Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats?

Here is a good way to start an argument (not that we need any more reasons) — which is smarter, dogs or cats?

I don’t own any pets; I take responsibility to animals pretty seriously, so I don’t have any strong opinions.  But there is a new study claiming that dogs have the edge in brainpower.

Published in the December 12, 2017 issue of the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, the study counted the number of neurons or “little grey cells” in the cerebral cortexes of the brains of animal species, including cats and dogs.  Neurons are the cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior.  The study found  that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million.  (In case you’re wondering, we have 16 billion cortical neurons, even though our pets can sometimes outsmart us.)

The method for measuring the number of neurons in animals’ brains was developed by Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. She said in a statement:

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.

In this study, we were interested in comparing different species of carnivorans to see how the numbers of neurons in their brains relate to the size of their brains, including a few favorite species including cats and dogs, lions and brown bears.

(Carnivora is an order that consists of 280 species of mammals, all of which have teeth and claws that allow them to eat other animals.)

If you find this study discouraging, Herculano-Houzel describes herself as a dog person:

I’m 100 percent a dog person. But, with that disclaimer, our findings mean to me that dogs have the biological capability of doing much more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats can. At the least, we now have some biology that people can factor into their discussions about who’s smarter, cats or dogs.

To read the complete article, including facts about the other carnivoran species the study examined, go to






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