Is autonomy a sign of intelligence? It doesn’t look like it.
Cats may seem more intelligent than dogs because they behave quite autonomous compared to dogs that are always waiting for commands. But the opposite might actually be true: social behavior seems to require bigger brains.
It’s always hard to compare the intelligence of cats and dogs. Some studies point out that dogs can learn hundreds of words, other than cats. And they understand human gestures, like pointing, which even chimpanzees don’t seem to comprehend.
But the cat lovers always have the same comeback: cats just don’t care. They don’t want to please humans as badly as dogs do, so they don’t even try to interpret their language and gestures.
But researchers of the University of Oxford studied the intelligence of cats and dogs in another way. They looked at the growth of brains of various mammals over 60 million years and found that groups of mammals with relatively bigger brains tend to live in stable social groups.
The brains of monkeys, for example, grew the most over time, followed by horses, dolphins, camels and dogs. The brains of more solitary mammals, such as cats, deer and rhino, grew much more slowly.
The researchers explain their findings by suggesting that ‘the cooperation and coordination needed for group living can be so challenging that some mammals have evolved larger brains to be able to cope with the demands of socialising.’
Co-author Robin Dunbar: “It is interesting to see that even animals that have contact with humans, like cats, have much smaller brains than dogs and horses because of their lack of sociality.”
Still, catlovers have an answer, like Telegraph author Pete Wedderburn. Brain size isn’t everything, he says. “The brains of dogs make up a smaller percentage of body mass than the brains of cats. And if we look at the numbers of neurons(the thinking part of the brain), humans have ten billion, cats have 300 million and dogs only have 160 million.
Source: University of Oxford, Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, The Times of India
Shultz S, Dunbar R (2010). Encephalisation is not a universal macroevolutionary phenomenon in mammals but is associated with sociality Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : PMID: 21098277
Kirchhofer, K., Zimmermann, F., Kaminski, J., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Dogs (Canis familiaris), but Not Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), Understand Imperative Pointing PLoS ONE, 7 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030913