This is what they found when they looked at cats' and dogs' cerebral cortex, the information-processing part of the brain: A cat's cerebral cortex has 250 million neurons.
The paper, which will be published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy (and nearly certainly maligned on Reddit, the Internet's haven for cat lovers), notes that the physical size of the brain doesn't necessarily relate to overall intelligence.
The study was conducted by researchers from six universities in the US, Brazil, Denmark and South Africa.
They might chew your shoes, occasionally pee on the rug, or snarf down your entire dinner the minute you turn your head, but it turns out your family dog is measurably smarter than your cat. For example, the brain of a golden retriever has more neurons compared to the striped hyena, brown bear and African lion, even if the bear's cortex is three times bigger than the retriever's. Yes, there are recognizable patterns, but there are multiple ways that nature has found of putting brains together. These neurons are the brain cells associated with thinking, planning and complex behavior, which are all considered hallmarks of intelligence.
Of course, such an arbitrary measurement of the brain is not an objective metric of such a complex trait as intelligence.
Sarah Benson-Amram is a scientist at the University of Wyoming's Animal Behaviour and Cognition lab.
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"Raccoons are not your typical carnivoran", said Ms. Herculano-Houzel.
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, associate professor of psychology and biological sciences, developed the method of accurately measuring the number of neurons in the brains.
"It's not a larger body that explains the number of neurons you have", she said.
One of the key questions the study hoped to answer was whether carnivores have more brain neurons than the herbivorous species they prey upon, with the researchers hypothesising that they should because hunting is cognitively more demanding.
Lead Image: Brewster, the akita/pitbull mix, smiles for the camera.