Dogs are more intelligent than cats, Vanderbilt study shows

Who's Smarter, Dogs or Cats? Science Now Has the Answer

The researchers found that dogs have "about twice as many neurons in the cerebral cortex [as] cats do", said Herculano-Houzel. The study found raccoons, which have brains about the size of cats, have as many neurons as some primates.

An worldwide team of researchers took her work and ran with it to compare the brain size and number of neurons in a wide range of animals, including household favorites like cats and dogs, as well as bears, hyenas, lions and raccoons. On the other hand, large carnivoran species have high hunting costs and unreliable feeding patterns, which, given the high metabolic cost of brain neurons, might put them at risk of metabolic constraints regarding how many brain neurons they can afford, especially in the cerebral cortex.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Vanderbilt associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, said the findings show dogs are more capable of behaviors related to intelligence than their feline counterparts.

The researchers attempted to probe further and examined the brains of eight mammals: cats, dogs, bears, lions, hyenas, ferrets, mongoose and raccoons.

In fact, for the largest carnivorans the neuron-to-brain-size ratio is actually lower.


Just because an animal is bigger and has a bigger brain size, that doesn't mean it has more neurons.

They also noted that the bear's brain is 10 times larger than a cat's, yet has the same amount of neurons.

"Meat eating is largely considered a problem-solver in terms of energy", said Herculano-Houzel "but, in retrospect, it is clear that carnivory must impose a delicate balance between how much brain and body a species can afford". As a effect, the quantity of meat that large hunters can kill and consume and the intermittent nature of feeding appears to limit their brain development. The study's findings also challenge the prevailing view that domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild cousins.

An worldwide team of scientists studied a variety of furry critters and discovered dogs have more neurons in an important part of the brain than cats. But researchers still can't be sure whether dogs are using that capability to its full potential.

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