A study by Vanderbilt University proves what dog owners already know — dogs are smarter than cats.
The study is the first to count the number of cortical neurons in the brains of several carnivores, including dogs and cats, and discovered dogs have more than twice as many neurons as cats.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, developed the method for accurately measuring the number of neurons in brains.
The study showed dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million. In comparison, humans have 16 billion.
Study counted neurons
Researchers also studied some wild animals and the results showed dogs’ brains have more neurons than hyenas, lions and bears.
The researchers analyzed the brains of one or two specimens from each of eight species: ferret, mongoose, raccoon, cat, dog, hyena, lion and brown bear.
The study’s findings also challenge the prevailing view that domesticated animals have smaller brains than wild animals.
The ratios of brain size to the body weight of the domestic species analyzed — ferret, cat, and dog — did not scale in a significantly different manner from those of their wild relatives — mongoose, raccoon, hyena, lion and brown bear.
Herculano-Houzel said studying the brains of different species teaches an important lesson: “Diversity is enormous. 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.”
Link not yet proven
Jessica Perry Hekman, a veterinary geneticist at MIT and Harvard’s Broad Institute, told the Washington Post there are a number of reasons to be cautious in interpreting the study’s results. For one, she said, the link between neuron number and intelligence is not proven.
“Which isn’t to say it’s wrong,” Hekman said, “but that it’s definitely something that they’re just starting out with and collecting information on.”
Sara B. Hansen has spent the past 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Cocker Spaniels. She decided to create her dream job by launching Dog’s Best Life. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Nutmeg, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy. Her previous dogs: Sydney (September 2008-April 2020), Finley (November 1993-January 2008), and Browning (May 1993-November 2007). You can reach Sara @ [email protected].