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Science

Study Finds Dogs Are Brainier Than Cats (vanderbilt.edu) 330

Science_afficionado writes: Are you a cat lover? A dog lover? If so, you may be interested in the first scientific study to actually count the number of cortical neurons in the brains of a number of carnivores, including cats and dogs. Bottom line: Dogs have about twice as many of these "little grey cells" as cats. These "little gray cells" are associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior. The study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million. (For comparison, the human brain has 16 billion.) Another interesting discovery was that carnivores have about the same ratio of neurons to brain size as that of herbivores, "suggesting that there is just as much evolutionary pressure on the herbivores to develop the brain power to escape from predators as there is on carnivores to catch them," reports Vanderbilt University. "The study's findings also challenge the prevailing view that domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild cousins. The ratios of brain size to body weight of the domestic species they 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."

The results of the study are described in a paper titled "Dogs have the most neurons, though not the largest brain: Trade-off between body mass and number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of large carnivoran species" accepted for publication in the open access journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

Study Finds Dogs Are Brainier Than Cats

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would be curious about breed specifics and percentage difference if any or other genetic factors as some are waaaay smarter than others.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @08:40AM (#55649771)

      Different breeds may be smarter then others. But that is due to us breeding them for different traits.
      However I doubt that there is a huge variation. As often traits that we equate to being smart for a dog, doesn't always require more brain power.
      As the article points out wild animals seem to be brainier, however a wolf doesn't have a lot of traits that we equate to intelligence that our pet dog has.
      For examples Dogs can understand the abstract concept of pointing, while wolves cannot. Dogs can be taught a lot of tricks and behaviors that may be outside their normal instinctive behavior, while wolves do not. However Dogs bark and make a lot of noise, and are much more disorganized in hunting by themselves, which would put them at a disadvantage in a non-human world. Dogs and Humans had created a symbiotic relationship. So the Dog has evolved to at least react to our weird abstract concepts, in a way that pleases us, they do not really understand the concept of being tethered, but they realize there is a boundary and past that us humans needs to be with them.

      • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @10:34AM (#55650443)

        As the article points out wild animals seem to be brainier, however a wolf doesn't have a lot of traits that we equate to intelligence that our pet dog has. For examples Dogs can understand the abstract concept of pointing, while wolves cannot. Dogs can be taught a lot of tricks and behaviors that may be outside their normal instinctive behavior, while wolves do not. However Dogs bark and make a lot of noise, and are much more disorganized in hunting by themselves, which would put them at a disadvantage in a non-human world.

        As someone who has owned a wolf in the past, I can assure you that you don't know what you are talking about. I was able to train him to sit, stay, heel, lay down and come in less than half a day. I never saw anything quite like it. I could also point at damn near anything and tell him to get it, and he would bring it to me. This included flies that got into the house. On the occasion that one would land out of his reach (basically the ceiling) he would sit and wait for it to move again. I just wish he would have taken them to the trash can rather then bring them to me.

        He was a great companion rather than a pet, but I would never think about doing that again as they are much more independent thinking than a dog. If there was someone or something he felt was a threat, it didn't matter what I said, he wanted to kill it. There were two occasions that I caught him mid air going for someones throat. After that I made sure to keep him away from anyone that he didn't like. He would also pin people to the floor if they moved around me in a threatening manner. Two things that I never quite figured out were why he hated bicycles and anyone having a gun other than myself. If anyone carried a gun onto my property, he would take it and bring it to me.

        • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @04:48PM (#55653777)

          Of course he doesn't know what he's talking about. He has no understand or grasp of how dog intelligence is consistently ranked. Dog intelligence can be identified and ranked on instinctual intelligence, adaptive intelligence, and working/obedience intelligence. The latter is how much time it takes to teach a dog a new command as well as how often the dog responds to the command the first time once taught it. Wolves aren't necessarily intelligent on that last ranking system. Human don't frequently value the instinctive or adaptive intelligences because they're not related to the tasks for which we've bred them however some breeds of dog are incredibly adaptively intelligence (Siberian huskies) and capable of solving problems on their own. Many of the most intelligent breeds by most obedience rankings aren't required to also have strong problem solving intelligence and that may be an undesirable trait when it comes to breeding a working dog.

