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Oxford Scientists Say Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats 716

Velcroman1 writes "This again: scientists at Oxford University claim canines are smarter than felines. And the reason, according to the researchers, is that dogs are more social animals and therefore have bigger brains than the more solitary-inclined cats. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, charted the evolutionary history of various mammals' brains over 60 million years and found a link between the size of an animal's brain in relation to its body and how socially active it was."
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Oxford Scientists Say Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone who's trained a dog, or attempted to train a cat, could tell you this.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:24PM (#34318818)
      You can easily make robots and computers do what you want. Does that make them smarter too?

      Likewise, I wonder how well you'd have been able to train Einstein to jump over fences and run through tubes on your command.

      Dogs are stupid lol.
      • by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#34319216)

        You can easily make robots and computers do what you want. Does that make them smarter too?

        Likewise, I wonder how well you'd have been able to train Einstein to jump over fences and run through tubes on your command.

        Dogs are stupid lol.

        Why was this modded troll? Other than that last comment (okay, that was a bit inflammatory, and not really justified) this AC brings up a good point.

        Ability or desire to follow orders <> intelligence

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I think it was also modded troll because it is a fallacy.

          You don't train a computer, you program it to do extremely specific commands. It is not *learning* anything. Even AI programs where you supposedly "train" the computer to do what you want is still not quite accurate in my eyes.

          According to the dictionary I just looked up, intelligence is "the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills." This does not apply to your computer because it isn't acquiring or applying anything. Otherwise, you coul

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tobiasly ( 524456 )

            I think it was also modded troll because it is a fallacy. You don't train a computer, you program it to do extremely specific commands. It is not *learning* anything. Even AI programs where you supposedly "train" the computer to do what you want is still not quite accurate in my eyes. According to the dictionary I just looked up, intelligence is "the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills."

            But your fallacy is that you presume intelligence is the only factor in trainability. If I "trained" two people how to jump off a cliff ("you need to get a really good running start, like this..."), and one of them did it but the other refused, is the one who jumped more intelligent?

            Maybe cats can't be trained because they don't find it in their best interest. (And I say this as a dog lover who can't stand cats.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Motard ( 1553251 )

        Right. I have both. My dogs are more easily trained, but my cats seem to figure out stuff by themselves. Dogs are baffled by things like cupboard doors, but most cats solve the problem fairly quickly.

        But squirrels and birds are able to solve very complex obstacle courses themselves. In this sort of thinking, they put dogs to shame. []

    • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:26PM (#34318850) Homepage

      I think you're confused here.

      When you attempt to train a dog, conditioning comes into play. The dog knows it will get rewarded if it does what it's told, and as such becomes trained. You train a dog similar to how you train a human, through a reward system.

      When you attempt to train a cat, attitude comes into play. The cat doesn't care what you tell it to do, because it's a cat. Bribary doesn't have to train a cat the way a mother cat would train her kittens. If you can read their body language (and learn how to physically communicate without the use of a tail), you can communicate with them on a fairly deep level.

      I've had pets my whole life, both cats and dogs. In my own experience, dogs make for better companions, but cats are more intelligent.

      • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:32PM (#34318964)
        That was what I was wondering about. Cats have convinced us to keep them around and feed them without them having to do anything for us, that seems pretty smart. Whereas we seem to expect dogs to do tricks, work and reciprocate. Cats sort of get by just by being cute and not having to contribute anything else.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          >> Cats sort of get by just by being cute and not having to contribute anything else.

          I think we could all name a few co-workers who employ this same strategy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          That's not intelligence. That's toxoplasmosis.
        • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#34319202) Homepage

          Hey. Catching and eating mice around your grain stockpile has, historically, been a really big deal. (Now, cats in America in 2010, that's a different story.)

          • > Now, cats in America in 2010, that's a different story.

            Farm cats still work for a living. They're more independent contractors than employees, though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by LoudMusic ( 199347 )

          That may be the case in urban families, but cats do have a role. The reason they were domesticated in the first place was to combat rodents. The only thing they received in return was shelter from weather and predators. Through the course of our joined evolution they've moved into our homes and become the lazy bastards they are today.

          One of my cats was actually born in a horse barn where he learned to be a proper cat. When he came to live with me he provided an endless supply of mice, squirrels, birds, and

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by not flu ( 1169973 )

            As far as intelligence is concerned, we have another cat and two dogs. They're each intelligent in their own way. And they're each really stupid in their own way. I typically think of intelligence as the ability to solve problems. This usually requires the capacity to learn new things. My cats don't learn new things very quickly, but my dogs acclimate in a matter of hours. Though, my girl dog would rather sit in the cold rain at the back door on the off chance someone might let her in than go get in her doghouse.

