Are Dogs More Intelligent Than Cats?

A new study provides an answer.

Oct 28, 2020


Are Dogs More Intelligent Than Cats? | A new study provides an answer.

The rivalry between dogs and cats is not new, even when it comes to a pet owner’s preference. This is because cats and dogs are the two most appreciated and loved pets. Since so much has been said about which species makes a better companion at home and why, science has decided to determine which animal is more intelligent.

A study carried out by researchers from six universities and published in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy suggests something that dog advocates may claim they already knew: that dogs could be more intelligent. Researchers have found that dogs have around twice the number of neurons in their cerebral cortex than cats.

As described in National Geographic, the team used three animal brains in order to measure the amount of neurons dogs and cats might commonly have: one from a cat, one from a bigger dog, and one from a smaller dog. Two different types of dogs were used due to the canine's differing size. 

The researchers found around 500 million neurons in the cortex of both dogs regardless of their size difference, which doubled the 250 million neurons found in the cat's cortex.

Although other methods, such as brain size, have been used in the past for measuring intelligence, one of the study's authors, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel, said there is little evidence to prove larger brain size in pets signifies higher intelligence.

Her study, as reported on PBS News Hour, showed that bears, one of the biggest animals in nature, have the same number of neurons as cats. And just as surprising, a raccoon brain has as many neurons as a dog’s brain, even though it is the size of a cat’s brain. In summary, a bigger brain does not mean an animal is smarter.

But what does intelligence really mean when comparing different species? As Brian Hare, the founder and director of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center told PBS, this question is fundamental. Many scientists reject this term because they consider intelligence is mistakenly studied from a human perspective, even though different species may be intelligent in different ways. 

Each species evolved facing its own challenges needed to survive. “Seeing a dolphin sitting in a tree looks as silly as a chimpanzee fishing in the sea. But research shows that both dolphins and chimps are geniuses in their natural habitats,” Hare explained.

Science might shed some light on the dogs versus cat debate by offering an answer regarding the species’ intelligence. However, every pet lover will agree that they are both intelligent in their own way.  Both cats and dogs deserve to be equally loved regardless of how many neurons they have!

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With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.