    • I would be curious about breed specifics and percentage difference if any or other genetic factors as some are waaaay smarter than others.

      This is an important question. Dogs vary vastly in size, and in the size of their craniums.

      Which dogs were measured?

  • WE've won! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 30, 2017 @05:13AM (#55649127)

    Cat lovers, cower in the corner with tails between your legs.

    Next battle to settle: vi vs emacs.

  • Social Complexity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theweatherelectric ( 2007596 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @05:22AM (#55649149)
    Social complexity seems to be a driver for intelligence. Hyena society is quite complex with clans and a dominance hierarchy within each clan. Hyenas seem to have theory of mind [royalsocie...ishing.org] and seem to practice tactical deception [animalwise.org]. Hyenas are also good cooperative problem solvers [duke.edu], outperforming primates.
  • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @05:31AM (#55649161)

    Our cat doesn't appear to be very bright but it's very lovable.

    • We have seven cats. There is a wide range of intelligence among them. The social order is complex and the 'alpha' cat is actually physically the one of the smallest.

      • We have seven cats. There is a wide range of intelligence among them. The social order is complex and the 'alpha' cat is actually physically the one of the smallest.

        Male cats are usually larger than females; but females are usually the more aggressive and "alpha" in a group of cats. In every mixed gender cat-household I've known (including ours of 5 cats), it's always been a female cat that bosses all the others around. Our 20 year old 5.5lb female that is deaf, almost blind, and has arthritis and can barely walk still manages to instill fear into our 14lb Maine Coon female and 18lb Turkish Van male (and a 7lb male and a 6lb female shorthair).

        She's tiny, but she's o

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Our cat doesn't appear to be very bright but it's very lovable.

      So is my teddy bear.

  • by MoarSauce123 ( 3641185 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @05:35AM (#55649169)
    ...but cannot do their business on their own in a designated spot (cats can do that) and are inept to spend a few days alone (no problem with cats). I have come across many dumb dogs that bark constantly for no reason, but at least as many clever cats. More cells does not make one smarter.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can train a dog to use a litter box, most people just don't care to bother. And I've never in my entire life ever met a cat I'd classify as "clever". Sneaky, greedy, sadistic, but nothing that indicated exceptional brain power. Contrast with dogs: We have seeing eye dogs, and guard dogs, and drug sniffing dogs, and herding dogs, and search and rescue dogs - all very complicated jobs that require (for an animal) pretty high intelligence.

      Also, although I prefer not having to constantly plan around my cat'

      • Re socialization: One shouldn't forget that dogs are pack animals, whereas cats are not. Different socialization needs are not, in this case, an indication of intelligence. Also: dogs have been bred for trainability, and for successful human interaction.

        Anyone who's surprised dogs are the smarter species hasn't been paying attention.

        Yup. Even as someone who prefers cats: cats clearly are not as intelligent as dogs.

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          Does dogs' intelligence drive socialization, or does socialization behavior drive greater intelligence? Or are they coincidental developments?

          I'm sure that some working breeds are selectively bred based on their demonstrated working ability, but I think that's probably a fairly recent development. It seems more likely that in the long journey to domestication, compliance with humans was probably just an evolution advantage.

          Dogs that were aggressive to humans got driven off or killed, dogs that were compli

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Thursday November 30, 2017 @10:27AM (#55650357) Homepage Journal

        Cat's use a brute force approach to intelligence.

        They don't understand cause and effect, and don't have object permanence (if they see a toy they don't understand it is the same toy they had yesterday, they just know it's /a/ toy and smells like them so it must be theirs). To make up for this, they are curious and patient. They will try things over and over again to see what happens, and learn through positive and negative re-enforcement.

