Here’s a study that may have you fighting like cats and dogs.
Dogs are brainier than cats, according to a Vanderbilt University research project.
Vanderbilt neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel (who says up front that she’s a dog person) said canines have about 530 million cortical neurons, which is more than twice as many as felines. Neurons, or brain cells, drive cognitive skills like memory, prediction and planning. (Humans have about 16 billion neurons.)
Vanderbilt says this is the first study to count the number of neurons in different animals, including cats and dogs. The cats and dogs studied were deceased, had died of natural causes and were donated to the study.
Neurons are the brain’s “information-processing units,” said Herculano-Houzel. “Whatever species has the most neurons in the cerebral cortex is therefore expected to be capable of more complex and flexible behavior.”
Dogs certainly can do more things than cats. For example, they:
- Help humans as assistance and service dogs
- Serve in the military
- Are members of police K9 units
- Are performers (think Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Beethoven, Benji, Comet and Hooch)
- Come when you call them
Here’s the “but” in the results.
Dogs have more neurons, which makes them “brainer”, but the study didn’t look at how dogs and cats acted, for example were dogs easier to train than cats and can they learn more things. Researcher Herculano-Houzel says they counted brain cells but did not look at behavior. “We cannot (and do not) make any claims about how intelligent [cats and dogs] are.”
So, the fight continues. Who is smarter, fido or fluffy?
Dog lovers think they know the answer. Maybe it’s just that we should all get along.
Here’s an interesting side note. Raccoons may be smarter than either cats or dogs. When judging smarts, you look at the size of the brain and the number of neurons in it. The brain of a typical golden retriever, for example, has more neurons that of a brown bear, which has a brain three times as large. Dogs are brainier (and better) than bears.
But, “Raccoons were the huge surprise,” Herculano-Houzel said. “They have cat-sized brains, but with dog-like numbers of neurons, which places them on par with primates, who as a whole have lots of neurons crammed in small brains. The large numbers of neurons in the small raccoon brains jives very well with how crafty/smart/resourceful these creatures are believed to be.”
Read more about Vanderbilt’s research here. Watch a video called Sorry Grumpy Cat, study finds dogs are brainier than cats with Suzana Herculano-Houzel talking about the research.