Cats vs dogs – it’s a draw as expected

Cats versus dogs
Cats versus dogs. Photo: Rex.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

You know in a general contest of this sort I might say that cats win but that would be stupid. There are no winners. There are just differences. The New Scientist (NS) conducted a comprehensive analysis. Their research indicates that dogs are better. But of course, people will be divided. Cats are better than dogs some say and others say that dogs are better than cats. How do you work out the “correct” answer? That is the problem to be honest. Answer: there is no correct answer ๐Ÿ˜‰.

The NS recognises this difficult in methodology. The underlying problem in doing a general assessment of cats vs dogs is that there are more cat companions than dog companions (is this true as at 2022?). On that basis people have given us the answer before we start, it could be argued. However, the NS gathered together a bundle of scientific research to try and produce a conclusive and more objective answer to this age-old question. The eleven individual areas of assessment are listed below. I have used my own words and generally, but always, come to the same conclusion.

Cats are way smarter than dogs; that’s why they tend to accept supervisory roles…..

Brain Power

RELATED: Do dogs have bigger brains than cats?

Although on average the dog’s brain is bigger than the cat’s brain, the cat’s brain is larger as a percentage of overall body weight (in line with smaller mammals). And a bigger brain does not mean a smarter animal. Cats have better brains as they have more than twice the number of neurons in the cortex1. [Neuron: “an excitable cell in the nervous system that processes and transmits information by electrochemical signaling”]. This is provocative. There will be dog owners who would vehemently disagree with this conclusion. They might argue that dogs can be trained much more easily which indicates higher intelligence to cats. That’s probably untrue. Dogs can be trained more easily because historically they are working animals and therefore more accepting of directions and commands. It’s about 20,000+ years of evolution of the dog domestication process. Cats win

Length of Time Domesticated

NS call this “shared history” (meaning, I presume shared with people). Dogs (from 50,0002 to 16,0003 years ago) were domesticated before cats (9,500 years ago). In this topic of assessment in the cats vs dogs debate the dog will win here because it has had a greater utilitarian role and therefore was domesticated sooner. Dogs win

Bonding

The argument here is that as dogs are pack animals and cats are essentially loners, dogs bond more naturally with human companions who should be the pack leader. I see the point. But cats are very adaptable and bond very closely with humans in perhaps a more intelligent way. Dogs just loyally follow the pack leader without question. Personally, I believe that there is little difference between cats and dogs in terms of the strength of the bond with their human caregiver. People say that the dog is ‘man’s best friend’ – an outdated saying as it is not ‘woke’ (2022). This indicates that the human-to-dog relationship is stronger than that of cats. Perhaps it is a different kind of bond. The human-to-cat bond is perhaps more subtle and less overt and obvious. But it is just as strong. And as the population of cats and dogs is very even in numbers, I think we can make a presumption that there are an approximately equal number of cat and dog owners in the West and they all benefit from this bond. This supports the notion that the bond between people in relation to cats and dogs very similar.Dogs win – being generous to the dog ๐Ÿ˜Š

RELATED: Dogs versus Cats UK: 51% have a dog and 47% have a cat (YouGov poll)

Popularity

If you make the assessment about popularity in Muslim countries then the cat wins hands down. Very unfairly, the Muslim religion and culture labels dogs is unclean. They are the lowest of the low. This leads to abuse. At the opposite end of the domestic animal spectrum, cats are treated with far more respect thanks to the Prophet Muhammad who was a well-known cat lover. All the world knows that.

RELATED: To Muslims Dogs Are Unclean but Cats Arenโ€™t

This is a black and white assessment in the cats vs dogs debate or should be but it isn’t because it depends which country and the figures are estimates. But on a question of numbers cats win – maybe (204m to 173m in the top 10 cat4 and dog5 owning countries respectively as at 2010 – things change). I feel that this is the assessment that provides the answer in the cats vs dogs debate and arguably overrules all the other tests. Cats win

Understanding

These are my thoughts based on the NS article. As cats are as smart or smarter than dogs you would expect them to understand as well as dogs. However, the barrier would appear to be linked to bonding. Cats are less interested in obedience etc. It is a bit like a bored but talented student at school who underperforms. The impression given is thereafter that cats understand less. Cats don’t like eye contact (Maine Coons are the best at eye contact probably). While dogs hold eye contact and are therefore in a better position to look at our faces for indications of command6. That said my experience is that cats do understand as well as dogs. It is more a question of opening up a channel of communication through bonding, which as I have said can be as good as with a dog provided the person plays it correctly. NS says that the dog wins under this heading. I say: Cat and Dog equal

Problem Solving

I made a post about cat intelligence by the way. NS finds in favour of the dog but I disagree. There is no evidence to say dogs are better at problem solving. One problem here is that there are many more studies with dogs than there are with cats. The obvious reason is that it is much easier to do a study dogs, cats because they are more obedient. Therefore there is more information about dog behaviour and intelligence then there is about cats. There is a dearth of studies about the domestic cat in my view. This is unhelpful in making an assessment like this. However, by and large, dogs are better problem solving and cats. But there are indications that domestication makes both cat and dog less good at problem solving because we solve all the problems of survival for them! That is why wolves are better than domestic dogs and wild cats sharper witted than domestic cats. Cats in between wild and domestic, the wild cat hybrids are thought to be sharper and it shows in their more demanding less passive behavior. I say Cat and Dog equal

