We can easily imagine our ancestors debating dogs versus cats, starting the age-old argument and comparing the merits of early canines and ancient felines. Dog owners have long argued that dogs are better than cats. But the cat lovers among us beg to differ.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most convincing evidence that cats really are better than dogs.
16. Cats are more agile than dogs
Any cat owner will tell you cats always seem to land on their feet. That’s definitely true when a cat falls a short distance. But it’s not necessarily the case when a cat has a longer distance to fall. In fact, cats purposefully maneuver, so they fall flat and land on their chest and belly, thereby reducing their injuries.
And surprisingly, cats who fall long distances might fare better than those who take shorter tumbles. The added distance seems to give cats time to position themselves for the perfect landing. Thus, cats who fall from 10 stories or higher actually do better than those who fall from five to nine stories. But dogs don’t usually survive a fall from even four stories.
15. Cats are better hunters than dogs
Everybody’s familiar with the concept of a hunting dog. But few people realize cats actually make better hunters than dogs. In fact, cats’ superior hunting skills mean they kill large numbers of birds in the U.S. each year — though the specific statistics seem a little bit shaky — much to the chagrin of wildlife advocates.
While many dogs can corner a squirrel, most won’t know what to do with it. But cats can be counted on to go in for the kill, thanks to their superior close-range vision and intense focus. Some scientists even think domestic cats hunt just as well as big cats and in some ways are even better athletes than lions and tigers.
14. Cats stay more alert than dogs
Dog owners might assume their pets have sharper senses than cats. But the opposite is actually true. The average cat has a better sense of smell than the average dog. Cats can see a wider range of colors and shades than dogs, and they have superior close-range vision. Plus, cats have superior vision in dim light.
Cats can also hear better than dogs. And cats can use their superior senses to stay more alert to what’s going on in their environment. This might be why many cat owners report their pets stare off into space. In reality, these cats have probably noticed a speck of dust or ray of sunlight moving and want to make sure there actually isn’t anything there.
13. Cats can smell and hear even while they sleep
Anybody who’s ever owned a cat, lived with a cat, or even seen a cat has noticed cats sleep — a lot. It’s usually between 12 and 16 hours a day. They sleep so much that some people have observed cats seem have an “unusual sense of continuity between waking and sleep.” In fact, the continuity is such that cats can not only sleep while sitting up, but can even actively smell and hear what’s going on around them while they sleep. That’s pretty amazing.
12. Cats live longer than dogs
If you want a pet who will keep you company for as many years as possible, you’re statistically better off adopting a cat than a dog. Cats enjoy an average lifespan of 13 to 14 years, significantly longer than the average of 11 years for dogs. Large dogs, especially, have considerably shorter expected lifespans than smaller animals. Outdoor cats, of course, don’t live nearly as long as indoor cats. But some indoor cats have stuck around for as long as two decades.
11. Cats cost less to own than dogs
Keeping a pet and taking good care of the animal can get very expensive. So budget-conscious animal lovers will probably be happy to learn a cat typically costs less to own than a dog. With either a cat or dog, you can expect expenditures, such as a spay or neuter surgery, a carrier, and a crate for a dog or a litter box for a cat. You’ll also need to buy food and treats, make regular trips to the veterinarian, buy litter for a cat, purchase toys, and perhaps even pay for pet insurance. But on average, those costs are lower for a cat than for a dog.
10. Cats don’t smell as bad as dogs
Though the odor of an uncleaned litter box can certainly get pungent, cats themselves usually don’t smell the same way dogs do. Fido’s smell probably clings to your clothes, and it’s likely obvious to guests when they walk in the door. But cats typically don’t blanket you or your home in a strong odor.
An experiment even found cat owners typically can’t distinguish between their cat’s smell and the odor of another cat. But interestingly enough, dog owners can identify their dogs by smell — which seems to suggest dog odors really are much stronger than cat odors.
9. Cats don’t have to be walked
Taking the dog on a quick walk a few times a day doesn’t sound that time-consuming. But many people with curious, lazy, or slow-poke dogs have found the exact opposite to be true. Cats, on the other hand, don’t have to be walked. Many are happy to stay indoors. They exercise on their own. And cat owners don’t have to drag their pets — or themselves — off the couch to make sure the animal gets enough exercise. (That’s what the laser pointer is for.)
In fact, maybe that’s why few dogs get an adequate amount of exercise. Their humans just don’t have the time or energy to run laps with them around the neighborhood.
