Why are dogs more obedient than cats?

Of the animals humans have domesticated and designated as pets, dogs and cats have seemed to come to be our favorite. So much so, that our own human behavior has created categories of people based on such pets i.e. “Dog people and cat people.” These animals are favorited for various reasons, most of which are completely different from each other. Cats, generally speaking, are beings of their own desire. They come and go as they please and most often are not responsive to commands. Dogs on the other hand have been labeled ” Man’s best friend” for their unconditional loyalty and obedient nature. This brings about the question: Why are dogs more obedient than cats?

The first hypothesis to answering this question is ” are dogs smarter than cats?” This could give an explanation as to their ability to learn, understand, and follow commands. A research and analysis by Gerhard Roth and Ursula Dicke examined the differences in animal brains and how those differences affect intelligence. It is easy for people to make the assumption that “Animals with larger brains are smarter. However, as this study contends, this would make other mammals such as elephants and whales more intelligent than humans, which to the best of our knowledge is not true. The analysis continues to break down the criteria for intelligence into three categories: Brain weight in grams, Encephalization quotient.


Here, I have summarized the parameters measured in the data and how they can be related to intelligence:

1.Weight of the brain can be related to size, on the most basic level of analysis we can say that some smaller animals i.e. insects, show a consistent disatvantage in the intelligence department

2.The Encephalization quotient is described as the ratio of how large the brain of the animal is relative to how large it should be (As explained later in the study, larger animals have larger brains but those brains are still proportionate to the body, thus not making them any more intelligent. Having a brain that exceeds this ratio though, may show some correalation to intelligence).

3.The number of cortical neurons is related to intelligence because the cerebral cortex is thought to be the center for cognitive abilities.

In the data cats fall short in both the brain weight and Encephalization quotient statistics. However, Cats almost double Dogs in their amount of cortical neurons at 300 million compared to 160 million. When comparing humans to whales and/or elephants there is a similar result. The study contests that the high density of cortical neurons can be the cause in large part of the difference in intelligence. Seeing that this same density difference is shown in Cats and Dogs, it would suggest that cats are in fact “smarter than dogs”, leaving us without a solution to our problem.

The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published research by Monique A.R. Udell and CDL Wynne which examined the ability of dogs to respond to both verbal and non verbal commands. A portion of this source gave a good evalutaion that dogs were domesticated about 5,000 years before cats. Therefore certain adaptations and methods may be more developed. The article then refers to a study done which examined the dependence of both animals on their owners. The study was conducted by producing two experiments. First, the animals had to find a bowl of food by being pointed in the correct direction by humans. Both animals were able to complete this task. Then, the food was made inaccessible and the trial was run again. It was seen more in dogs that they looked back to the humans for assistance wheras the cats did little to nothing to cue the humans for assistance.

Simple operational conditioning can train most animals. Humans have been training dogs for thousands of years which could explain our strength of relationship. However, this study could prove to show that cats are generally less dependent and care less for socialization with humans. This could prove despite their higher intelligence, why cats are less obedient.

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