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Are Cats More Loyal Than Dogs?

A friend told to me the other day that dogs were far more loyal than cats. After all, she said, everyone knows “dogs are a man’s best friend.”

I disagreed. Both cats and dogs can be amazingly loyal but they show this in a different way. Dogs are pack animals with a strict hierarchy within their pack. They are, after all, the descendants of wolves, which in a pack of ten or twenty can hunt down a deer, elk or moose many times larger and stronger than themselves.

Are cats more loyal than dogs

Are cats more loyal than dogs?

Hunting such large prey can take many hours — requiring great cooperation with-in the pack, of which each member needs to know its exact place to succeed. For this reason forces have naturally shaped dogs to have a strong sense of social identity and possess great loyalty to their leader whether alpha-male or human owner.

That’s at the heart of why dogs appear so faithful and so readily roll over for a tummy rub. If you think loyalty is simply being submissive and showing deference however badly you treat them, then dogs are certainly loyal. In the past truly dreadful experiments (I would not even wish to describe) have been carried out to prove dogs remain faithful however cruel you are to them. Even Hollywood dog whisperer Cesar Millan does not hesitate to use spiked collars and electric shocks to train difficult dogs — and I say this not in judgement but simply to illustrate the way obedience can be instilled in a dog.

Cats are different. Cats are solitary hunters and they have to think for themselves. They are independent in thought and action. You have to earn acceptance from a cat. Occasionally, of course, they are so perceptive they can instinctively feel a bond on first meeting. Either-way, a cat’s natural attitude is one of total equality with you. Cats do not think you are better than them: nor does a cat does want to compete with you. Cats are truly egalitarian.

Are cats more loyal than dogs

Cats are solitary hunters and think for themselves

Some people think cats love people out of cupboard-love. This is another fallacy. Though it is true cats can be trained to jump through hoops by rewarding them with treats, its still only when the cat itself chooses to obey. In fact, performing cats are a nightmare: you cannot herd cats and you cannot more make them love or obey you simply by giving them food.

Another misconception is that domestic cat are like they are because they never grow up. I heard an expert on big cats make this claim only yesterday. He was wrong. It is correct that dogs have been selectively bred for thousands of years in order to cultivate their puppyish traits. This not true for cats, who are happy to live together with human beings, but are essentially undomesticated.

Nor do cats remain kittenish because we feed them. That is convenient for the cat, but don’t read more into it than that. After all a cat that doesn’t like its home will soon go elsewhere. Should it be necessary the cat has the option to look after itself. That is very adult behavior.

Groucho Marx once quipped,

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend; and inside a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

That’s great fun, but everyone who truly loves cats knows it’s untrue. The most amazing friendships can be struck up with cats beyond even books and dogs. Cats can be most tender and loyal in their love, but like all things really worthwhile, that love has to be earned.

That’s my personal view anyway. How loyal is your cat and what kind of relationship do you have with him or her? Please let us know in the comments below…

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23 comments

  1. I WAS enjoying your article until you said, “Even Hollywood dog whisperer Cesar Millan does not hesitate to use spiked collars and electric shocks to train difficult dogs.” Did you have to go there? I’ve been all over his website and watched 100’s of his shows and never once did I see him mention such cruel practices. And I’m not a dog person defending him (I am strictly a cat person) But…I just think you should stay on topic and not put others down unless you have 100% proof of the allegations.

    • James Lautner, Senior Cats Editor

      Hello Michelle. In fact he speaks about this quite openly. He feels it is not cruel but necessary with some difficult dogs. This was a matter of contention with, I think, the Humane Society though I understand there is now a growing agreement that this practice is acceptable. In this case I was not being contentious or in any way critical just stating the facts as I believe them.

      • Our neighbours had an electric fence to keep their dogs on property. I was not too thrilled, we fenced in 2500 square feet for tiny Pomeranians and walked them morning and night and took them for long runs in the woods when it was legal to have unleashed dog!! Written consent from neighbour to walk there anytime by the stream = where they drank and swam…they lived to be 19, they loved us. We always have had cats, they love us too. It was only recently we decided never to let cats outside because of parasites…I just cringe at any one tying a dog. Sorry!! Leash walk is fine but poor dog at end of his rope all day!

      • Actually, Caesar Milan uses “static”shock collars, NOT” electric” shock collars, there is a big difference. Also, he has occasionally recommended “prong” collars, not spoiled collars, also a big difference.

  2. I always believed dogs to be more loyal. If a cat is happy in its home, it may like to roam, but always comes home. If it dislikes its owner, and is allowed to roam, it will be looking for a new happy home. Many cats roam my neighborhood and have attempted to come into my home. Only one succeeded to stay with me in my home & was the most loyal cat until he died. My other cats…free-to-a-good-home, or shelter adoptees, also chose to stay in my home. They know where the love, security & comfort is and have chosen to stay and not stray.

