Friendly dogs outsmart aloof cats, say scientists

Cat lovers throughout the world have long believed their feline friends are a far superior breed than dimwit dogs. But scientists claim the reverse is true and that Fido's got more up top than his aloof rival.

Beagle and kitten on a tree stump
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Researchers at Oxford University have been busily charting the evolution of mammal brains over the last 60 million years. And they now believe that there is a significant link between the relative size of an animal's brain and his sociable nature.

They found that mammals living in social groups, such as whales, dolphins, dogs and of course humans, have much larger brains (relative to their bodies) than solitary species such as tigers, cats and rhinos.

Professor Robin Dunbar, co-author of the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explained: "For the first time, it has been possible to provide a genuine evolutionary time depth to the study of brain evolution.

"It is interesting to see that even animals that have contact with humans, like cats, have much smaller brains than dogs and horses because of their lack of sociality."

The theory goes that living in a social group requires interaction, co-operation and co-ordination - and that, it seems, is good for the grey matter.

Researcher Dr Susanne Shultz added: "Dogs have always been regarded as the more social animals while cats like to get on with their own thing alone.

"But it appears that interaction is good for the brain and extends to other species, like ourselves. We are even more social than monkeys and apes and it is this ability to get on with each other that has helped us dominate the planet."

So while your pooch may appear to be a dimwit, there's probably more behind the waggy tail and big brown eyes than you think.

What do you think? Are dogs really more intelligent than cats? Leave your comments below...