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Science finally answers – are dogs or cats smarter?

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  1. There are a lot of differences between cats and dogs, as well as between cat owners and dog owners. Cat owners tend to be more introverted and inward thinkers, while dog owners tend to be more extroverted and open. They also love different things about their pets. Dog owners usually love dogs because they are loyal, joyful, selfless and easy to train. Interestingly, cat owners love cats for mostly the opposite reasons, with a lot of them disliking dogs for being so eager to please and lacking the independent spirit of cats.

Of course, most of these are generalizations and there are all types of different reasons to love both cats and dogs. But that hasn’t stopped the debate from raging for years – are dogs or cats smarter? Well, science final answers that old chestnut. And while it’s always been known that cats and dogs simply think differently and cats are often presumed as “less intelligent” because they are harder to train – in reality, they simply require different types of training and communication.

However, it still appears that in terms of raw brain power, dogs are ahead nevertheless.

Simply put, dogs’ cerebral cortex is much denser than that of cats.

“Well, of course, dogs are dense,” any self-respecting cat-fan would say. But that’s actually a good thing – this density is crucial when it comes to efficiency in hunting.

Test results published in the science journal Animal Cognition show that dogs have about 530 million neurons calculating their behavior, while cats have around 250 million neurons. That’s a whopping difference!

“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,” neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel from Vanderbilt University says.

Dogs aren’t ahead of just cats, but any other carnivore as well, even though they don’t have the biggest brains. Brown bears have roughly the same number of neurons as cats while having much bigger brains than both felines and canines.

And the winner is!

So, while previous studies indicated that brain capacity is key and while it‘s certainly a factor, the total number of neurons now seems like a much more important factor.

“I’m 100 percent a dog person,” Herculano-Houzel confessed, “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.”

This big difference between dogs and cats is easily explained evolutionary. Dogs are pack animals that rely on communication and coordination to hunt and survive. Cats, on the other hand, are individual hunters that rely more heavily on their superior physique and athleticism. So, all things considered, both species seem pretty well balanced.

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