            That's because dogs generally mind the lack of company far more than they do bad weather (mine still wants to go swimming even though the sea is starting to freeze). That behavior is consistent with the goals of a typical dog so I don't see how you could call it stupid.

        • by ynohoo ( 234463 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:19PM (#34320720) Homepage Journal
          A hypothesis is that dogs became domesticated through captured wolf cubs being trained, whereas cats started hanging out with humans when we started storing grain and they found a ready supply of rodents. Cats got used to being around humans, rather than being actively domesticated.
        • by GooberToo ( 74388 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:23PM (#34320778)

          Cats are fairly trainable. The big disconnect comes from requiring a different approach than one uses with dogs. For whatever reason, many people seem unable to read a cat's body language; which is an absolutely must. While I do agree, in general, dogs are smarter than cats, both have fairly large vocabularies to which they can comprehend and attempt to emote.

          Remember, on average, dog = three year old human. A cat = two year old human.

      • by qoncept ( 599709 )
        I think you're further confusing the issue here.

        You imply the OP's claim that dogs are smarter than cats is wrong. To prove it, you describe how dog training works, go so far as to compare dogs to humans, offer no evidence that a cat can be trained, and ... then jump to "cats are more intelligent."

        I don't follow.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You're both wrong. All my cats respond to voice and gesture commands, easily. The difference between them and dogs is a slightly longer training time and the realization that cats are only trying to please themselves, not both of you.
    • by Manip ( 656104 )
      Either that or cats just don't give a shit, and have absolutely no interest in being trained. Cats are highly intelligent from what I've observed both in terms of how they interact with their environment and also how easily they manipulate us...

      Here is a list of a things a cat enjoys:
      - Sleeping
      - Eating
      - Hunting/exploring/monitoring its territory
      - Sunbathing

      You won't find fetching a stick or licking your hand on that list because cats have little to no interest in that. I have seen some t
    • Actually, my family's cat have learned short commands. It's just that it's not "tricks", just stuff like "no", "come", "food", etc...
      She's also learned to open doors, as long as she can reach the handle. She's been trying to have a go at the kitchen sink tap, but that handle is a bit too hard to lift for her. It just has to "be relevant to her interests", which seems reasonable if you remove a lot of the social context that goes into dog training.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by dreamchaser ( 49529 )

        One of our cats plays fetch with Q-tips and has learned to jump through this tube like thing we got for them to play in when I hold it up in the air. He taught himself these tricks, no training required. All three of them recognize quite a few words of English even when said in a monotone and with no body language involved.

        Trainability also != intelligence.

        Having grown up with both dogs and cats I'm pretty sure they are both fairly smart species, but I really do think cats are the smarter of the two. You

    • Do you do everything you are told, or do you have your own opinion? Which is smarter?
    • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:52PM (#34319350)
      Any married man can tell you the fallacy in your logic.
  • If being solitary makes you dumb, then the people around here must be pretty dumb.
    • by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:25PM (#34318830)

      Agreed. By this logic, Facebook and Twitter users are the cream of the intellectual crop.

      I weep for mankind...

      • If you think spending all day on Facebook makes you LESS solitary then you might have just supported the theory posed in the summary.


        • Point taken. 10,000 'friends' on FB really doesn't translate to 'real life' all that well...

          Okay, so how about the socialites and constant club-hoppers? Is Paris Hilton a better example for you?

          I weep...but keep polishing my shotgun.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by hedwards ( 940851 )
          If Hitler were going around these days, he'd almost certainly start with the folks on MySpace followed by the folks on Facebook and finish up with the folks on Twitter, before he got to the rest of the people he wanted to remove from the gene pool.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Meh, I don't really consider facebook, twitter, myspace, or any of that other crap to have anything to do with being social. Those sites just set up a safety buffer between you and hurt feelings so that if you say something stupid, or make a bad comment, you can hit the delete button or have more time to play things off like it wasn't such a big deal. Being social involves going out with friends and hanging out. Most people who use Facebook and such heavily, in my experience, aren't very social. They hide b
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:24PM (#34318814) Journal

    I wonder what the "none of the above option" (MS Word equivalent) is gonna be?

