Who has a higher IQ, cats or dogs?

The eternal question … answered.




  1. #1 Stacy
    December 23, 2009

    Hmmm… The dog is being manipulated by a person – and the cats are manipulating a person. Cats of course! (but I knew that already)

  2. #2 Eddie Janssen
    December 23, 2009


  3. #3 Hank Fox
    December 23, 2009

    It’s dogs. A lot of the imagined intelligence of cats is just that, imagined.

    But then again, I’m talking about big dogs. Those twisted little toy breeds have all the brains bred out of them, because certain humans find retarded, helpless little animals amusing.

    But I do hate to see a smart dog forced to “perform” for dullards who would be just as interested in Britney Spears latest tattoo, or Chuck Norris’ political blather.

    BTW, I think this is “Skidboot.”

  4. #4 Marnie
    December 23, 2009

    Dogs, all the way. Don’t mistake ambivalence and food drive for intelligence.

  5. #5 Robert Estrada
    December 23, 2009

    I think the real difference is that no cat will acknowledge being owned.
    Schwartze Kat

  6. #6 aratina cage
    December 23, 2009

    Those twisted little toy breeds have all the brains bred out of them, because certain humans find retarded, helpless little animals amusing.

    Hank, you must have missed Beverly Hills Chihuahua. And IQ is not genetic, remember? It doesn’t change across breeds.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    December 23, 2009

    The relative brain size of a Chihuahua is not too far off from that of a human.

    Which is why we must be careful about inter vs intra species calculus and comparisons. There is quiet a bit of research on this if one wants to actually pay attention to reality when making winged monkey arguments (ahem, anon).

  8. #8 Kim
    December 23, 2009

    Cats of course, the dog just has mastered to listen.

  9. #9 jolly
    December 23, 2009

    I had a border collie that seemed to read my mind. Once I got used to him being so observant, he and I were able to amaze people all the time.

  10. #10 LightningRose
    December 24, 2009

    My Aussie Shepard mix has demonstrated problem solving and an understanding of abstraction. His vocabulary is large enough that if I for sure don’t him to know what I’m talking about I have to speak in pig latin.

    And he’s clearly smarter than most computer programmers because he’s never released crappy code. 😉

  11. #11 Hank Fox
    December 24, 2009

    Brain size to body mass ratio certainly matters. But in the same species, brain size matters too, don’t you think?

    (And dog IQ doesn’t change across breeds?? Jeezus. Of COURSE it does.)

    Any intelligence test you can dream up, a German shepherd, Australian Shepherd or Border Collie will kick the tiny ass of any Chihuahua or Papillon you want to trot out.

    Breeds like pugs, Lhasa Apsos, etc., fall on the low end of the canine IQ chart. Cute, yes. Smart, no.

    If you’re talking real-world intelligence, big dogs are generally smarter than little ones.

    My point wasn’t JUST about doggie intellect, though. It was about deliberately breeding animals that would otherwise be healthy and happy into small, crippled forms … for purposes of human amusement. If you’ve never thought about it, this probably strikes you as something silly to care about. But if you DO think about it, it comes off as a ethical crime more repugnant than genocide.

    Petting a little pug dog in a feed store parking lot this summer, I was baby-talking to him about how tough he was because I thought he was growling at me. His owner said “Oh, that’s not growling. That’s just how he breathes.” The poor little bastard had to make an effort just to breathe. And somebody did that to him deliberately. To me, that’s just plain horrifying. It’s tormenting an animal and thinking it’s cute, and being so wantonly stupid you think it’s OKAY to think it’s cute.

  12. #12 daedalus2u
    December 24, 2009

    I think that dogs appear to be more intelligent to most people due to the uncanny valley effect. Dogs are social animals, more social than cats, so they have more of a “theory of mind” for humans to connect with.

    The non-matching of the “theory of mind” of two individuals is responsible for the uncanny valley effect (my hypothesis). That non-matching triggers xenophobia.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    December 24, 2009

    OK. That’s not a bad idea. Or at least, it’s the beginning of some interesting questions that could lead to a good idea that probably will not look much like the original idea, as usual.

