Why Dogs Are Smarter Than Cats (According to Science)

Dog smarter than cat cover

In today’s world where each individual has their own opinion and tends to fight others if others disagree with their beliefs, this has led to a world where basically everything is split into groups of love or hate for certain things. While it was not much of a problem when it comes to objects but now people are also arguing if their pets are smarter, specifically if dogs are smarter than cats. According to them, either you are a cat person or a dog person and cannot love both. Well, science has the answer and it might split people into different groups yet again.

Measuring Intelligence in Animals

While many tests have been performed in the past there are three basic stages that are now considered as the best way to measure intelligence in animals. First is the mirror exploration and cognition behavior, followed by performing unusual and repetitive tasks, sometimes in front of the said mirror. Finally, detecting the body parts or behavior in the absence of the mirror is also known as self-directed behaviors and animals like chimpanzees and birds like crows and parrots have shown an exceptional level of intelligence.

Dog in front of mirror

A dog in front of the mirror.

However, this only works to a certain degree because just like the IQ tests for humans, not all of the dimensions of intelligence are explored. So, where does this lead us with the debate of cats vs dogs?

Smartness of Dogs

In the past, whenever there was a discussion between dog lovers and cat lovers, the counterargument of cat owners was almost that felines are smarter while dogs are lovable but are dumb. However, science suggests otherwise and it is time for this argument to be settled. In a recent study, researchers take a look at the brains of various animals in a group of Carnivora, which includes dogs, cats, and many other wild animals. The main goal of this study was to find the relation between the brain-to-body ratio and intelligence, also the number of neurons present in an animal. In two animals with the same brain size, they wanted to see which one possesses more neurons and would be densely packed. As the higher number of neurons allows for more information to be traveled to the brain. Researchers wanted to observe the cerebral cortex in particular, as this part of the brain is linked with higher intelligence as it regulates complex processes such as decision making and planning, and as expected primates showed to have densely packed neurons. Eight species of animals were used in this study, in which one cat and two dogs, one of them was a golden retriever were used, all of these animals died of natural causes and their bodies were donated for research. For the research to be carried out, each brain of the animal was weighed and scanned, followed by dissolving the brain in a liquid which would leave the exact number of neurons in the liquid to be calculated under the microscope.

Neuron structure

The structure of a neuron.

As one may have expected that dogs have a larger brain than cats, however, that was not the result. Scientists found that dogs possess 530 million cortical neurons which were more than double the cats’ 250 million and considering the brain size of both animals, dogs’ neurons are much densely packed. Additionally, to prove the point golden retriever’s brain size when compared to that of a bear and an African lion, it was seen that their brain was not that densely packed with neurons. Scientists state that this result shouldn’t be taken for every aspect of intelligence as it was conducted on dead animals and was only based on the number of brain cells, this only shows us that a certain animal is capable of processing more information. Finally, how these translate into actual behavior is yet to be studied.

The bottom line is that dogs are capable of processing more information than cats, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are smarter or prove that cats are smarter. Ultimately, whatever animal you keep as a pet is smarter because we don’t keep pets based on their intelligence but for the companionship and comfort that they provide us.

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