  • As Oxford University scientists, they should know that intelligence is inversely related to social behaviour!
  • Can anybody say that about their dog?
  • Because whales and elephants rule the planet.

    When the cat can't get to it's litter box for some reason, it holds it's bowels until it can. When the dog can't get outside because nobody is home to open the door, it craps on the floor. I'll take the dumb cat every time and twice on Sunday.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      Because whales and elephants rule the planet.

      Notice how, even in the summary, it says brain size in relation to body size. Elephants and whales may have huge brains, but their bodies are much larger.

      When the cat can't get to it's litter box for some reason, it holds it's bowels until it can. When the dog can't get outside because nobody is home to open the door, it craps on the floor. I'll take the dumb cat every time and twice on Sunday.

      Cats learn to use litter boxes. Dogs learn to hold it in until someone shows up to let them out. If your dog is crapping all over the house, I'd say you did a terrible job of training it.

    • by teslar ( 706653 )
      It's not about absolute brain size, it's "a link between the size of an animal's brain in relation to its body and how socially active it was". While elephants and whales have huge brains in absolute weight, they're relatively tiny when expressign the weight of their brains as a percentage of the overall body weight.

      I know TFS gets that wrong at the start, but not at the end. You should at least try to read that far if you can't be botherd with RTFA :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by zennyboy ( 1002544 )

      Then you have the wrong dog. Our dog, a German Shepherd has an escalating array of "I need the loo" signs.
      * First he'll just stare at you, and if you say "Show me what you want" he'll lead you to the front door. ('Show me what you want' will also lead you to bread (hungry), a piece of furniture (usually a toy has gotten stuck beneath it), a toy (he wishes to play) or anything that gives The Human a clue as to what he wants)
      * Then he'll whine and wander between you and the door
      * After he'll pat you with his

  • that's sitting on our garden wall right now, and appears to be rather enjoying the constant barking of the neighbours' little dog for the last 10 minutes or so.
  • Dogs have masters.

    Cats have staff.

  • Cats are man's best friend that sometimes disappear for a couple days in the wilderness
  • smarter who? (Score:2, Interesting)

    The co-evolution of humans and dogs is so wonderfully intertwined that canines are the only animals in the kingdom that can follow an extended finger to see where a person is pointing, rather than just staring at an extended finger. But if you point at a cat it quickly runs away. So, smarter who?
  • Maybe, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:36PM (#34319028)

    ...saying that dogs are smarter than cats is still a bit like arguing over the sprinting abilities of different species of garden snails. Depending on your personal preferences, both dogs and cats can be enjoyable pets, but no one gets either one for intellectual companionship.

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:05PM (#34319590) Journal
      Dogs were the first species to be domesticated by man. There is reason to believe domestication of the dog is as important as the invention of tool making and taming the fire, invention of language in the (pre)history of Homo sapiens.

      Anatomically modern human beings appeared on the scene 250,000 years ago. But their skulls were the "robust" type. But starting from 75,000 years ago, it started becoming "gracile" or thinner and less robust. It is an indication of reduction of violence and warfare among the various bands of hunter gatherers. Humans were developing the social skills to get along with extended families. But still they were extremely hostile to strangers. All the remnant hunter gatherer societies are marked by incessant warfare with their neighbors and extreme hostility. The Yamamono, the Fore, the Andamanese, the Koi-san all fight all the time and they fight to kill. With ambush imminent at any time and raids being very common, they could not develop sedentism, living in one place. They have to be constantly on the move.

      But 25,000 years ago in central Asia, near Mongolia, Man finally found a night watchman. The dogs. They got the sentry duty. Once the dogs developed a symbiotic relationship with humans, we were able to settle down and live in one place. That is how we observed the connection between dropped seeds and the plants growing out of it. Just 15000 years later we had domesticated the einkorn wheat in the Fertile Crescent. Dog is the species that co-evolved with humans, and they are probably the only species that can follow the eye-movement of human beings and pointing by index finger by human beings and "understand" they need to look there. Compared to their wolf ancestors, dogs are orders of magnitude more sociable. Shows how much they have evolved in such a short period of 25000 years.

      In short, dogs made man, what he is today.

      • by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:41PM (#34320122) Homepage

        Yes, but so have cats. Cats, in fact, may have done as much for our species as dogs have. It's just been a lot less visible for much of our development.