  14. #14 aratina cage
    December 25, 2009

    Hank Fox, maybe it is time for you to get down off your platform and define IQ. You’re coming off as rather breedist (is this really any different than racism?) and sizeist. Specifically, “kicking ass” is not typically held as a sign of intelligence but rather temperament and aggressiveness. Also, I’m not sure how you can reconcile your distaste for pug breeding (worse than genocide, really?) when you probably eat chicken, pork, and beef you purchase commercially. At least most of those pugs have someone who loves them.

  15. #15 Stephanie Z
    December 25, 2009

    aratina, don’t assume that Hank isn’t bothered by something just because he didn’t bring it up off topic–or that one must muster the same degree of indignation for everything that’s wrong in the world in order to be allowed to be upset about one thing. Plenty of animals are bred in ways that cause them to end up in pain. It’s still bad that it happens to dogs.

  16. #16 aratina cage
    December 25, 2009

    It’s funny, too, Hank. According to Wikipedia, Stanley Coren’s dog intelligence rankings directly refute your assertion. The stupidest dog breeds, according to Coran, include the Bloodhound and the Mastiff along with the Pekingese and the Shih Tzu, while the eighth smartest dog is the Papillon. Pugs come in at #57 (fair but below average), just above the Great Pyrenees and Old English sheepdog, and just below the Akita and Alaskan Malamute. I am still skeptical that such ranking of intelligence by breed can be done in the first place, but at least Stanley has a very specific definition of IQ based on speed of understanding new commands and need for repetition before reacting correctly to a command based on trainer surveys. What have you got?

  17. #17 Hank Fox
    December 25, 2009

    aratina, what you’re doing is mixing up our human understanding that human race and intelligence have no correlation, with the beastly world, in which that understanding does not apply. Certainly intelligence varies among breeds of dogs. Anybody with any experience of different dog breeds knows it. You yourself used that list of comparative breed intelligence in a following argument, arguing against the point one second and accepting it the next (which also means you’re arguing just to be arguing, and I find that fairly boorish).

    To think that dogs of different breeds don’t have distinctly different characteristics directly related to their genetics is just silly. Malamutes have stand-up ears; beagles have floppy ears. ALL of them. It’s genetic. Think that same sort of thing doesn’t happen with brain characteristics?

    The dog in the video is a mutt who likely has a lot of border collie or Australian shepherd in him, possibly some Queensland heeler. Could you train a Chihuahua to do the things he does? No, I don’t think so. We’d have seen it.

    As to defining canine IQ, your own citation of the Wikipedia article lays out some pretty good rules of thumb: “Understanding of New Commands: Fewer than 5 repetitions” and “Obey First Command: 95% of the time or better.”

    I will have to grant that the list shows several large dogs in the “Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence.” Yeah, my own experience is that bloodhounds, beagles and chows are dumb as rocks. (But then again, they were deliberately bred for characteristics other than intelligence.)

    But then this: “Specifically, ‘kicking ass’ is not typically held as a sign of intelligence but rather temperament and aggressiveness.” Seriously? Jeez. Good luck when you get to the lesson on colloquial expressions and metaphor.

    “Also, I’m not sure how you can reconcile your distaste for pug breeding (worse than genocide, really?) … ”

    It’s just like I said. You’ve never thought about it, so you probably automatically assume it’s okay to breed defenseless creatures, animals of types we profess to love, into forms that are literally crippled. Lots of people see a dog with a radically shortened face, so shortened that it can’t keep its tongue in its mouth, as cute. But if you put yourself in the animal’s place and imagine what it would be like to never be able to close your mouth without biting your own tongue, that seems … well, holy hell, it just seems evil. Evil not because of the physical form the blameless animal has to live with, but evil because some piece-of-shit ignorant humans did it to them deliberately.

    “Worse than genocide” because humans at least have some ability to defend themselves, or to flee, or to find defenders who will look after them. Animals don’t. Worse than genocide because there’s no end to it. Genocide stops because we recognize and stop it. Breeding dogs to be crippled goes on and on for generations, and most of us onlookers think it’s perfectly acceptable. Because we never manage to FEEL it. We only see it.