8. Cats make better hosts than dogs
Planning to have friends over for dinner or to invite houseguests for the weekend? If you have a dog, you’ll probably have to contend with at least a few annoying dog behaviors, whether Fido wants to jump on your guests when they get to the front door or insists on barking at them when they sit in your backyard.
But a cat won’t do either of those things. In fact, many cats just hide when new people arrive. Once a cat has determined the newcomers are safe, he might come out to say hello. But he’s probably not going to jump on anybody’s lap uninvited or hump somebody’s leg.
7. Cats are quieter than dogs
Many dogs bark incessantly. And very, very few dogs will never bark at all. But even the loudest cat won’t make half the racket that a dog will. Cats do vocalize, of course, especially to get their humans to feed them, scratch their heads, or give them the catnip toy they want. (Cats are basically silent in feral colonies but make plenty of noises when they live with humans.)
But envision a cat who’s angry about your attempt to bathe him or clip his nails. He won’t produce nearly the amount of noise you could reasonably expect from a dog greeting the mailman or alerting you to a squirrel on the porch. So if you want a pet who won’t disturb the neighbors cats emerge the clear winner.
6. Cats are great on camera
Sure, everyone knows cats do some pretty adorable things for the countless photos and videos people share on the internet. But most pet owners probably assume dogs do better on camera, thanks to the wide array of dog-centric movies. But that might not actually be the case.
A documentary filmmaker found the cats she worked with “became aware of the camera in a very similar way that they became aware of another person.” In fact, “it was almost as if they understood that they were being filmed, and they seemed to have appreciated it.” That’s probably not an experience many pet owners have had with their dogs.
5. Cats are more independent
If you love animals, you probably don’t mind taking care of a pet. But if you don’t want a pet who will be constantly underfoot and begging for unending attention, you might want to get a cat instead of a dog. Many dogs need lots of attention from their humans. Dog owners have to supervise their pets’ exercise, let them in and out of the house, keep them clean, watch their diets, and reassure them that they’re loved.
Cats, on the other hand, are a lot more independent. Most want occasional cuddles. And they do need you to set out their food and clean the litter box. But otherwise, cats often keep to themselves and are less likely to be underfoot and demanding attention 24/7.
4. Cats don’t depend on humans to make them feel safe
We all love having an affectionate animal. But dog owners with pups who cling and cower during a thunderstorm will probably tell you they wish their dogs could become a little more adept at feeling safe and secure. (And they might wish for animal who doesn’t have to hide under the bed or beg their humans to drop what they’re doing every time a storm rolls in.)
Researchers have found though cats, on the other hand, form affectionate bonds with their owners, they don’t rely on humans to feel safe and secure. That means you don’t have to feel guilty if you’re still stuck at the office when it starts to pour outside.
3. Cats are just as smart as dogs
Dog lovers argue their pets are smarter than cats. But the science doesn’t seem to hold up. Cat cognition is much harder to study than dog intelligence. However, early results are promising. Japanese researchers determined cats performed just as well as dogs on memory tests — and might be just as intelligent.
Plus, cats have a cerebral cortex — the part of the brain responsible for information processing — that’s more complex than that of dogs, with twice the number of neurons. Cats also have longer-lasting memories than dogs and can solve harder cognitive problems than dogs — if they feel like it.
2. Cats love their humans — perhaps more than dogs do
You shouldn’t believe the cliche that cats don’t love their humans as much as dogs. The research that asserts as much is hardly definitive. In fact, experts say the often-cited study measuring dogs’ and cats’ levels of oxytocin — deducing how much the animals love their owners — is fundamentally flawed.
That’s because cats, by nature, would have been stressed by the experiment’s setting. That makes it surprising their oxytocin levels went up at all. Plus, another group of researchers determined cats prefer human interaction to food. But a similar experiment on dogs yielded a tossup; dogs wanted the food but also wanted their owners’ affection.
1. Cats are convenient — but mysterious
Statistics show cats are the world’s most popular pets. Perhaps the most basic reason why? They’re so much more convenient to keep around than dogs. They need little training. Plus, they groom themselves. They can also be left alone without major anxiety for pet or owner. But they still show affection when their owners return home.
Nonetheless, they remain mysterious. Even though cat ownership is within reach for many people, a true understanding of how cats really think remains out of reach for even the most interested scientists. And that seems to appeal to generation after generation of cat people, even if they can’t precisely put their finger on the reason why.