Science says dogs are smarter than cats. Take that, cat people

Thursday, 30 Nov, 2017

Dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons compared to 250 million for cats, the study found. Humans have 16 billion, so don't expect Spot to be doing your algebra homework.

TODAY knows all about smart dogs after seeing our own puppies with a objective, Wrangler and Charlie, complete their training to become service dogs.

They might chew your shoes, occasionally pee on the rug, or snarf down your entire dinner the minute you turn your head, but it turns out your family dog is measurably smarter than your cat.

It's official, scientists have confirmed that dogs are smarter than cats after literally counting the individual neurons in their brain and finding they have "significantly more". The answer is, no, dogs are smarter than cats, at least as far as brain function goes.

The cells are associated with thinking, planning and behaviour, and Herculano-Houzel developed the method for accurately measuring their numbers.

Elsewhere, researchers found that the brain size of hunter animals did not mean they were brainier than their prey.

"It also determines their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience", said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, from the Vanderbilt University in the US.

Apart from just cats and dogs, the study also took into account one or two specimens from eight carnivorous species including ferret, mongoose, raccoon, hyena, lion and brown bear.

The study looks at cortical neurons, the cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviors that act as a measurement of intelligence, Vanderbilt's research arm wrote in a November 29 blog post.

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.

The study was hinged on the hypothesis that carnivores had to have more cortical neurons, meaning, they had to be smarter than herbivores. Bears have brains that are ten times that of cats, but same number of neurons.