part of our lives. Humankind used them for protection, hunting, and transporting. The dogs bonded with their masters and became a part of his family. 

Cats, on the other hand, started coming around human settlements to feed off the rodents attracted to the settlements’ garbage and crops. Cats coexisted with and tolerated man.

So I’ll end this article with this thought: Who’s smarter, Dogs who are waited on, babied and for the most part can sleep wherever they want or Cats, who dictate when and how much lovin they want and maintain a level of independence?

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