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Feature March 2018 Issue

Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats?

Based on new research, experts are suggesting that the answer points to ... "yes."

dog and cat

Photodisc/Getty Images

Both species have their fans clubs, but there is no debating that dogs possess roughly 530 million cortical neurons, whereas cats have roughly 250 million.

According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, dogs possess more brain power than cats. This was determined by researchers, who counted the number of neurons in the cerebral cortexes of the brains of a number of animals, including cats and dogs.

These cells are associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior: all hallmarks of intelligence. The study found that dogs possess significantly more of them than cats.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, PhD — associate professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University — developed the method for measuring the number of neurons in the brains of animals.

“I believe the absolute number of neurons an animal has —especially in the cerebral cortex — determines the richness of their internal mental state, and their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience,” said Dr. Herculano-Houzel. “In this study, we were interested in comparing difference species of carnivores to see how the number of neurons in their brains relate to the size of their brains, including a few favorite species, including cats and dogs, lions and brown bears.”

The study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, while cats possess about 250 million. (In comparison, the human brain has 16 billion cortical neurons.) “Neurons are the basic information processing units,” said Dr. Herculano-Houzel. “The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is.”

According to Dr. Herculano-Houzel, studying the brains of different species teaches an important lesson: “Diversity is enormous. Not every species is made the same way. Yes, there are recognizable patterns, but there are multiple ways that nature has found of putting brains together —and we’re trying to figure out what difference that makes.” — Catnip staff

Comments (6)

Racist behavior, racist behavior.

Signed Loomis the Cat

Posted by: Bede | March 7, 2018 7:31 PM    Report this comment

Now you've done it. My cats are in an uproar at even the suggestion that dogs are smarter than cats!

Posted by: Bede | March 7, 2018 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Just one example of dogs not being as smart as cats: dogs will eat just about anything that gets near their mouths - including cat feces! Cats, on the other hand, are much more cautious about what they put in their mouths, and they never eat the feces of other animals.

Posted by: Jesse's Dad | March 6, 2018 1:54 AM    Report this comment

Dogs drool..... cats rule!

Posted by: nyppsi | March 5, 2018 2:19 PM    Report this comment

I have been around dogs and cats my entire life (60 years), I my experience is that many cats have higher cognitive abilities and actions than most dogs. Although my sample size is small, my experience with both leads me to believe that cats more readily react to stimuli and events than do most dogs. I would even venture to say that there is more to intelligence than just the total number of cortical neurons in a brain. Therefore, I believe there is some error to Dr. Herculano-Houzel's hypothesis.

Posted by: Lions20 | March 5, 2018 11:54 AM    Report this comment

I think this scientist is a dog lover. I like dogs but I think cats are more independent and that makes them smarter. They can use their own litter boxes and don't need to be walked. JMHO. ;-)

Posted by: Rhiannon122 | March 5, 2018 11:11 AM    Report this comment

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