Can dogs & cats form and execute multi-step semi-complex plans?

Just curious how far the plans of a cat or dog can go.

For certain values of multi-step semi-complex, I vote yes. My recently departed Mosby (no pics) would find his food bowl empty, come find me, meow incessantly until I got up, lead me to the food bowl, meow while staring pointedly at the empty bowl, and get fed.

I came into the kitchen one morning to find the pantry doors open and the plastic container of cat kibble knocked from the shelf to the floor, open, with its contents spilled out. Meanwhile, the cats’ food dispenser was empty. Hard to say if it was a plan or just the old hunting instinct.

My cat steals my beer and eats my pizza and gently closes the fridge door. Somehow I get the blame.

The way it behaves I think it also smokes crack.

My late dog Simon was very well housebroken. But more than once, when he was indoors while I was at work, he had diarrhea. He knew going to the bathroom inside was wrong, so several times he dragged a bag over it to hide it. Unfortunately, my nose isn’t as handicapped as he thought it was.


I hade a cat named Puppy-car who was raised by a mother dog. I was waiting for something in the mail and got very upset everyday when I went out to get the mail and it wasn’t there. Puppy-cat would start waiting for me with his ball in his mouth, wanting me to throw it so he could retrieve it to make me laugh.

The day the envelope finally came, Puppy-cat was waiting with his ball. When I wasn’t upset, he stopped doing it.

I feed all my cats separately, and I have one cat (Hanna, my smartest) who knows if she sneaks into the room where I feed Abby her dry food, and hides under the chair, she can gorge herself on dry food in the time I take to prepare the other three plates of canned food and notice she’s missing.

But she must not calculate the risk involved. She is risking another cat eating her plate of canned food if I don’t notice that she’s missing (but who can miss a nearly 17 lb. tabby who is gone at feeding time?).

I don’t know if those are complex, but it does require thought and planning.

Yeah. When I first had our older cat, I had to have baby locks on my kitchen cabinets. Otherwise, she would climb up onto the counters, pry the doors open, get up on the second shelf, knock down the bread or boxes of pasta to the floor, claw or chew through the packaging, and gorge herself. The dogs figured out that they could go out into their lot, get on the courtyard wall at one end, walk along the top of the wall to the other end of the lot, slither around the fencing panel that extends across the corner of the wall, and jump down into the side yard, free to play in traffic to their hearts’ content. (Their planning didn’t extend as far as the consequences of playing in traffic, but you can only expect so much from a dog. And they’re both fine. And free of the desire to get out of the lot.)

And my pony used to pick locks. We had to tie his stall door shut with baling wire, and change the configuration every couple of weeks. Otherwise, he’d escape, spring his buddies, and they’d mount an assault on the feed crib, which we always kept padlocked.

I’ve told this before, but my greyhound Apollo used to scratch at the back door at night as if he needed to go out to pee. When my dad would get off the couch to let him out, Apollo would race over and jump on the vacated couch, laying his head on the vacated pillow. There really is no removing a greyhound from a couch.

Apollo was also able to open the kitchen cabinet that held the trash and pull the trash out on its rolling track so he could steal the scraps.

I saw a video taken in, I think, a dog pound… Someone was apparently breaking in and letting out all the dogs every night, so finally the pound put in a security camera. One dog - I think it might’ve been a Weimaraner, not sure - had worked out how to open not only his own cage but all the other dogs’ as well. Then they would all rush the food supply and go nuts.

Iirc it was the Battersea Dog’s Home and he didn’t let out all the dogs, just his friends!

My dog would, upon being let out into the back yard, go over to the fence and bark once at the neighbours’ dog. She’d then go lay down and ignore him, while he went nuts barking and trying to get into our yard. The neighbour, annoyed by the barking, would make him go inside. She would then get up and play. This happened every time he was out when she went out.

My cat was looking out the window one day, when I saw him freeze into hunting mode. I looked out, and saw that Orange Cat was trespassing in his yard. I asked him if he wanted to go out and do something about it, and reached for the door knob. He jumped down and raced to the end of the living room, going the opposite way, and stared at me impatiently. I walked over to him, and he tore off down the hallway. I followed him, and he ran into the bedroom and started pawing at the window there. I don’t think I’m anthropomorphizing too much when I conclude that he wanted to avoid the noise of me opening the door alerting Orange Cat to the upcoming violence.

