Animal IQ

Dogs Are Officially Smarter Than Cats, According to a Study

We can finally settle one of history's pettiest debates. Don't shoot the messenger, but a 2017 study suggests that dogs are smarter than cats. Sorry, cat people, we're just doing our duty reporting on science.

Dogs Rule, Cats Drool

Before you cat lovers come for us in our sleep, know that there are plenty of kitty owners in the Curiosity office and we are an objective source of information. Now that that's out of the way, back to the science. A 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy notes that dogs have far more neurons than cats, suggesting they may be more cognitively capable than cats. The study was performed by a (dog-loving?) team of researchers from six different universities in the U.S., Brazil, Denmark, and South Africa.

Care For Some Brain Soup?

In the study, the brains of three animals were analyzed: one from a cat, one from a golden retriever, and one from a small mixed-breed dog. In the dog brains, despite the variation in size, there were about 500 million neurons, more than double the 250 million found in the cat's brain. This suggests that dogs may be twice as cognitively capable as cats. Also based on these numbers, the researchers figure that dogs have roughly the same intelligence as raccoons and lions. Domestic cats, on the other hand, have intelligence comparable to bears. Smart or not, that seems pretty badass.

Intelligence is pretty hard to quantify, but counting neurons is our best way to measure it. "Neurons are the basic information processing units," study author and neurologist Suzana Herculano-Houzel told National Geographic. "The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is." To measure neurons, Herculano-Houzel explains that "you take the brain and turn it into a soup" which gives you a number of suspended nuclei from neuron cells that allow researchers to estimate the number of neurons.

This study looked at neurons from the cerebral cortex because that's the part of the brain that drives decision-making and problem-solving, among other functions. For reference, we humans have the highest number of neurons in our cerebral cortex, at 16 billion. That's a figure that puts both cats and dogs to shame...but especially cats.

So there you have it. But don't feel blue, kitty peeps. We'll leave you with this ray of hope: The cats may be a little slower than pups, but cat people may be more intellectual than dog people.

Are Cat People Smarter Than Dog People?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. According to research, cat-lovers are more intelligent. 00:37

  2. Oxytocin is a hormone found in the brain that is released when humans come into contact with another living being. 02:02

  3. Cats view humans as equals, whereas dogs tend to change their behavior to be more submissive around people. 02:31

Written by Joanie Faletto December 1, 2017