Tyrades! Fighting like cat lovers and dog lovers

Friday, December 3, 2010

According to the London Daily Telegraph, your favorite aloof feline really should hire a social secretary.

Researchers at Oxford University have determined that canines are smarter than felines, because dogs are more social animals and have bigger brains than the more solitary-inclined cats. The university study charted the evolutionary history of 500 different mammal species over 60 million years and found a link between the size of an animal's brain in relation to its body and how socially active it was, as well as a link between publicizing this study and getting funding for their next "who gives a rip?" project.

(Of course if you don't believe in evolution, the research is rather meaningless. For those who do follow the Darwinian mindset, however, it holds out hope for mankind. If dogs can learn to drink from the toilet in only 60 million years, surely over the next 60 million years human males can evolve enough to LEARN TO LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT DOWN!)

"What are the practical applications of knowing the evolution of animal brains?" you might ask. Well, once we've determined the animal with the least brain growth, we can feel confident in approaching them with messages such as "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."

The researchers determined that the "complex social structure" and "complicated dog-to-dog interactions" of living in a group contributed to the growth of canine gray matter. Obviously. Life is so stressful that dogs must often write notes on their paws. ("Cower before the alpha dog. Sniff butts. Chase cars. Pick up your Nobel Prize.")

Dr. Susanne Shultz, totally unbiased leader of the Oxford research team, gushed that, "All dogs are quite good at solving problems." That's right; it's always good to have man's best friend around in time of crisis. Problem: the neighbors never come over to visit. Solution: dig under the fence and get their purebred female pregnant. ("Mission accomplished. Now, you were saying that you have too many pairs of slippers...?").

After years of ingesting homework, dogs have a certain amount of book learning; but street smarts can be lacking. ("I'll employ Euclidean geometry to calculate the exact trajectory of the stick and know exactly where it'll land and - What? Still in his hand? He faked me out again! Well, the fourth time is the charm...")

Dog owners should not get too uppity. The study shows that dog brains didn't grow as much as those of monkeys, horses, dolphins and camels. Dogs get all the glory because they bring less baggage to their assignments. ("No, Clyde! You're supposed to rescue Timmie from the well! Don't stop to fill both your humps with water! Clyde!")

I fear this study will be needlessly divisive. Brain size is not necessarily indicative of intelligence. (Cats actually have nearly twice as many neurons in their brain cortex as dogs do.) Individual animals are different. What exactly is "intelligence"? Comparing dogs and cats is like comparing apples to oranges, assuming that apples lick their private parts and oranges cough up hairballs.

In the final analysis, we all harbor anecdotes that supposedly illustrate the abilities of our four-legged Einsteins; but we do not keep our pets for their Mensa eligibility. We keep them for the unconditional love/tolerance and companionship they provide. Be happy with that, and you'll demonstrate superior intelligence.

Note: Danny Tyree welcomes e-mail at tyreetyrades@aol.com.