Entry 654: Braining Cats & Dogs

Well, the pet researchers are at it again, folks.

I’ve previously reported on ridiculous studies that sought to determine whether dogs feel guilt; whether dogs are moral (I’m not sure you can have the first without the second); and the meaning of dogs’ facial expressions, other than “Is it time to eat?”

The latest study, from Kyoto University, has found that “cats may be as intelligent as dogs, as opposed to the common view of people that dogs are much smarter.”

(It had already been established in a previous study that both cats and dogs are smarter than Americans. That study was called the 2016 Presidential Election.)

Anyway, here’s what the researchers did with the cats:

“…cats were allowed to explore four different containers, each of which contained food, and eat from two of them. The animals were removed from the room for 15 minutes during which the containers were swapped out for empty ones. When the cats were brought back into the area, they tended to linger longer at the vessels that had previously held food they did not eat.”

According to the crack scientists, this means that “cats retrieved and utilized ‘what’ and ‘where’ information from an incidentally encoded memory from a single experience.” To translate that into language not intended to make grant-issuers think this is legitimate research, the cats remembered the two containers they hadn’t eaten from and assumed the uneaten food was still there, not knowing the researchers had played a dirty trick on them.

The study findings do not say whether any of the scientists are still trying to remove cat claws (with the cats still attached) from their faces.

Now it so happens that, although I am definitely a dog person, I have been living with a cat for the first time in my life. This is because my sister-in-law Karen is staying with us while her house is being remodeled, and her kitty, Zorro, was part of a package deal.

Zorro seems to be both needier and noisier than your typical cat. He gets upset when he’s in the basement where Karen is staying and everyone else is upstairs. When he gets upset, he lets us know with a variety of meows, wails, screams, moans, whimpers, howls, yells, bellows, shrieks, cries, yawps and yelps that can get so loud, I’ve actually heard him from outside the house.

When we let him upstairs, he prowls around stealthily, scaring the bejesus out of us by suddenly leaping onto counters and furniture. His presence is tolerated reluctantly by our Shetland Sheepdog Riley, who tries mightily to ignore Zorro’s attempts to play with him. Well, I don’t know if Zorro wants to play exactly, but he enjoys rubbing up against Riley and creating static electricity. For his part, Riley, in his interactions with Zorro, eschews any stereotypes regarding dogs and cats in general, or herding dogs in particular. More than once we’ve witnessed Riley trot past a doorway followed moments later by Zorro mewling his feline equivalent of “Hey! Hey, you! Hey! Wait!”

I tell you all of this because it has given me an opportunity to observe a cat in action for an extended period, and I am here to tell you, without benefit of an expensive scientific study, that I have no doubt that cats are as smart as, if not smarter than dogs.

The reason people think that dogs are smarter is that cats don’t care what the hell we think. They don’t show off by learning what we try to teach them. Cats don’t work for treats like dogs do. If a cat wants a treat, he’ll just take it, damn it, and you can stick your “sit” command up under your tail.

Meanwhile, to demonstrate what I said earlier about dogs and cats both being smarter than people, I give you the photo in this post, in which we see Zorro sitting in Riley’s favorite chair, while Riley does nothing but sigh in resignation and move to the adjoining sofa. In the top photo, Riley is giving Zorro a sideways dirty look of the type you might give a dining companion who has sampled your dessert without asking first.  In the second photo, Riley is looking at my wife (who is taking the picture) plaintively, as if asking her to do something about this chair-stealing creature.  Out of camera range of both pictures you would find me, not only too dumb to kick either animal off the furniture, but perfectly willing to squeeze over to allow them more room.

In any case, Karen has also provided me with information that negates the Kyoto study entirely. She says that cats only eat when they’re hungry, whereas dogs will only eat when there’s food. And sometimes even when there’s not food, or at least anything that would be obviously classified as edible. Like goose poop.

If Karen’s statement is true, then the Kyoto cats wouldn’t have been interested in any of the “vessels” when they came back into the room. After all, they had just eaten the contents of two of them 15 minutes earlier. And if the researchers did the same experiment with dogs, they would have learned that dogs were smart enough to eat all the food in the first place. (“Yeah, buddy. I’ll leave the room when I’m done!”)

The researchers, on the other hand, had a second helping of sushi.

See you soon.

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