  3. I came to pets late in life, never having been allowed one as a child and then living in private rented accommodation until eight years ago (very few private landlords allow pets). I had always believed that cats felt no loyalty and only stayed around if they were given a comfortable home with good food and clean water. My first cat walked in one day and, after a couple of visits decided to stay because she was obviously happier with me than where she had been. Then, one Xmas, I spent four days in hospital. I’d had time before the paramedics took me off to make arrangements for my cat to be fed and for a friend to spend most of one day at my flat, allowing my cat full access. When I came home, I was shocked to see my cat waiting anxiously for me at my front door with large worried eyes. She followed me everywhere for two weeks, not trusting me, believing I suspect that I might “abandon” her again. It was a salutory lesson. I have never taken a cat for granted since that Xmas. I now have my second cat and each one of them has treated my as a probationary owner for a short time until they were ready to accept me wholeheartedly.

  4. The bit about spiked collars and electric shocks made me physically sick, its disgusting, we have no right to treat any living creature in this way. It’s true what you say though, all my darling little cats moved in, they chose me, the best one was a black cat called Sooty who moved in in 1995, I opened the front door ready to go for a train, she walked in, went upstairs, got on my bed and slept on it all day, she stayed until her death in 2009.
    The same sort of thing happened with Winston, Sweep and Goblin, they all moved in.

  5. We have a beautiful tortoiseshell called Flo who is very loyal. She is always waiting at the front door and loves having cuddles. We let her out every day and always comes back. She is a very important member of the family

  6. My husband feeds our cats. He spends more time with them. Yet the cat I spent the summer with when she was a kitten always sleeps with me at night.

  7. Cats have been around our house (inside, outside – basically all over the place) for 30-35 years. I do believe they love their owners and are deeply devoted to them. It’s just that cats, unlike dogs, although they will show you they love you, they do not keep doing this – more or less like humans do. It’s like “OK, I told you I love you once, twice – you know I can’t keep doing that all the time!”. So, unless, for some reason, they change their mind, their declaration of love will stand and the bond will grow stronger as time goes by…

  8. When I go away and leave my cat at a boarding place then come home he will not leave my sight for two weeks, he will constantly meow for me if he can’t see me. That has nothing to do with food and only speaks to the bond my cat has with me. Cats may not constantly seek to be patted like dogs (personally I would get sick of that) and try and jump over you when you get home from work but having owned both a dog and a cat I think cats while they may not be the most openingly loving animals are certainly they most loyal.

  9. A simple observation: dogs are pack animals. Much of what we interpret on their part as total obeisance to us and all that we might require of them revolves around this fact. In the real world, a canine–no matter his previously-expressed obeisance to the pack leader (us)–would nonetheless challenge that same leader should that leader express weakness and/or an inability to lead the pack to success.

    Enter the cat–a non-pack animal. A cat is perfectly capable of entering into social relationships and actually responds to an alpha leader in their own species to a certain extent in social relationships–but the “alpha cat” has much fewer privileges than the “alpha dog” pack leader. A cat is always free to to go his or her own way should he/she choose to do so.

    Should a cat enter into any sort of bonded relationship to a human, he/she does so with much less “baggage” in a sense. A cat will never stay in an abusive relationship with a human. On the other hand, if a cat enters into a mutually loving relationship with a human, that relationship is much more “real” from a human perspective. A cat doesn’t recognize dominance within a pack relationship nor will a cat ever evaluate you with that consideration in mind. If a cat loves you, a cat loves you–pure and simple. As long as you reciprocate that love, a cat will always respond with love without any other consideration or motivation. For a cat, love = love, period!

  10. Neighbors adopted this gorgeous little white cat about 5 months ago. And from the first I tried to befriend it, by calling it from my window, or whenever i saw it around the estate. One day I was heading to bed and as i walked past my front door to get to the stairs I noticed the kitten looking at me through the window beside the door.Opened the door and although it was a bit nervous of me it let me pet it for a few seconds. Afterwards the cat started coming into our back garden about twice a week. We gave it scraps of meat from our own dinners and let it out whenever it wanted to leave. But the problem i noticed was, it was very excitable and unfortunately playing with it often resulted in it scraping or biting. as time went on i started to notice over the next five months that the cat was spending less time in the neighbors place and more than ours. Turns out the neighbors who have kids found the cat too bitey and decided to feed it less and less because it was scraping everyone around the house in an effort to get it to go away. So I started to try and make it realize that biting people is wrong by clapping my hands at it or giving it a slight squirt of water to the ear to scare it every time it clawed me, because the truth is although i didn’t like to do this to my cat, cats have very dirty mouths and a breakage of the skin can result in severe bacterial infections so teaching your cat to do this as little as possible is imo vital. After a while it got the point mostly and now its nervousness around people has largely left it, and it trusts me enough to go to sleep on my lap or beside me. Better than this i can tell I’m not just a meal ticket to it as it seems to sense whenever I’m stressed with exams and always tries to do something funny or cute to cheer me up and literally spends its entire day in the garden. Cats get a bad rep as being vindictive, manipulative and selfish but the truth is that when you earn his loyalty, and respect a cat can be a great companion and a huge comfort.

