Do dogs have bigger brains than cats?

Yes, dogs have bigger brains than cats. The average dog brain is about the size of a tangerine or at best a lemon. The average cat brain is about the size of a large English walnut. It’s about 5 cm long and weighs 25-30 g. It is about 0.91% of total body mass. The human brain is 2.33% of total body mass for the average human. The brain of a beagle dog weighs about 72 g which is 0.5% of overall body mass. Surely one factor why dogs have bigger brains is because they are normally bigger animals. As I understand it, larger brain size equates to better intelligence. Logically it does point to that outcome.

Dog and cat brain size compared
Dog and cat brain size compared. Montage: MikeB.
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A study was conducted by neurologist Suzana Herculano-Houzel on the cognitive functions in humans and animals. She counted the neurons in the brains of a cat and a dog (golden retriever). She estimated that a dog’s brain has 500 million neurons while a cat’s brain has 250 million neurons. She said: “Neurons are the basic information processing units. The more units you find in the brain, the more cognitively capable the animal is. We definitely need more research on this topic before we can definitely state how meaningful brain sizes as a measure of intelligence across different animal groups.”

I think her study is quite old and things have moved on somewhat. She suggests that dogs are probably more cognitively capable than cats. I take this to mean that they are more able to make logical and rational decisions than cats.

Cats versus dogs
Cats versus dogs. Photo: Rex.

Are dogs smarter than cats or vice versa? The general feeling is that dogs are smarter than cats because they have been domesticated for much longer than cats (20,000+ years versus 10,000 years). Therefore, they are better tuned into the human way of life and perhaps the intelligence of humans has rubbed off on them? But I think this is work in progress because it depends upon the cat, surely? Are the wild cat species smarter than domestic cats? I think they are because they are constantly challenged. The wild cat hybrids are considered to be smarter than the standard domestic cats for this reason.

Cat people versus dog people
Cats and dogs in harmony

Scientific American states that in healthy humans, “total brain volume weekly correlates with intelligence, with a correlation value between 0.3 and 0.4 out of a possible 1.0. Thus, on average, a bigger brain is associated with somewhat higher intelligence.”

Science Daily confirms this by saying that people with larger brains rated higher on measures of intelligence and educational attainment after controlling for a variety of factors.

On that basis it seems that dogs are more intelligent than cats because they have bigger brains. If you’re a cat lover please don’t be upset by this article. I’m just trying to present the facts as they arise in my research. We love our cats just the same. They are certainly smart enough for me and they are certainly smart enough to be great companions.


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