Saturday, December 2, 2017

Dogs are smarter than cats

In breaking news that shouldn't really surprise most people, let alone people lucky enough to own a dog, we have received more scientific evidence that dogs are probably a little smarter than cats. Because cats can be so standoffish and snobbish while dogs are often the opposite, cats have obtained an undeserved reputation for being smarter than dogs. Well that's not really the case. It turns out that there's more going on inside a dog's brain than a cat's. I'm not surprised. After all, the dog understands the concept of going outside to use the bathroom. Cats still haven't worked that one out. Dogs look at us and try to read our emotions and state of mind. Cats look at us and want to know why we haven't filled the food bowl yet. It may be that what we think of as supercilious feline disdain is simply the blank stare of a dumb cat. Or perhaps this breaking news is all just canine propaganda...

Half of you will love this, and half of you will hate it: An international team of scientists says its research strongly suggests that dogs are smarter than cats.

A paper accepted this week for publication in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy reports that dogs' brains have more than twice as many cortical neurons — the cells linked to thinking, planning and complex behavior — than cats' brains do. The team, working at universities and zoos around the world, counted the number of cortical neurons in eight carnivorans, a large class of mammals that have teeth and claws that allow them to eat other animals. (That's different from carnivores, the much larger class of all meat-eating animals, including bears, raccoons and seals.) 
They found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, while cats have about 250 million. 

"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," said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, who developed the method the team used to count neurons.

"Meat eating is largely considered a problem-solver in terms of energy, but, in retrospect, it is clear that carnivory must impose a delicate balance between how much brain and body a species can afford," Herculano-Houzel said.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a seeing-eye cat or a cat trained to sniff out bombs? "I'm 100 percent a dog person," Herculano-Houzel said. "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.

But cat owners shouldn't despair. Just because cats aren't as smart as dogs doesn't mean that cats are any less fun as pets. If you happen to have a cat sharing your home, just don't ask the cat to do very much. It probably won't understand you anyway. And from what I've seen cats seem to be happiest when their employees  owners don't bother them.
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