Skip to main content
Insights & Trends 2 min read

Cats or dogs: best navigator revealed

Cats or dogs: best navigator revealed

Stories of lost cats and dogs finding their ways home over hundreds of miles or even after years are numerous. Are these instances just chance or can extraordinary navigational skills be credited?

To find out if domesticated animals are adept at wayfinding, we spoke with animal behaviour expert Dr. John Bradshaw, a BBC presenter and author of two bestselling books, In Defence Of Dogs and Cat Sense.

In previous posts, we presented both sides - the way of the cat and the way of the dog, and also asked you to give us your best guess.

Here is what you thought:

A healthy 76 percent count for the dog fans here. To be honest, we're a little surprised that 24 percent of you still voted for the cat as the best navigator.

What did the expert say?

Both cats and dogs use mental maps to help them navigate, giving them the ability to find the shortest route home. And smell plays a pivotal role in navigation — both animals have a much better sense of smell than humans, though a dog’s is better than a cat’s.

But practice makes perfect, and learning plays a big part in their development. “A kitten doesn’t know how to hunt until it gets some experience and I’m sure the same is true of navigational abilities. Dogs with more experience of fending for themselves, like those in Moscow, will be better at finding their way around than a dog that spends its life in somebody’s handbag.”

Drum roll…

As for the victor, Bradshaw is in no doubt. “The dog — because it’s likely to have evolved, or retained from its wolf ancestor, a good navigation system. Wolves range over large distances and it’s very unlikely that domestication has removed the ability to find their way around very large areas. While we don’t know enough about how they do it, it’s perfectly reasonable to suppose that some dogs would be able to navigate over tens of kilometers.”


Graham Southorn

Graham Southorn

Have your say

Sign up for our newsletter

Why sign up:

  • Latest offers and discounts
  • Tailored content delivered weekly
  • Exclusive events
  • One click to unsubscribe