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Since the dawn of animal domestication, there has been a perennial argument. Who is smarter, dogs or cats? If you put a dog owner and a cat owner inside a locked room, there is bound to be a quarrel. It is one of the easiest ways to initiate an argument. It appears that everyone has an opinion on the matter, but is there some kind of evidence that tips the scale in favor of either species?
Science has an answer
While cats have always been known to be more shrewd and cunning compared to dogs, a recent study has revealed some rather surprising results. Researchers gathered from six universities in South Africa, Brazil, Denmark, and the US to bring an end to the age-old debate. Their findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. And, the winner is…?
The research revealed that dogs possess more than twice the amount of neurons in their brains compared to cats, which makes them twice as smart and intelligent. Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a noted neurologist and one of the authors of the study, has spent many years researching cognitive function in both animals and humans. For precise measurements, she counted the number of special nerve cells found in the brain known as neurons. These cells are responsible for message transmission from the brain to the rest of the body.
Dr. Herculano-Houzel said, “Neurons are the basic information processing units. The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is.” During the research, her team used only the cerebral cortex of the brain, the part that is responsible for problem solving, decision making, and other functions.
To estimate the number of neurons dogs and cats typically have, three brains were used – one each from a small mixed-breed dog, a golden retriever, and a cat. They needed two brains from dogs because this species has breeds of various sizes. The study showed that despite different sizes, the dogs’ brains had more than 500 million neurons, while the cat’s brain had only 250 million. This result concluded that dogs are as intelligent as lions and raccoons while the intelligence of a domestic cat matches that of a bear.
What does this tell us?
To put it simply, science has confirmed that dogs are indeed smarter than cats. This news might be hard to swallow for some cat lovers, but you cannot deny scientific evidence. Dr. Herculano-Houzel believes that researching different species and their brains can teach us a valuable lesson. She says, “Diversity is enormous. Not every species is made the same way. Yes, there are recognizable patterns, but there are multiple ways that nature has found of putting brains together – and we are trying to figure out what difference that makes.”