Vocalisation

How good are they at communicating by the use of their voice? NS says that the vocal repertoire of cats is limited. I understand the point they are making but in the wild, cats have, it seems to me, a wide range of vocalisations (see Cat Sounds or for example Mountain Lion sounds). The problem may be an extension of the domestication process (i.e. less demanding life demands less good vocalisation). Anyway, my cats employ a wide range of sounds (but that is not a scientific argument). Conversely, dogs it is argued may have learnt new vocalisations to talk to us. The same could be said of cats but there is no science to substantiate that. Above all cats are quieter by a mile. That counts for a lot in the modern and noisy world. So Cats win

Trainability

NS calls this “tractability”, a more scientific term. This cats vs dogs assessment is easy because it is well known that dogs are easier to train because they are pack animals looking to the leader (us) to guide them as opposed to the solitary cat who in my case goes in the opposite direction to me or deliberately sets out to be disobedient! (only kidding – she is actually pretty responsive). Dogs as mentioned attend to eye contact and other cues better and imitate their human master7.Dogs win

Senses

Hearing ability of cats versus dogs
Hearing ability of cats versus dogs. Cats just win. Illustration: PoC.

RELATED: Do dogs hear better than cats?

SenseCatsDogsWin?
SightCan see in light levels six times lower than for humansCan see in light levels five times lower than for humansCAT
SmellWith 45 million to 80 million receptors, cats have a far better sense of smell than humansBut cats canโ€™t measure up to the average dog, whose snout holds between 149 million and 300 million receptorsDOG
HearingCan hear a wide range from 45 to 64,000 hertzSmaller range is audible at 67 and 45,000 hertzCAT

Cats win

Eco Friendliness

This concerns the controversial topic of how much wildlife is killed by the cat or dog. This is a difficult cats vs dogs area of assessment. Cats have a bad reputation for killing wildlife but often, I feel, the science is defective and disseminated by scientists and politicians who want rid of the feral cat any way possible. I am yet to see sound incontrovertible evidence that says the cat kills the kind of wildlife as stated by some scientists. However, wildlife is no doubt killed to a degree. Dogs also upset wildlife by disturbing nesting birds etc. As to the amount of land required to feed one dog or cat; the cat wins apparently.

CatsDogs
Area of land to keep cat feed is 0.15 hectares per annum8Area of land to keep medium sized dog fed – is 0.84 hectares per annum

There are other factors clearly. Cats often use cat litter. Cat litter is a burden to the environment. You have to mine it if it is made from bentonite, a form of clay, and you have to bury it afterwards. However, dogs poop outside creating an environmental hazard although nowadays, in 2022, many parts of many developed countries have regulations which insist that dog owners pick up their dog’s poop. I sense that in this regard dogs are less environmentally damaging.

Draw between cats and dogs

Utility

Well, we don’t need much science under this topic do we in the cats vs dogs debate. Dogs win hands down. The usefulness of the trained dog is legendary, from detecting drugs to trapped people and catching criminals, for example9. The cat is great company, reduces stress in people, is low maintenance and was domesticated to keep down rodents. So, it is a closer contest than one thinks. But…Dogs win

Conclusion

Cats vs DogsWins
Cat4 (3 draws)
Dog4 (3 draws)


Cats vs Dogs….“You know these dogs will obey anything their master says…look at him panting for a command…! Photos by (left) fofurasfelinas and (right) Corie Howell (Flickr for both)

Treating cats as dogs – one of the worst mistakes!

This is a good video from the well-known American cat behaviourist, Jackson Galaxy. He talks about the worst mistakes that a cat owner can make. And he kicks off in the video by saying that one of the major mistakes that you can make is to treat a cat as a dog. If you do this your expectations are misplaced. What he is saying is that dogs are obedient and want to please. This is a result of maybe 20,000 years of domestication of the dog. Relatively speaking, the domestic cat is much less domesticated. And they have retained this independence which is a result of their inherently solitary nature. That is not to say that they are solitary animals these days because they are quite sociable. They’ve learned to be sociable over those 10,000 years of domestication. But people think that cats are aloof. They are not, they are simply being themselves and their character is different to that of dogs. If you respect the domestic cat’s character and accept it, your expectations are well positioned which will help to foster a great relationship.

notes

1 Evolution of the Brain and Intelligence by Gerhard Roth and Ursula Dicke

2 Robert Wayne’s team at the University of California, Los Angeles

3 Peter Savolainen, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden

4 http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-most-pet-cat-population.html

5 http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-most-pet-dog-population.html

6 Alexandra Horowitz “Inside of a Dog” published September 2009 – this is my interpretation of what he is saying as described in the NS article.

7 New Scientist, 23 August 2008, p 33

8 http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427311.600-how-green-is-your-pet.html

9 Domestic Dogs and Human Health by Wells, Deborah L.

1 thought on “Cats vs dogs – it’s a draw as expected”

  1. Well as a kid we had both cats and dogs and I loved them both. But I’ve always had a great affinity towards cats. Once I was on my own I have always shared my life with at least one cat. Each of them has had an entirely different personality & habits. I have found them all to be extremely loving & intelligent. They want to have attention & be loved. My cats follow me around, go in the shower with me, sleep with me, demand my attention, talk to me, have ways of letting me know what they want. It is a great feeling when a cat adopts you as one of their own.

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