        Cats moved into our agricultural fields and our food storage areas on their own (they self-domesticated) to hunt the vermin that were eating out food supplies. Cats have literally been protecting our most precious resource, but they've been doing quietly and generally aloof from human interaction. Sure, you can argue that cats are doing it because that's where the prey are, but aren't dogs benefiting from domestication the same way?

        And let's not forget that the vermin control has almost certainly done a lot to reduce the number of plagues humanity has endured. We remember the ones that the cats didn't stop, but there probably would have been more.

        So not to dismiss the contribution of canines to human development, but I think I wouldn't dismiss cats' contributions either. They're certainly of a similar magnitude, I believe.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tarius8105 ( 683929 )
          I think its comparing apples to oranges. No one is saying that cats were not as important in the development of man. I would think they got shafted because people sort of forget thats why people kept cats around (my parents always had a cat to keep rats away). The argument is over the intelligence of the two and stating that dogs are smarter. Taking the GP argument and moving forward 25,000 years to present day, the dog's role has evolved with society while the cats role really has not evolved. Taking out t
        • by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Wednesday November 24, 2010 @02:02PM (#34334484) Homepage

          We remember the ones that the cats didn't stop, but there probably would have been more.

          Cats didn't stop the Black Death from massacring Europe because European Christians were demon-ridden idiots who thought that cats were servants of Satan, and should be killed.

      • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:51PM (#34320258)

        Just to add my little bit - I regularly observed my dog (a miniature poodle, now passed on - I acquired him by chance, and came to appreciate poodles - they're good dogs!) to get an idea of what his cognitive abilities were. Among other things, I realized one ability that we tend to take for granted. When out walking on a leash (usually one of those extending leashes), he was very good about always going between me and obstacles such as trees. In fact when heading on his own path, he would realize he was about to go on the wrong side of a tree or post, and backtrack to where he could go between, keeping the leash from wrapping around the object. He did not do this when he was off the leash.

        This behavior requires some interesting cognitive ability - he had to understand and act on the concept of 'betweenness', in addition to understanding the difference between the leashed state and the unleashed state.

        I would like to see more research done on related subjects of spatial reasoning as well as relational reasoning. I think that evaluating the ability to hold and act on such abstract concepts could give us a valuable insight into the intelligence of critters as well as ourselves. We already know that dogs have picked up some very good relational reasoning - they're better at reading our social cues than we are. (Although I have to say some dogs are not so gifted - my daughter's dog is pretty clueless, but he's young so we'll see.)

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Camel Pilot ( 78781 )

          My Boston Terrier, who is my running companion, is very good at anticipating up coming trees or sign posts and figures it out and knows if she is leashed or not. She didn't figure this out until was a over a year old.

          However the event that still has me scratching my head was last winter when my wife and I went hiking in the woods with our dog. We leave our dog off leash.on these hikes as she usually stays within 10 to 15 yards. We were back 2.5-miles per my GPS through thick trees and no trail when she disa

      • by NecroPuppy ( 222648 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @02:07PM (#34320492) Homepage

        In short, dogs made man, what he is today.

        What, not able to use commas properly?

  • by pastafazou ( 648001 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:39PM (#34319074)
    That socially overactive bimboslut who's flunking math class is actually much smarter than the super nerd in the corner who doesn't have any friends but aces all his math tests. Yes, that's right, being social and interacting with others is the new measure of smart!
    • ... being social and interacting with others is the new measure of smart ...

      Actually social is the old smart. They've found that the part of the brain used for reading is also the part of the brain that recognizes faces, facial expressions and body language. We have new skills with respect to reading, math and science but the same old brain. Devoting brain cells to these new activities has to take brain cells away from something else. Maybe the socially challenged nerd stereotype has a basis in science. ;-)

  • I will be sure to remind my dogs of this the next time I catch them eating shit off the ground. Literally, eating random dog shit, right off the ground. If you want to get into a pissing match over which animal is dumber, the one that excitedly eats dog shit off the ground or the one that licks itself until it's throat fills with hair, you go right ahead. Just don't throw the word "smarter" in there expecting it to mean something.

  • by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:43PM (#34319162)

    Then I guess cats are better at math.

  • "The Situation"

    Really, social ability is one thing, brain size is another, intelligence is another, there may be a correlation but the key word is "your mileage may vary"

    Otherwise whales and dolphins would be much more smarter than humans.

  • by SpryGuy ( 206254 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:45PM (#34319188)

    The article seems to imply that being more social implies greater intelligence. I agree there is "social intelligence"... but let's be honest here. The smartest people I know tend to be rather asocial or even anti-social. And some of the MOST social people I know are, well, kinda stupid :-) Think nerd vs party girl.