        This can lead to some surprisingly clever behaviour. We have all see videos of cats opening doors and the like, they the most common one is to learn how to manipulate their staff. For example, adult cats don't meow in the wild, but quickly learn that it's the most efficient way to summon their servants and signal that it's time for a massage. Same with food, lot of people swear that their cats are fussy and will only take hand-fed choice cuts of chicken, but actually they just learned to keep ignoring food that is offered until the good stuff comes out.

        • As you say I've had cats attempt to try to open doors with the doorknob to get to a favorite feather toy they knows sits behind the door.

          Sometimes cats remember where something is hidden longer than I do...

          If you want my opinion the extra neurons dogs have are probably all related to processing smell.

    • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @07:29AM (#55649449) Homepage
      The dogs that bark constantly are bored to tears because their owners neglect them. People get dogs because they see that cute puppy and feel warm inside. It's all about the feels. Then the puppy grows to a dog and it's just annoying to deal with. Stick it outside leashed up and feed it once in a while. The feelings the dog generates are mostly negative and people get angry at the dog for making them feel this way. Honestly people shouldn't be allowed to get a dog unless they pass an empathy test but that would infringe on people's FREEDUMBS so we can't do that and millions of dogs suffer needlessly before they finally get taken to the vet to be killed for being inconvenient.
      • Honestly people shouldn't be allowed to get a dog unless they pass an empathy test but that would infringe on people's FREEDUMBS so we can't do that and millions of dogs suffer needlessly before they finally get taken to the vet to be killed for being inconvenient.

        There is no way I would have passed an empathy test before I got my dog, but he has taught me. I am a much better person now, thanks to him.
        Rocky is an ex-racing greyhound, I highly recommend them to anyone thinking about getting a dog. They are smarter than they are given credit for, and the most loving creatures in the world. (Also VERY low energy.)
        This is where I got him from:
        http://www.greyhoundpetsinc.or... [greyhoundpetsinc.org]

    • ...but cannot do their business on their own in a designated spot (cats can do that) and are inept to spend a few days alone (no problem with cats). I have come across many dumb dogs that bark constantly for no reason, but at least as many clever cats. More cells does not make one smarter.

      Humans have been very successful in teaching dogs to do MANY tasks. For that reason alone, this study was confirmed centuries ago when humans tried to train cats and realized just how dumb and incapable they truly are.

      You really can't do much else other than suggest to a cat where to piss and shit, and when you don't pay them enough attention, they sometimes get even by pissing somewhere other than the litter box, so even that one task isn't fully grasped.

      • Cats aren't dumb. They just don't give a shit.
        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          Cats aren't dumb. They just don't give a shit.

          Oh, they do. Like in a visitor's shoes.

      • by AvitarX ( 172628 )

        The fact that they break the rules as payback mean that they DO grasp it I think.

        • The fact that they break the rules as payback mean that they DO grasp it I think.

          Stupid and sadistic isn't exactly a defense, especially when failing to grasp the consequences of said behavior is often euthanasia.

      • No disagreement, but give cats a break... dogs have been domesticated at least 10 times longer than cats, and humans still don't do much to change the cat gene pool. That's right: even today, cats way-more-often-than-not procreate without human intervention, while dogs tend to be "bred" on purpose for something we like.

        Consequently, there's a lot less pressure toward human-friendly traits in cats than there is for dogs. The opposite, actually, if you live in a neighborhood where people let their cats out

    • by Phics ( 934282 )

      You may be confusing "smart" and "dumb" with instinct driven behavioural patterns in this case.

    • ...but cannot do their business on their own in a designated spot (cats can do that) and are inept to spend a few days alone (no problem with cats). I have come across many dumb dogs that bark constantly for no reason, but at least as many clever cats. More cells does not make one smarter.

      Dogs are smarter than cats, as demonstrated by repeated studies that involve solving puzzles to get a treat. I've both cats and dogs, and comparing the instinct of one (cats using only loose sand for a toilet) with the problem-solving ability of the other (search and rescue, herding sheep) is silly.

      I do not think there are any studies demonstrating cats solving a problem that dogs cannot, while there are hundreds demonstrating dogs solving problems that cats are unable to solve.

