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Response to Liberal_in_LA (Original post)

Fri Aug 14, 2015, 03:48 AM

18. Cats are mostly solitary creatures

Lions are about as social as they get. And the article makes clear that it is not merely "dogs" that have been driven to extinction in some places and times by cats, but ambush hunting dogs rather than runners. Pack hunters that rely on running and endurance generally need large herds of prey animals to sustain them. So one can imagine the fortunes of dog species waxing and waning depending on scarcity to a greater degree than cat species, but in their evolutionary niche where prey is plentiful, dogs carrying the day.

Another consideration is that anthropologists and evolutionary scientists consider it a bit of a mystery how we developed our huge forebrains, because initially the cost for that is high while one would expect it be slow to yield advantage. We do know that there is a pattern across the animal kingdom of brain mass in social animals developing more rapidly - including social herbivores. From crows to dolphins, all the smartest animals we know of in the animal kingdom have relatively large social groups (octopuses being a possible exception). When you're a social animal you have to think in more complex ways about your kin, not just your prey.

And there is no doubt that dogs are *smarter* than cats. They perform consistently higher than cats in multiple cognitive challenges. The unique combination of cognitive tools (like seemingly being able to maintain 3D mental maps of familiar spaces) and remarkable body design makes cats extraordinary hunters in a wide range of environments. So they may win the apex predator race in a majority of cases, but they're still dumber than dogs.

Interestingly domestic dogs have up to 25% less brain mass than wolves and it's thought that the cognitive requirements of hunting in packs may largely account for that. The social dynamics of domestic dogs are less sophisticated than their wolf cousins. And they still score better than cats in mental challenges.

Of course we've known this for a long time and didn't need science to confirm it. That's why we don't have guide cats, drug-sniffing cats, cancer-sniffing cats, rescue cats, guard-cats and so on.

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Liberal_in_LA Aug 2015 OP
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LineReply Cats are mostly solitary creatures
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