Scientists conclude dogs are smarter than cats

Henrietta Brewer
December 4, 2017

To get an idea of how many neurons dogs and cats might typically have, the team used three brains-one from a cat, one from a golden retriever, and one from a mixed-breed small dog.

"You take the brain and turn it into a soup", she said, matter-of-factly, as the first step to finding these neurons.

The researches believe the number of cortical neurons signifies the richness of an animal's mental state. Neurons are cells that process information.


"Meat eating is largely considered a problem-solver in terms of energy, but, in retrospect, it is clear that carnivory must impose a delicate balance between how much brain and body a species can afford", said Herculano-Houzel.

By counting the number of neurons, scientists came to the conclusion that cats are smarter than dogs, as dogs of neurons around 530 million, and cats only 250 million.

Researchers also looked at the brains of a ferret, mongoose, hyena, lion, brown bear and raccoon - which they called an "outlier", packing the same amount of neurons as a dog into the brain a size of a cats. Among our closest cousins, orangutans and gorillas have about eight to nine billion neurons, while chimpanzees have about six to seven billion neurons. That may help them wield their hefty trunks.


Dogs just may be smarter than cats, and dog owners really might have bragging rights on that particular debate, if this research is anything to go by.

Of course, such an arbitrary measurement of the brain is not an objective metric of such a complex trait as intelligence. Herculano-Houzel did clarify that she is "100% a dog person".

Carnivorous animals were compared in the study, consisting of 280 species of mammals characterized by teeth and claws allowing them to eat animals. Bears, on the other hand, have brains ten times the size of a cat's, but around the same number of neurons.


Lead Image: Brewster, the akita/pitbull mix, smiles for the camera.

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