A new study has put an end to the long debate over dogs and cats, by claiming that dogs are better than cats.
And thus, while attempting to quantify the characteristics of both cats and dogs, researchers have pitted cats against dogs in 11 categories to find who really is superior amongst the two.
At 64 grams, the average dog brain is far bigger than its feline equivalent, which weighs in at a mere 25 grams. But then the average dog is much heavier than the average cat. If instead you measure brain mass as a percentage of body mass, cats win by a whisker.
However, in the number of neurons in the cortex, or executive brain, cats trounce dogs, with 300 million neurons compared with a piddling 160 million.
2. Shared History
Recent DNA studies suggest that domestication of dogs could be as recent as 16,000 years.
However, evidence from ancient Egyptian burials and hieroglyphs indicates that cats were popular in homes from about 3000 BC onwards, implying that cats might have wormed their way into our homes and hearts from an early stage, reports New Scientist.
Dogs put through the "strange situation" test respond to their owner like a child to the parent. But the experiment with cats did not reap the same results in cats as the lab setting was very upsetting and stressful for them, presumably because cats tend not to leave their territory.
But the researchers suspect that cats bond with their owners in much the same way that dogs do - if only they could be persuaded to take the test.
Although worldwide figures are hard to come by, recent studies show that in the top 10 cat-owning countries there are almost 204 million felines. Pet pooches in the top 10 dog-owning countries number fewer than 173 million.
Even dogs with more limited comprehension can often recognise and respond to dozens of commands and requests for objects.
Researchers said that cognitively speaking, cats are similar to dogs, so you would expect them to have similar patterns of behaviour and abilities. A big difference is that they are not compliant or motivated, making them devilishly hard to work with.
6. Problem Solving
If offered a choice between two pieces of string, one with a morsel of food at the end, neither cats nor dogs could pull on the string attached to the reward
The researchers conclude that dogs' collaborations with blind owners, they often take the usual canine role of junior partner, but when the need arises they step in to solve problems their human cannot master.
A study revealed the subtlety with which cats can use their crooning to ensnare us. By embedding an urgent high-frequency miaow into a blissed-out purr, they produce a sound that brings out our nurturing side.
Karen McComb from the University of Sussex in Falmer, UK, who analysed these "solicitation purrs", suggests they work on a subliminal level in much the same way as a baby"""s cry, which has a similar frequency range. And here, cats get the cream for their guile.
Dogs learn in the same way as human infants, and this process, called pedagogy, entails implicit teaching, with the dog attending to cues such as eye contact, gesture and vocalisation, and then directly imitating the actions of its master.
While people have not really tried training cats, not much is known of the full extent of their abilities. Researchers believe that "dogs really want to do it. They are more interested and take it more seriously."
While a dog"""s keen nose is legendary, cats are no mean sniffers either. In fact, because there is so much variability among breeds of dog, the average cat, with its 200 million smell receptors, actually has a more acute nose than the average dog.
A medium-size dog"""s ecological footprint - the area of land required to keep it fed - is 0.84 hectares annually. Meanwhile, an average cat"""s ecological pawprint, at just 0.15 hectares, looks positively virtuous.
Dogs can hunt, herd and guard. They can sniff out drugs and bombs and even whale faeces; they guide blind and deaf people, race for sport, pull sleds, find someone buried by an avalanche, help children learn and possibly even predict earthquakes. Cats are only good if you have an infestation of rodents.
And thus, with more points in their favour, dogs have emerged as a clear winner in the battle between the pets.