Differences between the Sense of Orientation in Cats and Dogs

It’s not very hard to find stories of stray pets traveling hundreds of miles and finding their way home. Whether its long distances or time, many cats and dogs behave in ways that make people curious about them.

Many people start to develop their own theories, sometimes these might include that these animals are capable of understanding language and acting a little like human beings. But are they right, or they just want to believe in it? To get an answer to that, you may need to understand more about the science behind these animals finding their way.

Let’s take a look at the sense of direction in cats and dogs.

Fast Dogs

When it comes to canines, they are known for having a sturdy build made for running and walking. These animals can travel long distances very easily, much more than cats. Unlike dogs, cats have much larger claws that they use for various purposes. Although these can be retracted when they need to sprint, cats aren’t exactly made for running marathons.

The reason why dogs can run much longer distances is that they have wolf ancestors. Wolves are majestic animals that have incredible stamina. They can run for hours in one direction without taking a break. But of course, they travel only because they want to and not because they are lost. That means they do have some sense of orientation.

However, dogs are not entirely like wolves. That makes it challenging to say precisely how much of wolves’ abilities have been passed on to the canines everyone knows and loves. Yet still, many experts claim that dogs have indeed retained a pretty impressive navigation system even though no one has systematically studied the subject. Therefore, it’s safe to say that owners should still use dog GPS devices to make sure their pooches don’t get lost out in the world.

Human beings have massive brains that are used for a wide range of things. People spend most of their brain capacity thinking about what others may be thinking. Unlike the omnivores, carnivores lack that machinery. That is why many experts believe that a dog’s navigational abilities should be linked to its brains. They don’t have small brains, but it is well known that they use plenty of their capacity for strong olfactory memory, which is linked to the recollection of odors. That is why it’s possible that dogs can recall places and sites by using their sense of smell, which they also have inherited from wolf ancestors. Since many people believe that the sense of smell is very strong, dogs might even be able to get to known places much more accurately than humans.


The story of the Russian dogs gained quite a lot of popularity when people started to realize that a good number of canines take the railway in their search for food. Like humans, these strays commute using modern public transportation to travel to cities and get their bellies full.

There is quite a lot of speculation as to how these dogs find their way around to the city. Many people are coming up with answers to how a dog knows what station it should exit the train. The answer could be that their sense of smells helps them identify the same stations they regularly use, or they may just be too hungry to ride the train much longer.

Clever Kitties

The stories of cats are somewhat different than dogs. They do use their incredible sense of smell for navigating, but they also use their eyesight.

However, many owners notice their cat getting lost when they move to a different home. Many professionals believe that the reason for this is simply that cats bond to places much more than do to human beings. So, all the people that said cats don’t care much about people might start jumping on this fact.

If a family decides to move to an entirely new place far from their old home, they need to make sure their pet is traveling along with them. On the other hand, if the new home is just a mile or two away, then the cat will very likely return to the old house and wait for someone else to take it into their home. Proving that cats do bond to places more than they do to people. Giving owners all the more reason to use a GPS cat collar to keep track of their kitty.

Cats don’t usually move to new places unless their owners take them along with them. That is why cats start to scope around the neighborhood of their new home as soon as they move. It might take a couple of weeks till they have a good knowledge of the area, as they need to make a mental map. Cats are also very clever because they can identify shortcuts if someone shows them the way.

Cats generally don’t have a good vision during the daytime, but they are quite vigilant when the night falls. That is why they mostly do their scoping during the nighttime. But they don’t just get around on their sight, as they also use their fantastic senses of smell. Cats can, and they very well do, find their way around by identifying familiar odors.

However, this can be quite complicated because who is to say that same smell will remain in that place for a long time. That’s why cats can get lost if they rely solely on their sense of smell. However, they might be able to recognize strong odors from miles away and find their way back.

Many people have been telling the stories of cats traveling tens or hundreds of miles. That is not quite possible on their own, as it is explained above. However, cats do end up in different locations by accidentally getting on a vehicle, which they do for comfort or warmth. Alternatively, they might be transported to other places by people, intentionally.