It is difficult to compare because their intelligence manifests in such different ways. It’s like comparing artists and athletes, Picasso vs. Peyton Manning.
Cats are uncanny solitary hunters, and able to understand how things work in the world without being trained (like opening doors, and learning to look before crossing a road).
Dog are uncanny in their social capacity – able to trained, willing to work alongside humans, and able to “read” people.
For example, I’ve owned many cats through the years, and most were absolute escape artists. But I’ve been played by my dog.
Here’s the looong story, if you’re curious:
Back when we were first married, my husband and I owned two love seats. One was a ratty, smelly, yard-sale find – this was the dog love seat. The other was a ratty, smelly, thrift-store find – this was the good love seat. No Dogs Allowed.
We also owned two large female dogs – Enforcer and Sneak. Enforcer was larger, 90 pounds on a light day, and loved rules. Sneak was about 20 pounds lighter, but faster, and ten times as smart.
Now, the dog love seat was big enough for both dogs, if they played nice about it. But sometimes, Enforcer would get it into her mind to stretch out her big ol’ self, and – oops – Sneak might end up on the floor.
My husband and I watched this happen one night from the couch (our other piece of living room furniture in those days). Sneak, toppled onto the floor, simply could not get back up on that love seat. She paced, she whined, she growled. Futility. Enforcer had the high ground, and she was mighty comfortable.
Sneak sat for a moment, then dashed to the other side of the room – and up onto the OTHER love seat.
We wanted to scold her, but never got the chance. Instead, Enforcer immediately went beserk. She heaved herself across the distance, barking her big head off. And as soon as that rule-loving rump left its comfortable spot, Sneak was back across the room in a unbelievable flash. She hadn’t even fully sat down on the other love seat – she’d never intended to. She just wanted her own spot on her own love seat – and knew the weaknesses of her adversary.
Fast forward a few months.
Back in that same living room, my husband and I were standing and sharing an embrace. There may have been kissing involved. Now, Sneak harbored a deep resentment of any affection that didn’t include her own shaggy person. So, as usual, she began whining and pacing, begging us to stop.
Wordlessly, my husband and I decided we were having no part of her nonsense. This was a battle of wills, and we could win it. The canoodling continued.
Sneak escalated to barking and pawing at our legs, to no avail. Finally she stopped, raced away, and – you guessed it – jumped up on the other love seat.
We immediately interrupted our snuggling and whirled around to scold her. She just sat there in all her doggy glory, wagging her tail in delight… because she had won.
Played. By a dog.