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:46PM (#34319226)

    So doing what you're told is now proof of intelligence? Does not compute.

    As for anecdotal evidence, one of my parents' three cats used to trick the neighbour's dog into an ambush where the other two would pounce and beat the crap out of it. Somehow I think that's a better example of intelligence than fetching a stick after a human throws it away.

  • by Biotech9 ( 704202 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:51PM (#34319312) Homepage

    I worked with rats for a while in my research, and I thought it was very striking how smart a relaxed rat is. What's immediately apparent is how varied their personalities are, and how aware they are of their environment. They take an intense interest in the people around them, and unlike cats aren't easily distracted from they are engaged in. Cats seem to have their bodies hard-wired into the part of their optic system that deals with motion. No matter what a cat is doing all you have to do is make a sudden darting motion to override everything and have them staring, hypnotised, at the moving object. Rats react more like dogs, where they seem to ponder the event rather than react immediately to it.

    Another cool thing is how rats behave in research. Decades ago, research in rats involved having a big writhing mass of savagely wild animals in a cage, which were picked out with long tongs to be manhandled around for tests. This was the same with dogs and apes, one researcher told me that they used to have an ape research centre in Sweden where it took a half dozen lab techs to hold down a screaming chimp to get weighted every few days (with obviously shitty results). They eventually realised how awful and unnecessary this was and instead trained the chimps to go stand on a scale in return for a banana (research on primates is now illegal in Sweden). It worked equally well with dogs, who were given treats after blood samples were taken, so they eventually would run to their cage doors and offer a paw out in order to give a blood sample in exchange for a treat.

    When we took blood samples from the rats, they would lay quietly in our arms and stretch out their back legs, which we would shave and then prick with a needle. The lab techs had been training them for weeks to do this, by stretching out their legs, pinching them slightly and then giving them strawberry jam or chocolate spread as a reward. (Even that reward aspect was interesting, the rats had their own unique preferences between strawberry and chocolate).

  • by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @12:56PM (#34319436) Journal

    They love lulling us into a false sense of security.

  • by JerkBoB ( 7130 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:10PM (#34319686)

    I have a dog. He likes to eat shit. When he was younger, he used to eat his own shit until there was enough negative reinforcement to break the disgusting habit. My neighbor's dogs used to try and raid the litterbox too, so it's not a behavior unique to my own lovable retard.

    I also have two cats. Neither of them eat shit. Q.E.D.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I also have two cats. Neither of them eat shit. Q.E.D.

      Well, using your two data points coupled with the results of this study, I can only come to one conclusion -- eating shit makes you smarter!
  • by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:15PM (#34319776)
    Because they got tired of their old toys.
  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @01:55PM (#34320334)

    I thought phrenology was thoroughly out of fashion since Gould debunked Morton and Broca in "the Mismeasure of Man".

    But who cares about that. The Internet is made of cats! On with the cat stories!

    Our eight-year-old ginger tabby taught himself to use the toilet. I'm not kidding.

    I was wondering why I kept finding the toilet unflushed, and little splashes on the rim. The kids claimed it wasn't them, but I didn't really believe them.

    Then one day I walk in, and there's the cat sitting on the toilet. He looks up at me with a perfect "Excuse me, can a guy get some privacy around here" expression on his face and keeps right on peeing.

    My dog taught herself to dig up cat feces and eat them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The Internet is made of cats!

      Then there might be some hope for the future...

      As to cats and their toilet habits, it may or may not be a comment on them that they almost universally prefer at least a little privacy when they are performing their ablutions.

      They're almost... human... in that respect; excepting a considerable amount of paranoia, the sort that still has the human race segregating bathrooms according to gender, anyway ;)

      I have a

  • by Johnny5000 ( 451029 ) on Tuesday November 23, 2010 @03:50PM (#34322036) Homepage Journal

    The question of whether a dog is smarter than a cat or vice versa is largely irrelevant. The human definitions of intelligence (and more specifically, our culture's definitions of intelligence) might match up closer with one animal or the other, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

    Dogs are much more in tune with human behavior than cats are. They're better at reading body language, better at communicating with us, etc. Their social structure isn't exactly like that of humans, but it's closer to ours than a cat's is.

    Cats are better at being cats, dogs are better at being dogs. Dogs are probably slightly better at being humans, so we declare them to be smarter.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.