Dog and cat owners have always debated about which animal makes a better pet. Dog owners often brag about how intelligent canines are, and cat owners argue that cats are just as smart as dogs! The Frontiers in Neuroanatomy journal has recently researched and published support that dogs may actually be smarter than cats.
The study focused on looking at the brains of animals in the order of Carnivora, a group of mammals that encompasses bears, seals, raccoons, as well as our domesticated cats and dogs. The study was conducted to explore the connection between brain size and the number neurons in the brain. If the brain size was higher in different animals then they had the higher number of neurons.
The objective of the research was specifically for the cerebral cortex, which is the part of the brain that’s linked with intelligence. It controls complex thought developments like decision making and planning. The more tightly packed the neurons are in a species cerebral cortex, then the more intelligent that species is considered to be.
The study focused on about 8 species of Carnivora, while having one or two sample animals from each species. The one domestic cat and the two dogs (Golden Retriever and one unnamed breed) used by the studies had passed due to natural causes, and their bodies were contributed to science for research. They had taken images of each animals brain, and the weight of the brain was also restrained for the purpose of size assessment. In order to define the exact number of neurons, each brain was dissolved, and the number of cells in a sample of the resulting liquid was counted using a microscope. This sample count was then used to create an estimate of the number of cells in the whole brain.
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Not Just a Case of Bigger Brains
The results had shown that dogs that had larger brains to begin with, had double the neurons in the cerebral cortex verse the domestic cat. They numbers were around 530 million cortical neurons to the cat’s 250 million. Since the brain heavily relies on neurons to process information, this means that the more neurons in the cerebral cortex, the more information it can process. In this case study it was found that dogs have the potential for more complex and flexible behavior than cats due to the number of neurons from the study.
In all, it wasn’t all about the dog having a bigger brain than the cat. For example, the Golden Retriever’s brain had more cortical neurons than the African Lion and Brown Bear. The African Lion and Brown Bear had far larger cerebral cortices than the dog.
So, before dog owners start telling their cat-loving friends “I told you so” they should understand that the research complete was small in sample size. It was only one cat and two dogs in the study.
You should keep in mind that the scientists did not test the intelligence of living dogs and cats with pet-friendly IQ tests or even observe the animal’s behavior. The study’s results were based on just brain cells. So, although dogs may have a higher potential than cats, we have no actual proof that they’re using their brain to its full capabilities. Honestly, there is no better animal than a cat being a cat and a dog being a dog. As far as which makes the better pet? It depends on who you ask!