It’s of­fi­cial: dogs are smarter than cats

Count­ing brain cells re­veals the av­er­age cat has fewer than half as many as a dog.

Cosmos - - Digest -

Your cat is not enig­matic and given to philo­soph­i­cal pon­der­ing. It is just dumb – at least com­pared to a dog, which on av­er­age has more than twice the num­ber of neu­rons in the cere­bral cor­tex, the brain’s think­ing cen­tre. That’s about 530 mil­lion neu­rons com­pared to 250 mil­lion.

Hu­mans have about 16 bil­lion – so their num­ber and den­sity is a proxy for in­tel­li­gence. This means dogs have the bi­o­log­i­cal ca­pa­bil­ity to do much more com­plex and flex­i­ble things with their lives than cats, says neu­ro­sci­en­tist Suzana Her­cu­lano-houzel of Van­der­bilt Univer­sity in Nashville, Ten­nessee.

In the study “Dogs have the most neu­rons, though not the largest brain”, Her­cu­lano-houzel and her col­leagues counted the neu­rons of eight car­niv­o­rous species to test the hy­poth­e­sis that car­ni­vores have more de­vel­oped brains than her­bi­vores. The an­i­mals stud­ied were cats, dogs, fer­rets, mon­gooses, rac­coons, hye­nas, lions and brown bears.

The the­ory stems from the as­sump­tion that hunt­ing prey is more cog­ni­tively de­mand­ing than munch­ing plants.

This idea – al­most a touch­stone of evo­lu­tion­ary the­ory – did not hold up. Pub­lished in the jour­nal Fron­tiers in

Neu­ro­science, the study found that small to medium-sized car­ni­vores had about the same num­ber of neu­rons as their her­bi­vore prey – sug­gest­ing the evo­lu­tion­ary pres­sure to out-think a preda­tor is at least the same as out-think­ing prey.

The big hunters have big brains but a lower ra­tio of neu­rons to brain size. The brown bear has about the same num­ber of neu­rons as a cat, in a brain 10 times big­ger. A lion has fewer neu­rons than a golden re­triever, in a brain three times the size.

CREDIT: LILIYA KULIANIONAK

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