  11. my cat was always very concerned whenever i fall sick.. she’d lick all over my face and never leave my side. When i was 18, (she was 14) .. i had to leave for college and had to leave her with my mom. My mom told me she’d meowed the whole day looking for me in each room in the house. I did come back during weekends or at least force my way to come home. She’d only eat then.. imagine no food for a week.. like she’s heartbroken.. After a month.. the toll of hunger strike took her life.. she died after i left for college that morning. after i told her i loved her forever and i’ll meet her again.. my mom called me `10 minutes after i left home that she passed on.. cried in the class the whole morning.. to me .. cats are loyal too.. at least to me.. i didnt have cats for a long time…until i was married.. 12 years ago.. i was broken hearted..

  12. I have a Siberian Cat almost 11 months. Siberians are one of the 12 dog like breeds. My kitty greets me at the door, follows me around the house, as well as walks on a leash, sits when told to and plays fetch. Although she has dog like qualities, she is still a cat.
    She does have her independent streak like a cat (example- when she walks on a leash, often times she will direct when she wants to go, however, I have learned to convince her to go my way)
    But the loyalty is there. We bonded the day that i got her. I was told by the breeder that she may hide for the entire day and tried to get use to her new surroundings. In fact she did hide, but it was only for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes she came up to me and cuddled, and we have been bonded ever since that first day. She often sleeps with me. She has learned to travel and travel with me (she has a car seat). I thought I was a dog person, now I am a Siberian cat person.

  13. Everything you said about cats hunting and being solitary is complete trash when one thinks about the largest of the cat family; Lions.

    I also thought quite some time before finishing, that you are a cat owner. I felt persuaded by you. But not necessarily moved with passion. Just don’t forget the lions. Then again, does excluding them, now make them solitary?????? Lol

  14. It’s not just toward their owners really, many cats can create a bond with other humans as well, just like dogs. My housemate’s cat literally loves me to death. I don’t feed him at all. I just give him lots of love and attention and he gets it. Now he has to come into my room everyday and he’s sitting on my lap right at this moment :) He comes to me specifically when his owner isn’t home for comfort. It’s the same with a stray cat that I’ve encountered, and a friend’s housemate’s cat. If you know how to love a cat, the cat will love you back. They don’t forget :)

  15. My cat is so loyal. She will always be in the same room as us. She even moves between my wife and children and me to use our laps as seats lol. She even spent an hour and a half in storm winds in the garden with my wife and son as they tried to fix a fence that had blown down. While the other cat was in a nice warm bed:)

  16. I’ve always considered myself as a dog person. Knowing nothing about cats, I thought they weren’t loyal and always sought for they own convenience, but a month ago I found a kitten, about two months old, hiding in a bush, I adopted it and have taken care of him ever since. I surprisingly found out that he does love me, not just for his own convenience. Every time I return home he meows at me, when I call him he meows so I know he’s still around. Occasionally, I leave him out in the patio and close the door, so he learns to play outside (i.e. climb trees) but he never goes anywhere outside the land, he stays in the patio until I open the door again, and sometimes he starts meowing to make me open the door (I don’t know if that’s because he’s still too young to go and roam the whole neighborhood). Also, I’ve notice that he’s always near me, if I go into te second floor it doesn’t take too long for me to spot him around, if I enter a room he comes with me, and when he gets bored he goes and plays in the room next to the one I’m in. Also, he licks me. It’s like a dog, but by far less clingy and needy, and way more obnoxious when I’m eating.

  17. All cat people are crazy and need lots of help cats are evil

  18. This is a very poorly written article. You basically define what loyalty is in a dog and how it’s not present in house cats. Dogs need to look after each other. Cats are solitary. You should probably stick to talking about cats from now on and try to stay away from animals you don’t seem to know much about. I’m mostly unsure if you understand what loyalty means. But you can’t treat a dog poorly and expect it to be loyal. Why you defined what I think loyalty consists of (as being submissive) beyond me but it shows very poor communicating skills. If you want to espouse the loyalty of cats then go ahead. If you provide good evidence to support it in the general cat population then I’ll consider it.

    But stating a dog that is treated poorly is showing loyalty when it cowers. Then extending that to the entire dog owning population I think it just shows a lack of education/experience. You can make a person cower if you torture them enough. It doesn’t make them loyal. Dogs and people need social interaction and both only show loyalty when you earn it from them by being a loving, firm, confident, providing, and basically the qualities of a leader to the dog. It will be truly loyal and respect you. Those qualities are very different from fear you and do what you say because something fears you. I don’t even have a word I can use to explain how absurd your whole argument is. It doesn’t help your argument when trying to convince people cats are loyal. Then go on to list a bunch of things that very few to none cat behavioral experts have figured out. Because your cat is cute and does things you perceive as being loyal and love toward you does not make it so. I have met cats that seem to demonstrate these things. But as you pointed out they aren’t domesticated. So perhaps you should look at the cat population as a whole and not cherry pick cats that fit your vision.

    And dogs aren’t bred over hundreds of thousands of years to have puppy qualities. They have been bred to do real jobs for us. Performing actual jobs across a huge swath of areas. Find me a seeing eye cat, a herding cat, a guard cat, a bomb sniffing cat, etc and then come talk to me. Or at least be a little less ignorant about it and just focus on cats which you might have some knowledge in.

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