My cat Gracie (aka Boo) likes to chase the laser beam more than just about anything else in the world. She will lead me upstairs to where I keep the laser pointer by flopping on her back and waving her paws in the air (as if asking for a tummy rub) and then running a distance up the stairs and doing it again until I get to the top. Then she runs over to the shelf where it’s kept, raises up, puts her paws as high as she can, and looks at me with those big green eyes. Sometimes she’ll go, “Meow?” (clearly a question). Yes, I believe she plans this. And it’s usually successful.

That’s one of my favorite stories.

I thought the OP ment can dogs and cats cohort together.
I used to keep a bowl of cashews on the kitchen counter. That was until I found out my cat would jump up on the counter, paw them out of the bowl and then knock them down on the floor so the dogs (who were waiting patiently) could eat them.

The funny thing is the cat doesn’t even LIKE cashews.

Cat tale: I have two. A curmudgeonly (but very pretty) 7-lb tuxedo cat named Saha and a friendly, easygoing, 15-pound spotted tabby named Bill.

Saha has secured the coveted rocking chair and is sleeping happily. Bill comes over, goes up on hind legs to make sure the seat is occupied, stares at Saha until she hisses at him. He then suddenly sees something of interest behind the couch (and out of direct view, oddly enough, of the rocking chair). He dashes over to investigate. Some interesting sounds from back there, identifiable to us humans as the twanging of the doorstop, but it gets Saha’s attention. Eventually she must satisfy her own curiosity so off she goes.

As soon as she relinquishes the rocking chair, Bill trots over, innocent and wide-eyed, and takes possession.

Tell me that wasn’t a complex plan.

I am in the chair. Kitty is looking out the window in the screen door. Kitty goes into full freakout mode, with the hiss and the arch and the ears back and everything. I get out of the chair to see what’s going on. I can’t see anything. I look down to get where his line of sight is, and he’s not there. He’s in the chair.

It’s funny when a cat does this to another cat. It’s bloody embarrassing when he does it to you.

Any owner of a border collie would say OF COURSE!

My oldest dog is ball-crazy and she figured out that if I hid the tennis ball in my desk drawer, all she need do is go behind the desk and push out the drawer to get the ball. I thought that was clever enough until I heard of another border collie trick…

A (now deceased) friend of mine had a working border collie that was also ball crazy. He was so bad about it that she had to keep all the tennis balls up on top of her fridge. This worked for a little while, but soon she began waking up to find every ball from on top of the fridge distributed throughout the house. She couldn’t figure out how he got the balls down until she set up a video camera on the fridge. The dog would drag a kitchen chair over to the fridge, knock down the basket of balls and then would DRAG THE CHAIR BACK TO THE TABLE. Why he thought this was necessary, I don’t know.

Another friend who owned a ranch told me one of his dogs liked to snack on sparrows, so she would intentionally leave kibble out on the edge of her kennel to attract them. He’d find sparrow remains in her kennel on almost a daily basis.

I had a cat that would hear my car come up the drive and then would perch himself in the window nearest the door so he could literally drop down and get outside. This did not work out so well for him as despite my efforts to make him an indoor cat from the age of 8 weeks or so- his insistence to be outside ended in antifreeze poisoning :(! RIP Mojo- smartest and stupidest cat I ever had.

My dad tells a story of when he was growing up back in the 40s–the family had a dog that used to go to the store and get its own dog food. It would go in, pick out a can, take it to the counter to show to the cashier, and the cashier would add it to the family’s tab. The dog then picked up the can and brought it home.

Our dear departed Kelpie, Hoover, would get out the tennis ball whenever Dad was mowing the lawn. He’d drop it in the next strip of unmowed grass, so Dad would have to stop and move it out of the mower’s way.

My Burmese cat, Muffin, will get up on a shelf she’s not allowed on and push things off it when she wants me to come to bed. She knows if she’s annoying enough I’ll stand up to tell her off (or rescue my breakables), so as soon as I’m on my feet she’ll rush to the door and meow at me to follow her.

When our male german shepherd was getting to the age where he’d start to challenge his older sister, we’d see some entertaining interactions between them. One evening, he was chewing on one of his toys… a rope bone the female usually would have no interest in. She approached him with a small rubber ball and dropped it so it bounced and rolled slowly past his foot. He watched it roll, thinking for a few seconds, then made a tentative move for it. As soon as he moved, the female rushed forward, body-checked him, and stole HIS toy, then took advantage of his surprise to pounce on the ball and stand over it. So, she had both toys (including his favorite that she didn’t even like) and he had none.