Are cats actually heartless freeloaders?

According to a recent study, cats appreciate humans much more than we think. Researchers have demonstrated that most cats prefer human contact to food. As a matter of fact, more than half of all cats who participated in this study preferred to interact with a person even though they had access to food, a game, or a smell. This contradicts those who say that cats are too ungrateful and solitary to be good companions! Indeed, I noticed that a number of people often associate cats’ independence with a lack of intelligence. They compare cats to dogs who perform much more complex tasks. Are cats actually inferior to dogs?

The age-old debate

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know that I’ve always liked pets and that I learned to appreciate dogs at their fair value thanks to the arrival of a Golden Retriever in my life. Even though it’s obvious that in general cats are not as sociable as my Roxy, they are nevertheless incredible companions! Like dogs, they understand our emotions and interact with us thanks to a very elaborate vocalization system. Consequently, I can’t tell which of the two animals is meant to be the smartest. Driven by curiosity, I decided to find out if science has found an answer to this question.

The scientific point of view

To begin answering this question, we must travel to the United States, more specifically to Tennessee, where a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University extracted the brain of eight different species of mammals. Their goal was to compare the mental capacities of each species by counting the number of neurons in their brains. Because according to modern science, it’s no longer the size of the brain that determines the degree of intelligence of a living being; it’s rather the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex. During their experiments, researchers therefore dissected the brain of each specimen. History doesn’t tell us which technique they used to do so and that’s just as well! In the event, they discovered that cats have around 250 million neurons, as many as grizzly bears, which have brains 10 times bigger. But dogs win the competition paws down with around 530 million neurons. However, for Suzana Herculano-Houzel, the lead neuroscientist for this study, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re smarter. It only means that they have the biological capacities to perform more complex tasks than cats. This isn’t a great discovery in itself, as I have never seen a police cat or guide cat for the blind. History enthusiasts may have read about Acoustic Kitty, the cat used by the CIA in the 1960s to spy on the Russian embassy in Washington. (The poor creature died before the end of its first mission.) But this is pretty much the only story of the kind that I can think of!

 An expert opinion

In my opinion, feline behaviourists provide the best answer to this question. They contend that the two species cannot be compared. Cats are solitary animals, reluctant to be led by a gang leader, while dogs are pack animals that obey commands first and foremost to please their master. In a nutshell, you can teach your cat to extend a paw, roll on the floor, or even open a door, but their motives are different from a canine’s.

In the end, we don’t yet have the tools that would enable us to accurately calculate the intelligence of the animals with which we mingle. But is knowing their IQ actually important? After all, what really matters are the emotional links that we develop with them, and on this subject, science hasn’t stopped tallying the benefits that pets bring us!

Would you care for a coffee?

Last but not least, my suggestion of the month is a cat cafe! What are cat cafes you ask? They’re usually nice little restaurants where you can eat while enjoying the company of a number of cats. Some of then even let you adopt one of the little boarders! For a list of cat cafes, go to https://www.meowaround.com/countries/canada.

5 Juin 2019

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