Are dogs smarter than cats? Are cats smarter than dogs? Now science finally has an answer. Below you can read about one of the biggest controversies in the history of pets.
A recognized publication in the scientific journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy states that the cerebral cortex in dogs is twice as large as for cats in the number of nerve cells. The research group that discovered this is from six different universities in the USA, Denmark, Brazil and South Africa.
Professor Suzana Herculano-Houzel was the one responsible for the method of calculating the number of nerve cells in a species’ brain. According to the same researcher, the first step is to turn the brain into a “soup”, because then it will be easier to isolate the cell nuclei of the nerve cells and calculate their approximate number.
The nerve cell is the basic unit for processing information. The cognitive ability of all living things is directly linked to the number of nerve cells. According to Herculano-Houzel, the quantitative factor is important:
The researchers based their findings on the application of the so-called “fungal method” to the cerebral cortex of a dog. The nerve tissue in question covers both halves of the brain and is only a few millimeters thick. The organic tissue, “gray matter”, is essential for decision-making.
The purpose of said brain area is particularly important because it treats external stimuli that an animal perceives through sight and touch.
To reach this conclusion, the neurologist Herculano-Houzel and her group used three brains: one from a cat, another from a golden retriever and one last from a small mixed breed dog.
They used two dog brains due to the large differences that usually exist between breeds of different sizes. They discovered that the cerebral cortex of both dogs contained 500 million nerve cells, while the cat’s brain had only 250 million.
Thus, the researchers analyzed brains from eight different carnivorous species to find a similar number of nerve cells. They selected samples from ferrets, mangoes, raccoons, cats, dogs, hyenas, lions and grizzly bears.
To compare, they estimated that a dog’s intelligence is similar to that of raccoons and lions, while a cat’s intelligence can be compared to that of a bear. However, every human being has 16,000 million nerve cells in his brain. The elephant is the second most intelligent species with 5.600 million nerve cells.
The research group actually tried to confirm the hypothesis that the brains of carnivorous species have more bark-like nerve cells than those of herbivorous species. However, they could not prove it because there was no correlation between the number of nerve cells and the size of the animal.
They judged that the stress to which herbivores are exposed has driven them to develop their brain capacity. The reality is that large carnivores usually have fewer nerve cells. For example, the bear’s brain is ten times larger than the cat’s, but both have the same amount of nerve cells.
The researchers were also surprised by the raccoon. Although it resembles the cat’s brain in size, it has the same amount of nerve cells as a dog. The number of nerve cells in the raccoon is higher on average than other animals in the same family.
But even if cats are not smarter than dogs, both are fantastic companions for people through life. Unfortunately, cat lovers now have a minor argument to their advantage!