Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are cats smarter than dogs?

So dogs tend to get the bum wrap when it comes to intelligence. Though many dog owners come to appreciate how smart their pets can actually be (our pups know several of their toys by name, and can retrieve them if you ask), most people would probably pick cats as the smarter household pet because they excel at being aloof and even manipulative.  The truth is that there probably is no reliable way to determine which is smarter (especially since there are so many different breeds of dog and cat) and because both are smart in different ways, as they have evolved to be.  Despite the difficulty of the comparison, the New Scientist has an article out now where they have attempted to compare cats and dogs on several different criteria (including brain size, "understanding", "problem solving", and "supersenses").  I don't know how valid the final outcome is (dogs win 6 to 5), but the article is certainly interesting and filled with some good information (like dogs tend to have larger brains, but cats tend to have more cortical neurons, or cats may actually have a better sense of smell than dogs).  The fun facts aside, I have to disagree with some of the categories used (like popularity or eco-friendliness) if the question really is just one of intelligence (rather than the more general question of which one makes the better pet).  Also, I am disappointed to see birds have been excluded from the comparison: despite my dislike for having them as pets, they are certainly smart (like gray parrots for example).  Anyway, the rundown of winners for each category looks like this:
Brain: cats
Shared history with humans: dogs
Bonding: dogs
Popularity: cats
Understanding: dogs
Problem solving: dogs
Vocalization: cats
Tractability (or "trainability"): dogs
Supersenses: cats
Eco-friendliness: cats
Utility: dogs
Totals: DOGS 6, CATS 5

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