The world separates into two parties – cat lovers and dog lovers. This means that arguments are consecutive to appear around owners. And one of the most prevalent problems is the question, “are cats smarter than dogs?”, or “are dogs smarter than cats?”.

We can hardly compare the intelligence between two individuals because each person has their strengths. So, wisdom is quite a vague category. This is similar to animals. Therefore, science chose the way of measurement by the number of neurons in brains. This means that the smarter animal is the one having more neurons.  

Are cats or dogs smarter?
Are cats or dogs smarter?

Why should we compare the number of neurons? 

It is tough to assess these two animals’ intelligence if we only consider their brains’ structures. When we want to compare the brains of two animals, we need not only measure the mass of gray matter in their minds but also measure the ratio of their brain sizes to their bodies. It may be not sure even when we propose those elements, as each animal’s brain anatomy is different. So, scientists still have not given a reasonable answer about the correlation between wisdom and brain anatomy.  

On the other hand, several scientists believe that the cell quantity can provide information about the amount of relatively to the processing power of brains. Meanwhile, experts believe that we will have more appropriate indicators to assess the motor ability in the mind of each animal if we only count the number of cortical neurons. 

The war between the two parties has been happening to discover which beloved companions of us is the smarter animal. Scientists are still searching for the answer.

Which animal is smarter? The answer is quite surprising!

Dogs’ brains account for 1.2% of their body weights. Meanwhile, cats’ brains account for 0.9% of their body weights. However, some scientists think that brain size is not the key to intelligence. The amount of neurons of these two animals is a different aspect. 

In previous researches about the comparison “neuron density” in brains of some animals, dogs only have 160 million neurons, while cats have about 300 million neurons. The difference is nearly two times. So, people always default that cats are smarter than dogs.

Predators require many neural activities and thoughts. Meanwhile, cats are instinctive predators. As a result, most people believe that cats are more intelligent. However, is it really true? A researching team tried to analyze the brain of many predators, including both cats and dogs, to test and determine which kind of animals have more cortical neurons. 

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist from Vanderbilt University (USA), said: “I believe that the number of neurons of an animal, especially at cortical, can determine the diversity of neurological status, as well as enable the better ability to guess circumstances based on experiences in the past.”

Nevertheless, we seemed to be too hurried. In the research recently, experts analyzed the brains of some predators: Cat, dog, weasel, hyena, brown bear, lion, etc. Each animal has one or two specimens. The purpose of this analysis is to determine whether hunting demand affects the number of cortical neurons or not. 

On the one hand, and this seems to be self-evident, hunting will require a more exceptional nerve ability and unique behaviors. However, if humans just measure animals’ gray matter when comparing their brains, it seems to be not enough. The reason, as mentioned above, we need to consider the ratio of the bodies to the brains of these types of animals. 

The reason why the researching team chose predators is that these predators include domesticated and wild animals. They have big brains’ sizes, too. 

The result

Cats only have 250 million neurons; meanwhile, dogs have up to nearly 530 million neurons. This shows that the average number of neurons in dogs is twice as high as the average number of neurons in cortical at cats. This means that dogs are much smarter than cats if we consider the number of cortical neurons as intellect. Meanwhile, cortical at humans has about 16 billion neurons.

Moreover, even though dogs do not have the biggest brains, they have the most neurons among predators. Researchers gave a hypothesis that predators’ brains have more neurons in cortical than their preys do. Nevertheless, there are not any significant differences. Predators must be smart enough to hunt; similarly, prey must be intelligent enough to hide. The reason is that the ratio of neurons and brain sizes of herbivores is nearly homologous to predators.


This model is even contradictory to bigger predators. The bigger the animals are, the more advantages of hunting they have. Yet, this does not mean that they are smarter. Also, the number of neurons of predators is not different because of their sizes, as we imagine. For instance, the number of neurons of cats, lions, and brown bears is the same, although the brain volumes of lions and brown bears are ten times as big as cats. This shows that cats are not as wise as dogs; however, they are smarter than bears. Or brown bears have pretty big sizes, but their neurons are pretty few. Or the brain volume of the type of dog- Golden retriever is three times as small as the lion, hyena, and brown bear, but its brain has more neurons. 

Even more surprisingly, though dogs’ brains are not the biggest, the quantity of neurons in their minds is the greatest among animals participating in the experiment. 

Are dogs the winner? 

This is true if we only recognize this study – dogs are outstanding about intellect. In other words, at least to individuals who think that the more intelligent animal is the one having more neurons, the dog seems to have more advantages because of special cortical. However, researchers have not given the final answer to the question.

Yet, according to Herculano-Houzel, his study can prove that biologically, dogs have more capability for flexible handling than cats. And this does not mean that dogs are smarter than cats. It is not that dogs are “especially intelligent” when comparing with other animals, too. Finally, we have had biological evidence to end the argument about which animal is more intelligent: Cats or dogs? 

The wisdom comparison is challenging, especially to cats. They are famous for being difficult for humans to research. This is not because they are more stupid. They are too arrogant and don’t care about our “science” and what scientists do even though they may be very intelligent. 

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The wisdom comparison between cats and dogs is challenging

More studies to take preference

Many researches are showing how smart dogs are. For instance, they can guess what humans are thinking, divide items into categories (evidence of abstract thinking), to some extent, an ability called mind theory. 

Nevertheless, the shortage of researches on how cats are aware is significant. This can be related to the difficulty when people work with cats. In 2009, researchers looked for the answer to the question, “do cats have the ability to distinguish quantities of items?”. This is a capability they had observed at fish. The psychologist Christian Agrillo said: “I can assure you that working with cats is much easier than working with cats.” 


Finally, researchers indicated that humans can train cats to distinguish quantities, but they don’t do as well as other animals. Another study found (after many difficulties) that cats can follow humans’ gestures like dogs. As a result, they also have mind theory, although this theory at cats is quite much more straightforward than at dogs.  

The study showed that dogs and cats can solve simple puzzles to get food, too. However, when problems are too difficult to resolve, cats will continue to solve them by themselves; while, dogs will seek humans’human help.

This does not prove that dogs are more intelligent. They only have better social communication skills to humans since they have more interactions with humans (humans domesticated them at least 20,000 years before domesticating cats). Dogs’ ancestors are wolves – the kind of animals needing to develop more complicated behaviors to cooperate because they tend to hunt in herds. This is also a profound reason why dogs can be easy to collaborate and very friendly with humans. 

Celia Haddon – a behaviorist, specialized in cats, said: “Cats do not have behaviors like that as they only hunt alone and often live alone, too.” He indicated that cats often have less social interaction than dogs. This can explain the reason why cats have fewer neurons than dogs.

This detection has partly explained the well-recognized advantages of dogs: From accompanying scientists and rescuers to helping polices.  


Cats and dogs are the most familiar kinds of animals to humans. Therefore, the problem “which one is smarter?” is a much controversial question. Through this article, I believe that you found a lot of interesting facts in the process of seeking the answer. Thanks for reading!


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