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Who's smarter, dogs or cats? One study says it has the answer

02 December 2017

Dogs are smarter than cats, scientific study reveals.Creative Commons.

The researchers analyzed the brains of other animals like lions and hyenas as well, comparing the number of neurons in their brains compared to the size of their brains. It concluded that dogs have more neurons in their cerebral cortex, allowing them to complete more complex tasks. On average, the dogs had 530 million to cats' 250 million. Dogs, the research says, have "significantly more of them than cats".

"We did not study their behavior, so we can not (and do not) make any claims about how intelligent they are", researcher Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University, told HuffPost in an email.

It's important to remember that this number of cortical neurons is merely an indicator of cognitive ability.

The study was carried out by counting a number of cortical neurons in eight carnivorans - that happen to be a large class of mammals having teeth and claws that allow them to eat other animals; they are not to be confused with carnivores that are exclusively meat-eating animals, including humans.

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Since neurons are the brain's "information-processing units", Herculano-Houzel explained, "whatever species has the most neurons in the cerebral cortex is therefore expected to be capable of more complex and flexible behavior". They found that bears had about as many neurons as cats - despite having much bigger brains.

There's a new twist in the age-old argument over whether cats are smarter than dogs, or vice versa.

All that said, while this study suggests dogs might be more intelligent, research from 2014 indicates that when it comes to humans, cat lovers may be smarter than their dog-loving counterparts. "The large numbers of neurons in the small raccoon brains jives very well with how crafty/smart/resourceful these creatures are believed to be". The group was chosen because it has a large range of brain sizes, and includes both domesticated and wild species.

Herculano-Houzel admits she is a dog person, but that's not why she wasn't surprised by the findings. "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".

Who's smarter, dogs or cats? One study says it has the answer