It's Official: Dogs are Smarter than Cats
While the jury is still out on whether it’s better to be a cat owner or a dog owner, research now has the answer to which species is smarter… at least when it comes to processing information.
An international team of researchers at six universities in the U.S., Brazil, Denmark, and South Africa compared the number of neurons—the cells that process information—in cats, dogs, ferrets, bears, lions, raccoons, mongooses and hyenas.
And the results? Dogs are smarter than cats.
A 15-pound mixed breed dog’s cerebral cortex has 429 million neurons, while a cat’s only has 250 million. A larger breed dog, like a 64-pound golden retriever had even more neurons: 627 million.
That said, bigger badder brains don’t correlate directly with size, the researchers found. Dogs also had more neurons than bears, even though bears are larger and have larger brains. As it turns out, bears actually have about the same number of neurons as cats. Raccoons, by comparison are incredibly smart—despite only having a brain the size of a cat, they have the same cortical neurons as a dog or a primate.
In the study, researchers were trying to determine the relationship between brain size and the number of neurons a species has, and to confirm the hypothesis that carnivores have more neurons than the herbivores that they prey upon.
Their thinking was that hunting is more demanding, cognitively speaking, than the strategy many herbivores rely upon: that there is safety in numbers.
Ultimately, researchers determined carnivores don’t necessarily have more neurons than their prey and that brain size does not correlate with the number of neurons. They decided that meant there was just as much evolutionary pressure on herbivores to develop the brain power to escape when being hunted as there was on hunters to capture prey.
The study also challenges the idea that domesticated animals have smaller brains that those of their wild cousins… the ratios of brain size to body weight of the domesticated species studied did not scale in a way significantly different than those of their wild relatives.