    • My corgi will can actually pass the 'marshmallow test'. When I am in the kitchen preparing food she is begging for scraps... and when I put some in her dish she will pretend she doesn't see them and continue begging for more! There are plenty of humans that can't manage this :)
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      ...but cannot do their business on their own in a designated spot

      Dogs can and do do that as well, the problem is it's a spot they designate, not you. My dog always pees right outside the door that leads to the kitchen and it has eaten away the wood of the deck at that spot.

    • by judoguy ( 534886 )
      Had to post it: Dogs vs cats [9gag.com]
    • I have had three dogs that have all been very careful where they did their business. Two would back up to a bush and drop their load under the bush where no one would see it or walk in it. The third is so small he just walks under the bushes. One dog would get extremely embarrassed if I asked him what he was doing when he was taking his dump. He would turn away from me and hang his head, and then slink off afterwards. The only way to get back in his good graces was to tell him it was OK and that he was

  • We are only 30 times smarter than dogs!

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      Brainier.

    • There's a species of dolphin that has 37 billion, so we're only half as smart as a dolphin!

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
        Uh-oh! [nih.gov]

        Estimates of neuronal numbers -- the product of neuronal thickness times density -- were 13% higher in males than in females, with mean male-to-female ratios of 1.13 in both hemispheres. The data provide morphologic evidence of considerable cerebral cortical dimorphism with the demonstration of significantly higher neuronal densities and neuronal number estimates in males, though with similar mean cortical thickness, implying a reciprocal increase in neuropil/neuronal processes in the female cortex.

        • by Megol ( 3135005 )

          So...?

          We are talking about brainiest (which for some reason isn't tagged as a misspelled word -> probably in use) which isn't the same as most intelligent.

          So men are statistically "brainier" than women. And? Dolphins, elephants and blue whales are much "brainier" than any human.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Keep reading...

          Yet the cerebral cortex may be exempt from gender differences, as demonstrated by the fact that normal males and females perform comparably on intelligence tests.

          Oh!

          Currently the most popular theory is that males need larger brains because they have larger bodies and muscles, and thus need more neurons to control them.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Which of the following seems smarter to you:

      - Pack animals that sniff each other's butts

      - Slave race of willing servants to

      - Living god-emperors who occasionally allow the slaves to dote over them, between meals and naps

  • Border Collie (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MrKaos ( 858439 )

    My B.C was really smart. She was really easy to train and such a great friend, gentle with kids, even when they weren't so gentle.

    The best thing about dogs is they teach you how to be a better person and live more in the moment just by throwing a ball. If your dog is too fat, you need to exercise.

  • Seriously? (Score:2, Troll)

    by shaitand ( 626655 )
    You are ignoring that cats have more brain cells relative to body weight and therefore are actually still more intelligent than dogs.
  • Pah! Add them together and they're still not a patch on pigs.

  • "The Human Advantage: How Our Brains Became Remarkable"
    (MIT Press) Paperback
    April 21, 2017
    by Suzana Herculano-Houzel

    https://www.amazon.com/Human-A... [amazon.com]

  • by Ayano ( 4882157 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @06:38AM (#55649333)
    For rescue, or military, or even bomb detection. They're a comfort pet. Outside of biological advantages of dogs for these tasks, cats are difficult to train in those tasks as they're solitary animals.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 )

      For rescue, or military, or even bomb detection. They're a comfort pet. Outside of biological advantages of dogs for these tasks, cats are difficult to train in those tasks as they're solitary animals.

      You can call them solitary. You can call them regal. You can call them comfort pets.

      I call it dumb, and now science tends to confirm it, so perhaps we can stop with the excuses now. They aren't "difficult" to train; they can't be trained because they're rather stupid. Plain and simple. Usually the only one getting schooled around a cat is the owner.

    • Some cats are solitairy, some arent.
      Lions, and against popular believe, house cats, aren't.