    Lots of people look at Basset hounds and see cute, but what they’re really looking at are dogs deliberately bred to be crippled by dwarfism. Forced to live their entire lives with clubby little legs. What would that feel like?

    People say “Oh, but they’re perfectly happy!” Yeah, because they don’t know any different. That just makes it worse. Turning an animal into a defenseless little toy is putting them in a cage they can’t ever hope to escape, and worse, don’t know they’re in. The people who do it … there are probably humans out there who would breed dogs and cats with hereditary blindness and call it sweet. “Nettie Faye, look at these-here little Blind Poppets! They just walk right into the walls. Ain’t that the cutest thang?” “Oh, Earl, let’s get one!” (In fact, there was a story some years back about a woman who was attempting to breed cats with tiny little dwarf forelegs. She called them “hoppy cats,” if I remember correctly. I haven’t heard anything about them since, so I’m hoping she either failed to breed them or else had a stroke and died horribly, after which she was eaten by hoppy cats.)

    Try to imagine what it would be like if you or someone you know was subjected to the same treatment. What would you think of someone who took some deliberate action in order to produce a human baby with dwarfism? Or hairlessness? A tiny head with bulging eyes? A long tongue permanently hanging out? Long, floppy ears?

    And then did it again and again so that there were thousands, millions of these deformed babies? The very thought is so creepy I doubt any of us is really able to examine it in detail.

    Trust me, turning dogs into defenseless little cripples is shitty disgusting. The people who do it are shitty disgusting people.

    Finally, two things:

    I worked as a real cowboy for several years. I’m probably at least as familiar with what REALLY goes into the commercial production of “beef” as anybody here. I’ll be glad to go into that in some detail if you like (I can fully describe castration, branding and ear-marking, for instance), but I don’t think I need to – the issue of food animals and that of pet animals slice in two different directions, mainly because we profess, as individuals and as a society, to love our pets. Food animals you do certain things to because they’re food. Pets … well, hell, if you love them, don’t you understand that love means looking out for THEIR best interests?

    And the last thing: I can live with “breedist” and “sizeist,” whatever those might be (Did you just make that up? Or are there people who actually talk about such things?), but the second you imply I’m a racist, I can only say … Fuck You. Fuck you lots.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    December 25, 2009

    Here’s how it works with dogs. This is very simple.

    Wolves are smarter than dogs.

    Dogs are broken wolves, broken in way that make them … dogs. The difference among breeds is in the exact way in which they are broken.

    Most broken wolves are going to end up not as smart as wolves. Therefore, primordial dog breeds are going to be smarter than more derived breeds. The masstif is smarter than the neufie, for instance. The standard poodle is smarter than all the breeds that came out of it (such as various setters and so on)

    But, every here and there is is concieveable to break a wolf in such a way as to end up with a smarter outcome than average. Border collies may be a good example. But I’m not sure if any “smart dogs” are smarter than wolves.

    No, brain size does not matter much within a species across subspecies/breeds.

  19. #19 daedalus2u
    December 25, 2009

    If you want an even better start of an idea, I think the uncanny valley effect comes from people doing a “Turing Test” when they first meet, the objective of the test is to find if the other person is “human enough”, what that means, is does the other person have a theory of mind that is sufficiently consilient so as to be able to predict their actions and to communicate with them.

    In the sense that I am using it, a “theory of mind” is the cognitive method used to translate a mental concept into the data stream of language (and back). When two individual’s communicate, on a fundamental level what they are doing is exchanging mental states, the first person has a mental concept, translates that into language, communicates the data stream of language, the data stream is received and then up-converted back into a mental concept. The only ideas that can be communicated between two individuals are those that both of them have the mental hardware to instantiate. In effect communication is pattern recognition, either recognition of an already existing pattern, or recognition of a de novo pattern generated during the communication. Pattern recognition is subject to errors, type 1 and type 2.

