An article on the Psychology Today website, psychologytoday.com addresses the question of why cats are not used as drug detectors, police or military animals, and whether it’s tied to a lack of cat intelligence. The article states that when it comes to size, a cat’s brain is fairly small when compared to humans or dogs. Brain size isn’t the gauge of intelligence, however, it’s actually determined by brain structure.
A cat’s brain structure and surface folding is 90% like ours. The feline brain’s cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for cognitive information processing is more complex than a dog’s. Cats have 300 million neurons in their cerebral cortex, compared to 160 million for dogs.
The cerebral cortex is the center for decision making and complex problem solving. This part of the brain is where language is interpreted and stores short and long term memory. Cats are known to have longer memories than dogs, especially in cases where they’ve learned by doing as opposed to observing.
This article doesn’t make a definitive call on which species is more intelligent, but the writer does have a theory that makes sense to me. He writes that dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, making them very skilled socially. Cats, on the other hand, have not developed social skills equal to those of dogs.
The theory goes on to state cats have not developed the social skills because they’re more impulsive and less patient than their canine counterparts. Cats leave a situation that frustrates them, rather than sticking around. If cats don’t see the payoff in an activity, they prefer to move on to something else. Dogs, on the other hand, will hang around much longer if there’s a chance of treats or positive attention from their human.
This article seems to call it a draw, dogs win the social category, but cats win the problem solving hands down.