Your canine friend may be more smarter than felines as their brain possesses significantly more number of neurons linked to thinking, planning and complex behaviour, a study has found.
The findings showed that while dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons, cats have 250 million. The human brain possesses 16 billion neurons.
These cortical neurons in their cerebral cortex are also called as the “little gray cells” associated with thinking, planning and complex behaviour — all considered hallmarks of intelligence.
“I believe the absolute number of neurons an animal has, especially 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,” said Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Associate Professor at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
For the study, described in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, the team analysed the brains of one or two specimens from each of eight carnivoran species: ferret, mongoose, raccoon, cat, dog, hyena, lion and brown bear to see how the numbers of neurons in their brains relate to the size of their brains.
“Our findings showed that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can,” Herculano-Houzel added.
In addition, the researchers determined that the ratio of neurons to brain size in small-and medium-sized carnivores was about the same as that of herbivores, suggesting that there is just as much evolutionary pressure on the herbivores to develop the brain power to escape from predators as there is on carnivores to catch them.