Which is smarter: a cat or a dog?
Vanderbilt University believes it has the answer to that long-time question after new research.
According to the school’s website, in a new study, researchers counted the number of neurons in the brains of cats and dogs. Dogs, the research says, have “significantly more of them than cats.” Neurons are associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior — or intelligence. Specifically, dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, while cats have about 250 million.
As a side note, humans have 16 billion neurons in their brains.
“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 associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, Suzana Herculano-Houzel.
Houzel said she is “100 percent a dog person.”
“But, with that disclaimer, our findings mean to me that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can,” said Houzel. “At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who’s smarter, cats or dogs.”
Researchers expected the brains of carnivores would have more neurons than herbivores. That wasn’t the case. According to the study:
“The researchers determined that the ratio of neurons to brain size in small- and medium-sized carnivores was about the same as that of herbivores, suggesting that there is just as much evolutionary pressure on the herbivores to develop the brain power to escape from predators as there is on carnivores to catch them.”
They also found that the size of a brain isn’t connected with the number of neurons. For example, the brain of a golden retriever had more neurons than a hyena, lion or brown bear, even though the predators have brains of up to three times as large.
“Diversity is enormous,” said Houzel. “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.”