Dogs are smarter than cats, new study finds

Dogs are smarter than cats, new study finds

This is the grey matter associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviour - all considered hallmarks of intelligence.

Let the cat vs dog battle rage on.

Researchers found that raccoons were an outlier - they have the brain size of a cat, but packs the same number of neurons as a dog.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested that dogs hold an edge over felines when it comes to smarts, what with their record of service in military and police units and their history of assisting people with disabilities.

"We did not study their behavior, so we can not (and do not) make any claims about how intelligent they are", researcher Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University, told HuffPost in an email. The study found raccoons, which have brains about the size of cats, have as many neurons as some primates.

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Herculano-Houzel said she believes the number of neurons an animal has 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.

The study, first of its kind, according to the university, centered around counting the number of cortical neurons in the brains of several carnivores from ferrets and raccoons to cats, dogs, lions and brown bears. It's probably the number of neurons that are residing in the brain. Remarkably, the brown bear cerebral cortex, the largest examined, only has as many neurons as the ten times smaller cat cerebral cortex, although it does have the expected ten times as many non-neuronal cells in the cerebral cortex compared to the cat.

The team were working on the theory that domesticated animals have smaller brains than their wild cousins, and that carnivores have bigger brains than herbivores.

"We do know that there is variation across individuals, but that's really not an issue when we're comparing species that vary so markedly in brain size or numbers of neurons", she said.

Herculano-Houzel said that studying the brains of different species is important.