There has long been debate between dog and cat owners: so who are the “smart” ones?
According to recent research at Vanderbilt University, there is some biological evidence to suggest that canines can and do have more brain neurons in their cerebral cortex, in fact twice the number of an average feline. This could explain why we presently have no “service cats” on a leash and you probably won’t find any drug sniffing felines in your local police patrol. Since neurons are the cells related to thinking, planning and complex behaviors – there is an intelligence issue in question.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In fact, cats are known to possess a curious degree of “observational awareness” and a trait that may far outweigh a neuron difference: 500 million cortical neurons for canines versus 250 for felines. In humans, that neuron total jumps to about 16 billion, so we can still consider ourselves well…more intelligent?
But how do you put a value on observational awareness?
I have a cat that chases a little toy ball, retrieves it in her mouth and returns it gently to my lap for another go. Meanwhile, my dog may disregard any invitation to play at all and if he does chase one, usually holds it to himself for some private chew time without ever returning it to my lap.
I have a cat that likes to follow me when I take a walk into the yard and watches my every step, and a dog that plunges into the bushes, and wanders off if I don’t threaten him in harsh terms to get back in the house. My cat observes the slightest movement made by my feet under the blanket and pounces till I remove her from the bedroom. My dog naps and doesn’t pay much attention to any human need to stretch out our legs on the bed.
My cat visits my office regularly, nestles among my papers, and lounges on the chair back while she observes every hint of keyboard movement – my dog settles onto a nearby rug and ignores the entire morning until I offer him a dog treat.
In short, I have to question researches with the Vanderbilt University study. They don’t know who they’re dealing with and those neurons numbers they’re counting may be nothing but dormant depending upon the species, and the particular animal.
The kitty I have communicates with me – ever so sweetly when she wants to eat, and sometimes when she’s inquiring about something she would like to do: pulling down the toilet paper, re-arranging the rug or helping me put away groceries. My dog barks, but does not purr in my ear.
It’s true that we don’t have cats involved in police work, home security, or as guide felines, but we should not underestimate their charm or their saavy. Like the 16 or so billion brain neurons that most humans supposedly possess, we all know people who don’t use them fully, or those that seem to lay dormant.
Like humans, it isn’t the number of neurons that count, but maybe the neurons that we actually use. They say men think “linear” and women, well, need I say more?
For now at my house: cats rule, dogs drool.
In support of your local animal shelter – if you can offer a caring home to a homeless dog or cat, contact the Enoch Animal Shelter, the Cedar City Shelter or Iron County at 435-586-8791 or 435-586-2960. Be The One Who Saves One!