In this corner: The Dog. In the other corner: The Cat. So, who do you think will win the “Smartest Pet in the Room” award? Kate Douglas, a researcher for New Scientist magazine, confirms something that we all know – the world is divided into “dog people” and “cat people.” Each group swears that their species is smarter than the other. What does science have to say? Here’s what we know.
- BRAINS. At 64 grams, the dog’s brain is larger than a cat’s, which weighs 25-grams – but dogs are also bigger animals on average. So, if you measure brain mass as a percentage of body mass – cats win. Also, an important aspect of brainpower is the number of neurons in the cortex, and cats trounce dogs with 300 million neurons, compared to 160 million neurons in a canine’s brain. So, chock up a point for the cats!
- BONDING. Douglas says the bond between a dog and its owner is similar to the one between a parent and a child. A child is usually courageous and happy to explore while its mother is around, but becomes distressed when she leaves. Well, dogs respond in a similar way. Cats, on the other hand, are less attached to their owners. By nature, they’re loners, while dogs are descended from pack animals and have an instinct to assimilate. Since they’ve been domesticated for so long, their focus is humans. In fact, give a 4-month old puppy the choice, and he’ll choose a human companion over another dog. So, in terms of bonding – score one for the dogs!
- Now, what about their comprehension skills? Even dogs with limited understanding often respond to dozens of commands. Not just by words, but by gestures, too – like pointing to where a ball is. While scientists say that cats are on par with dogs intellectually – after all, they do have more brain neurons - cats simply aren’t motivated to follow your instructions. They just don’t care. So, based on dogs’ eagerness to engage with their owners, they win this one.
Here’s something cat-lovers can gloat about: In terms of popularity, there are roughly 204 million feline pets in the Top-10 cat owning countries, and only 173 million canines in the Top 10 dog-owning countries. So, the playing field seems to be pretty equal overall.