    If the two theories of mind of the two individuals are insufficiently consilient, then the pattern recognition and matching doesn’t go very well. This shows up as an “error rate” in the communication. If the “error rate” is too high, then xenophobia is triggered. I think this is the uncanny valley effect, the triggering of xenophobia due to lack of consilience in the two theories of mind. Mostly it is probably body language and subconscious stuff. There are several ways this can happen, either due to different cultural norms, or if there is a difference in the neuroanatomy that make up the theory of mind cognitive structure. I think this latter mechanism is what happens in autism and why people on the autism spectrum are bullied so much (they invoke xenophobia in everyone who is NT), and also because people on the spectrum can’t read and emulate the theory of mind of NTs, they can’t see the bullying coming. This isn’t only a human attribute, Harlow’s monkeys exhibited exactly the same things. The isolated monkeys were bullied by the NT monkeys (and would have been killed without experimenter intervention).

    I come at this through my autism research. I think the feelings of xenophobia directed toward one’s child are what cause the hatred experienced by the “curebies”. The lack of a consilient theory of mind in their child is so disturbing and hate provoking, that the parent has to displace that hatred onto something else, big pharma, vaccines, autism researchers, Neurodiversity. They have to externalize their rationalization for why they have such feelings of hatred for their child.

    I think this is one of the generic mechanisms for xenophobia and bigotry. Xenophobia and bigotry can be learned too, but I think the uncanny valley mechanism is innate (but can be controlled to some degree). The person doesn’t understand the “other”, xenophobia is triggered, feelings of antipathy occur, those feelings get rationalized. This is easy to see when people offer bizarre and even delusional explanations for why they hate someone; for example hating Obama because of his “death panels”. Obama’s “death panels” can’t be the real reason someone hates Obama because Obama doesn’t have death panels. McCain’s religious bigotry for example; McCain doesn’t know the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam. To McCain they are both “the same”, they are the other, and as “the other”, they are not worth trying to understand. To people who hate, trying to understand the other is quite dangerous, because to understand the other is to have a theory of mind that is able to emulate the thinking of the other, which is to be able to think about the other on their own terms. I think this is the derivation of the Nietzsche quote:

    He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

    To be able to understand someone on their terms you have to be able to think the way that they do. If you are not careful to do that as an emulation where you retain control over the primitives (i.e. the cognitive and neurological equivalent of machine code), then you will start to think like they do. This is the problem with most bigots, they are unable to think how others do in terms of an emulation. They do their thinking “native” in their theory of mind with no access to the machine code. People on the spectrum do their theory of mind stuff as an emulation (which is why it is so slow and clunky and with poor resolution).

  20. #20 aratina cage
    December 25, 2009

    Hank Fox,

    I can live with “breedist” and “sizeist,” whatever those might be (Did you just make that up? Or are there people who actually talk about such things?), but the second you imply I’m a racist,… [blah blah blah]

    Of course I made up “breedist” and “sizeist” because they convey your kind of prejudice against small dog breeds. Your weaseling out of the small dog = stupid dog assertion is noted.

    On the rest, I’m just defending the human companions of small dogs and small dog breeders from your misplaced hate out of what seems to be shallow but genuine concern. Most of all, you have really bungled the term “genocide”, which is a term for a killing of an entire group of humans, not a term for breeding animals for looks over health.

    Try to imagine what it would be like if you or someone you know was subjected to the same treatment.

    Eugenics is a well known ethical concern, and the idea of raising people as livestock has been practiced under the name of “slavery” for most of human history, so I don’t need to imagine what it is like.

    Trust me, turning dogs into defenseless little cripples is shitty disgusting. The people who do it are shitty disgusting people.

    I don’t trust you, not after your first screed against small dogs on this thread. So fuck off with the trust issues. The question of whether or not pug breeders are disgusting shitty people is an interesting question to me and I would probably say they can be forgiven in the same way cattle breeders can be forgiven—because it is an accepted human practice. (But they should be willing IMO to sacrifice strict family lineage for healthier pups.)

    the issue of food animals and that of pet animals slice in two different directions, mainly because we profess, as individuals and as a society, to love our pets. Food animals you do certain things to because they’re food. Pets … well, hell, if you love them, don’t you understand that love means looking out for THEIR best interests?