    • Comfort pets? Pff. Give me a break. Cats came to live with humans (1) because we don't compete for the same food, otherwise we would kill them as pests, and (2) cats' prey are our pests that eat our food. Thus we tolerate them living with us. For most of human history, cats weren't kept as "comfort pets" they were kept to keep the pest population from getting out of hand. The times we got rid of cats, we paid for it in disease and famine as pest populations exploded. The technical term is symbiosis, n
      • Cats came to live with humans? Pff. Give me a break. Cats discovered knuckle dragging humans and made humans their slaves. Humans now feed cats, open the door for them, rub them, open the door for them, and feed them to curry favor with the higher life forms known as cats.

        -Max the Cat

  • I doubt it (Score:5, Funny)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Thursday November 30, 2017 @07:11AM (#55649413)

    My dog runs 200 times to fetch a stick I throw, my cat gives me the 'fuck you' look the very first time and goes for a nap.

    • My dog runs 200 times to fetch a stick I throw, my cat gives me the 'fuck you' look the very first time and goes for a nap.

      Yeah? My cats will chase a laser pointer without even getting a "good boy" in return. At least the dog will chase the stick for a verbal reward. The cat will chase a laser pointer for *no* reward.

      There. See how stupid that argument is?

    • I can train a dog to fetch a stick. My mom's cat trains mom to fetch fish for her. Which one is smarter?

    • ...my cat gives me the 'fuck you' look the very first time and goes for a nap.

      I do the same thing when my boss asks me to do something.

  • In particular, because neuron-count is not that important. Mu guess would be that cats just did not care to please the experimenter(s) and they are now retaliating by calling cats stupid...

    • In particular, because neuron-count is not that important

      Our brains eat up 20% of the energy our body needs. If neuron count wasn't that important, we would have smaller brains, and increase our chance of survival by not having to find so much food.

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        No. Read up on evolution and evolutionary pressure. And remember that animals tend to have inactive tissue that are inherited from predecessors, think appendix*.

        (* though the appendix is nowadays considered more useful than in the past one can live without it with no obvious problems)

        • Read up on evolution and evolutionary pressure

          That's a uselessly vague argument. Which part in particular ?

          And remember that animals tend to have inactive tissue that are inherited from predecessors, think appendix*.

          Evolutionary pressure is for a large part driven by energy requirements. The brain is a huge energy drain, even when you're just sitting doing nothing. In comparison, the appendix takes hardly any energy at all. There would be very little pressure to get rid of the appendix (especially not since it appear to serve some purpose).

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        You vastly overestimate the quality level of evolutionary optimization.

        • 20% of the energy needs is not a subtle difference that requires a high level of optimization. Just cutting it down to 19% would make a huge difference in survival chances during a famine, which have been fairly common in our ancestor's history. In fact, during our ancestor's history, the brains went through a phase of rapid growth. The extra advantage of the bigger brain must have outweighed the extra energy consumption, since it would have been trivial to avoid going down that path.

  • It seems only humans lack the characteristics which minimize that problem.
  • by dhaen ( 892570 ) on Thursday November 30, 2017 @08:22AM (#55649665)
    Each specie has evolved to be as smart as it needs to be, any further would be a waste of resources. Both cats and dogs may have evolved a little faster since they hitched a ride on human civilisation.
  • I find it odd that theyâ(TM)re comparing domestic pets to wild relatives. The truly dumb domestic animals are livestock and horses. That their wild relatives are equally dumb is what made them so easy to domesticate in the first place.

    When comparing the domestic vs. the wild, intelligence is the wrong comparison. Social ability and paedomorphesis are where the true comparisons can be made.

  • I've seen her frighten herself by catching her foot on the boot tray in which her food bowl sits, scattering food everywhere and leaving her too disturbed to eat for an hour.

    She's incapable of learning to fetch, where anything that isn't actively moving isn't worth chasing, let alone retrieving.

    There are some dog IQ tests out there, and she failed every one: Example: Show the dog a treat, place the treat on the floor and cover with a plastic cup. She looked at it, sniffed all the way around, then looked up

  • I've never seen a cat leading a blind man or a Kitty Cop searching for drugs.

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