In general, cats are faster than dogs. Cats are built for speed; the quick chase and pounce while dogs are built for stamina and endurance, to wear down prey. Although both species are considerably faster than nearly all humans. The wild dogs of Africa amble up to prey and track the animal for miles whereas wild cats hide behind cover and approach prey furtively before ambushing the animal from close range.
The photos below are linked to another page with a short description.
Obviously some individual cats will be slower than some individual dogs and some species of cat will be slower than some species of dog but as mentioned, in general (and that is the important bit) cats are faster but over shorter distances. If you averaged the speed over several miles the dog would be faster than the cat.
The internet tells me that the wild ancestor of the dog, the wolf, can run at a maximum speed of around 35 mph. This will be similar to the maximum speed of the domestic cat’s ancestor, the North African wildcat.
The fastest dog is the greyhound at 43 mph (70 kph) according to Wikipedia. The fastest cat, the cheetah can run for 400 meters at around 65 mph (some say 70 mph but I think they are wrong). Therefore the fastest cat is faster than the fastest dog. However, the greyhound can run at 43 mph for a longer distance than the cheetah can run at 65mph.
The lion and the African wild dog provide a nice comparison. The lion can reach about 50 mph for a short distance. We have all seen lions chasing prey and giving up after several hundred yards or meters. The African wild dog is arguable more impressive. Through sheer stamina they wear down prey. This dog can run at a maximum speed of around 37 mph but will chase prey in a pack for 5 kilometres. The world’s most impressive animal for speed and distance is the Mongolian Wild Ass running at an average of 30 mph for 16 miles.
The other big cats such as the tiger, jaguar and leopard will have top speeds around 50 mph (probably near 40+ mph).
As for domestic companion animals, I have already mentioned the greyhound. The domestic cat can reach a top speed of about 30 mph but most will be slower. The Egyptian Mau is said to be the fastest breed of cat but this is entirely anecdotal. The world’s fastest human, Usain Bolt, reaches 30 mph.
I have a slender, male tabby cat who has a belly flap (said to allow a cat to run faster) and he is very fast. I am sure he can do something approaching 30mph.
The cheetah is particularly fast because its anatomy is built for high speed. You can read all about it by clicking on this link.
From various internet sources here are some dog top speeds:
- Jack Russells: 25 mph
- Border Collie: 20-30 mph
- Doberman: 20-30 mph
- Belgian Malinois: 40 mph
All cats, random bred and purebred cats (except dwarf and miniature cats) have similar top speeds at around a max. of 30 mph. This is because the difference between individual cats from different cat breeds and the difference between individual random bred cats is relatively small compared to dogs. Dogs vary in size and conformation tremendously because they have been domesticated for much longer and there are far more purebred dogs than cats.
- Domestic cat photo by Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
- Ridgeback Running by Karen King
- Sources: Various on the internet and personal knowledge