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01 December 2017, 05:39 | Todd Saunders
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It has to do with their brains, specifically the number of neurons in their cerebral cortex: the "little gray cells" associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior -all considered hallmarks of intelligence.
Cat and dog lovers can peacefully coexist while still believing their favorite animal is superior.
Researchers at Vanderbilt chose to put the age old debate to the test objectively, studying the number of cortical neurons in the brains of a number of animals.
They might chew your shoes, occasionally pee on the rug, or snarf down your entire dinner the minute you turn your head, but it turns out your family dog is measurably smarter than your cat. We also find that raccoons have dog-like numbers of neurons in their cat-sized brain, which makes them comparable to primates in neuronal density.
Celia Haddon, cat behaviourist and author of "100 Ways For A Cat To Train Its Human", said cats may have fewer neurons than dogs because they are not as social.
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Self-confessed dog lover Prof Suzana Herculano-Houzel, who led the study for Vanderbilt University in the United States, said the findings show canines have "the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives" than their feline foes. However, the researchers also discovered that brown bears had almost as many neurons as cats, despite being significantly bigger in size in comparison.
Just because an animal is bigger and has a bigger brain size, that doesn't mean it has more neurons. The research team not only counted the neurons of these animals but their brain size and body-to-brain size ratios.
Herculano-Houzel also studied the brains of a ferret, mongoose, raccoon, hyena, lion and brown bear. Its brain is 10 times larger than a cat's, but has about the same number of neurons. The group was chosen because it has a large range of brain sizes, and includes both domesticated and wild species.
Study leader Professor Suzana Herculano-Houzel admitted she was a "dog person" but insisted that didn't impact her findings.
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