    How very arbitrary and hypocritical of you. You easily look past how cattle and pigs, which have brains on par with dogs, are raised to be slaughtered. You don’t concern yourself with chickens being raised in tight-fitting cages for nothing more than their meat. But you rail against those genocidal pug breeders breeding those stupid-ass pugs with raspy breathing. Your double standard stands out to me.

    Pug owners usually love their companions. Pug breeders usually love their pedigrees. And cattle, pigs, and chickens can be loved as much as any old Pug or other dog. Turn your own argument around on yourself and ask, “What if we raised humans like we raise livestock for consumption?” That’s how silly your argument against breeders and human companions of pugs is.

  21. #21 daedalus2u
    December 25, 2009

    I am not a dog or cat person, so I don’t know very much about either of them. It does make sense to me that blood hounds would have reduced cognitive abilities because they have such a great sense of smell. All those smell receptors have to have nerves attached to them, and those nerves need to process all that information in some way. If there is more space for smell processing, there is less for everything else.

  22. #22 Hank Fox
    December 26, 2009

    aratina: It’s boring to me that I made some admittedly passionate statements about a couple of subjects, and rather than staying in a discussion of those subjects, YOU almost immediately started personally attacking ME. I’m prejudiced, racist, on a platform, etc.

    And of course I eventually replied in the same vein. Probably a mistake, because now we’re both on the same low, muddy level, but there it is. At least I made some attempt to explain where I was coming from, before replying in kind.

    And this business with dog breeding? How is it you’re suddenly the self-appointed Defender of Pugs? You slide away from any least recognition that being bred down to a debilitated form is not a good thing, instead shrieking about cows and chickens like you’re Sheena of the Stockyards. Playing out the old fallacy that EVERYTHING must be cared about before we can care about ANYTHING.

    You also seem to demand that no apology or correction be allowed. I say “I will have to grant that the list shows several large dogs in the ‘Lowest Degree of Working/Obedience Intelligence.’ ” and to you that constitutes “weaseling out” out of the argument.

    You’re being kind of a dick, you know?

    I suspect one reason for the stridency may be that you know you’ve made a mistake, but don’t know how to get out of it gracefully. The only course open to you is to get progressively nastier until I stop replying, at which point you can feel you’ve won. Which is sort of funny in the sense that you seem to have no self-awareness of what you’re doing – you’re unable to keep yourself from escalating.

    You always sounded a lot smarter – and possibly less mean – over at Pharyngula. And outside this small arena, it seems to me that you and I would be on the same team in a LOT of issues.

    There are several ways out of this. One of them is that we can apologize to each other, honestly and without reservation.

    If we want to continue the discussion after that, the door is open.


  23. #23 aratina cage
    December 26, 2009

    Hank Fox, I was totally joking around in my first response to you. I mean, the star of Beverely Hills Chihuahua was a freakin’ Chihuahua! Chihuahuas did many of the tricks in that movie. Like the dog trainers in that movie, anyone who has cared for small dogs knows that their intelligence varies wildly (they are not all retarded and it was a failure at being funny on your part for those of us with little dog family members—yes I was biased and defensive, you would be too if I called kids like yours “retarded” as a joke) and does have a lot to do with how they were raised, how they were trained, and how they were and are cared for.

    Anyway, you didn’t get my point from what I could tell in your response (#11) and then you strayed farther into your own opinion of little-dog breeders, little dogs, and pugs as if to justify your initial assertion (a fallacious distraction because large-dog breeds also have genetic problems due to inbreeding and breeding for looks over health, see Pedigree Dogs Exposed). It seemed to me you were making the same mistake the IQ racists make with humans in your stereotyping of dogs by breed and that your claim of size being a sign of intellect was a similarly bad stereotype. So I began investigating the matter, and immediately found research showing that the size of a dog is not an indicator of its intelligence, as shown by Stanley Coren’s research (accepting his test of intelligence as time to response to new and old commands).

