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Author: Dra. Cristina Alves: Hospital Veterinário Principal
Some people emphasize that the dog’s ability to follow its master’s orders is a proof higher intelligence. Others take the same argument to prove that cats are more intelligent than dogs, i.e. cats are so intelligent that they do not bother to be trained.Let’s not follow any of these arguments but single out another reason, which may better explain this differentiated behavior: Both dogs and cats can solve some types of problems but because they are atavistically different animals they behave differently towards humans.
Dogs are gregarious animals, with a complex group life structure, hierarchically organized. Dogs need to fit, say, in a family, in order to know where they are and where they are bound to, hence their greater ability to learn. Dogs´ gregariousness is genetically imprinted, their ancestors hunted in pack and their daily survival - from defending themselves from attacks, to fleeing, hunting or procreating - depended on a social structure which had to be respected. This does not happen with the cat. Cats descended from solitary hunters which - with a few exceptions - did not need team work to survive. A cat fancier would say that dogs are with humans because they need them, cats because they choose to.
We cannot induce cats to do what they don’t want to. Training has to be based on positive reinforcement, generally food, sometimes petting or a toy while dogs learn some tricks without needing positive reinforcement.
This means that comparing dogs and cats is an interesting and very difficult question with no clear answer as shown by some tests developed to measure the IQ of dogs and cats, which results are always inconclusive. The difficulty in assessing the intelligence even within the same species is well illustrated by the results of a test to dogs´ breeds intelligence ranking the German Shepherd last. The German Shepherd being one of the most versatile breeds in training, such classification has caused great controversy in the Great Britain. It seems thus pretty clear that such tests are not to be taken as reliable intelligence measures, in as much as they always display a subjective bias.
Which one is smarter?
We have tried to demonstrate that dogs and cats are distinct realities that can’t be compared.
Undoubtedly both the dogs´ fanciers and the cats´ fanciers will answer to this question with ...
....Mine, of course !!