Dog, Cats, Smarts, and Cremations
Martin Oaks Cemetery and Crematory in Lewisville, Texas, just south of Denton, Texas and just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, receives numerous inquiries about pet cremation.
We do not cremate or bury pets. There are, however, a number of facilities in the area which do offer those services — give us a call if you need help for a reference.
This subject comes to mind not only because of phone inquiries, but also because of a recent study that was published in Animal Cognition about the relative intelligence of dogs vs cats.
Determining the intelligence of one animal vs another animal has been going on since time immemorial.
Those of us of certain age remember when the late talk show host supreme, Johnny Carson (and don’t we miss him more each day?), and his colorful sidekick, Ed McMahon, had a running debate about which was smarter — the horse or the pig. It started as a gag, but developed into a hilarious, semi-serious disagreement. The pig was supported by Carson, McMahon sided with the horse.
Eventually, The Tonight Show managed to stage a test of the two. If memory serves, the pig won out — and research at the time suggested that, in truth, the pig was the more intelligent. Who knows what contemporary studies have to say about that?
But the scientific publication, Animal Cognition, recently weighed in the dog/cat question; the results, predictably, are raising hackles on both sides.
The study in question was focused on “referential gesturing.” This type of gesturing has to do with a specific movement directed at specific target, as well as a specific object involved (for example, a gesture indicating that the pet wants to be let outside might include scratching at the door while also looking at the person who could open the door). The gesture also had to feature intentionality, i.e., not a random or accidental gesture, but one that was clearly goal directed.
Parenthetically, it has been well documented that dogs understand referential gesturing — at six weeks, puppies can interpret pointing and other physical directions. The focus of this new study was to conclude whether or not dogs can actually make referential gestures to humans.
Sure enough, they can.
Give me food/drink, open the door, scratch me, and give me my toy were all documented referential gestures that dogs make. These gestures are familiar to dog owners: pressing noses against the owner, rolling over, standing on hind legs, the myriad of physical communications that dogs make every day.
On the subject of dog intellect vs. cat intellect, well, cat lovers may be disappointed to learn that dogs have the upper hand, uh, upper paw.
Dogs have 530 million neurons calculating their behavior vs 250 million neurons that cats possess.
Having happily owned both cats and dogs, we have found their communication skills to on an equal plain — however, the methods of communication are completely different.
Cats are more subtle and independent in every aspect of their personality; this is reflected in the way they interact with their owner. If you think that a cat doesn’t communicate, it has been our experience that you might not be watching closely enough.
But the point of the Animal Cognition is pretty compelling. The study identified 47 referential gestures. We have had some very smart (and very lovable) cats — none of them could hit a truly qualified number of 47 referential gestures.
As a side note, we rescued a feral Russian Blue cat many years ago. This cat was smart; having survived on the streets, she was whip smart, street smart.
Our favorite gesture Pie Traynor (yes, named after the baseball great) had to do with feeding. If we would scoop dry food out of a sack into her bowl, she would stand nearby, stick her paw into the sack, and scoop more food out into her bowl. That may not qualify as a referential gesture, but what could be wiser than adding more food to your bowl?
If our readers have any stories about referential gestures of pets, please share them.