Cats Are As Brainy As Bears But Fall Short of Dogs

It’s a bad news/good news situation for Fluffy: Cats don’t have as many neurons as dogs, suggesting they just aren’t as cognitively capable.
On the other hand, they’ve got as many neurons as brown bears.
Those are the results of a new study that counted neurons in the brains of eight animals in the order Carnivora, a diverse group of mammals whose members’ diets usually (though not always) include meat. Researchers thought they might find that hunting gives carnivorans a brain boost over herbivores. Instead, they discovered that the number of neurons in any given carnivoran’s brain has more to do with brain size — at least to a point. The biggest animals in this group, such as lions and bears, have a relatively piddling number of neurons.
In fact, the animal in the study that boasts the most neurons isn’t the wily hyena or the noble lion, but the domestic dog (specifically, the lovable golden retriever).

“It looks like there’s a trade-off,” said study leader Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University. “Once a carnivoran reaches a certain large body size, feeding that body starts to become so expensive that it comes at a cost of decreasing numbers of neurons in the cortex.”
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