    The question remaining is whether the breed of a dog indicates its intelligence to any significant degree (which I doubt but am amenable to—note that I vehemently disagree with the characterization of little dogs as “retarded”). Greg Laden has said that wolves should be taken to be more intelligent than dogs for the most part since dogs are broken wolves, but obviously a wolf would fail Stanley Coren’s intelligence tests out of the box. However, Stanley Coren does not get the last word on what intelligence is for a dog. If we took genetic proximity to wolves on the Tree of Life as a test, then the Pekingnese would be expected to be more intelligent than the Collie, which would not fit Coren’s findings.

    In looking into this matter further, I ran across an article that explains how dogs of different breeds do have more genetic difference (on average) that humans of different populations:

    Between-breed variation is estimated at 27.5 percent. By comparison, genetic variation between human populations is only 5.4 percent. Thus the concept of a dog breed is very real and can be defined not only by the dog’s appearance but genetically as well. –Ostrander, E.A., Genetics and the Shape of Dogs, May 2007

    But the research also pointed to grouping of dogs into subpopulations based on allele frequency. Well guess what? The Pug turns out to be in the same genetic group as the Collie, a group distinguished for its herding and sighting abilities. Again, this doesn’t match the results of Coren’s ranking of dog IQ.

    I don’t know enough to come down on one side or another of whether or not dog IQ can be ranked by breed, so I remain a skeptic about it. I know that sounds like I am an AGW denialist on this matter, but based on my own experience and knowledge of highly trained little dogs (which is all anecdotal, I know), I won’t believe it until I see empirical evidence for the breedist position. Yet, given that dog breeds are more genetically distinct than any two humans I am guessing that it is not right for me to say that breedists (who think breed determines IQ in a significant way) are wingnuts like the IQ racists.

    For any humor that went over my head that I took in the wrong way and for the things I said that were hurtful to you as a person, Hank, I apologize, but I hope in return you realize that I was being snarky and trying to provide counterpoints in my first two responses to you because I felt the humor I did see was prejudiced against little dogs and the people who breed them and those who welcome them into their families.

  24. #24 aishwarya
    July 24, 2010

    have pug has a smarter brain

  25. #25 liz
    September 29, 2010

    cats iq 7.1 dogs iq 5.2

  26. #26 Steve
    January 15, 2011

    Compared to a human IQ cats range 40-49 dogs range 15-17.

  27. #27 p. lions
    February 5, 2011

    Hank Fox I agree with you.

    Why are we even breeding animals for profit when there are so many homeless pets. All of my pets have been rescues. Now there is actually someone out there breeding cats so they have a tiger pattern (a “real” tiger striped pattern, as opposed to the inferior tabby cat pattern, the natural pattern.) Breeding and throwing out (they say adopting out) cats that don’t have a particular striped pattern on their forehead! See Toygers dot org. Can anyone defend this? OK we bred animals into many varieties of dogs and cats in the past but must it continue? Why not put that money into caring for homeless animals or educating Michael Vick wanna bees that animals deserve food, water, and kind treatment.

    The Hoppy Cats and Togers says it all, it is now just breeding animals for our own entertainment and amusement. Read the book The End of Nature.

  28. #28 Testubeiq
    April 3, 2011

    I think that cats are smarter because they refuse to do what you tell them. lol. Dogs clearly have a broader range of activities that they are able to engage in, but cats seem like they could if they wanted to but don’t.

  29. #29 deadlyfrass
    August 9, 2011

    I agree, if you went to a pet shop and bought a puppy it would immediately be your friend, whereas with a kitten you would have to earn its trust,to me that shows intelligence.

  30. #30 Connie Davis
    February 13, 2012

    # 3) Neither cats or dogs learn from “dullards” as you call them. They are rarely any smarter than their teacher.They may have the ability ( IQ ) to learn much more but because a ” dullard ” wouldn’t be able to teach them any more than they know it would be a learning handicap for the animal.

  31. #31 Jebril
    July 17, 2012

    Last comment by Connie is spot on, I think most people who get animals as pets don’t put much time into teaching them and training them. This is why we still have over 4 million dog bites every year.