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Is it reigning cats or dogs?

THE claws are out after an international study comparing dogs and cats confirmed that the former has earned the moniker of man’s best friend. Canines and felines were put to the test in 11 categories (and dogeries!), with dogs winning “by a whisker”.The pet showdown, which New Scientist magazine compiled from scientific journals, declared tractability (or manageability), bonding and understanding gave dogs their “superior vocabulary and eagerness to engage”.Pooches collected bonus points for being an older species â?? historically speaking â?? and for problem solving and being all-rounders.Cats scored highly for having almost twice as many brain cells and a greater population.They also won in vocalisation and for having better senses: a more acute nose, superior night vision and a higher auditory range than the average dog.The study also found cat food had a smaller ecological pawprint.But Associate Professor Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney’s faculty of veterinary science said the calculations were questionable. The “best in show” title was best left up to the individual.”It depends on what sort of an interaction you are looking for,” said Dr McGreevy, author of A Modern Dog’s Life. Humans and dogs may have a more profound relationship because their interactions were not confined to the home. “Plenty of people travel with dogs, go to work with dogs, and exercise with dogs,” he said.Bradley Trevor Greive, author of Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats, said it was like comparing a polar bear with a flamingo: “People think cats are a low-cost, low-effort equivalent of a dog but they’re entirely different and because of that we have these huge problems with so many dumped pets.”Bambi Edwards, who has been breeding cats at Cronulla for 30 years, said cats were perfect for the elderly: “The more time you give a cat the more you get out. Cats are very intelligent . . . they respond to their owner’s voice and footsteps.”Margaret and Rob Walden, from Sydney’s northern beaches, who have three Rhodesian ridgebacks, said a home without dogs lacked life. â??I show them, take them on holidays, walk them and they’re happy when you come home,” Mrs Walden said.The pet subjectsSMARTSWinner: Cats. A cat’s brain mass compared with its body mass is much bigger than that of the average dog, according to New Scientist. Cats have 300 million neuron cells in the brain, compared with a dog’s 160 million.HISTORYWinner:Dogs. Evidence suggests cats have been around for 9500 years, whiledogs have been traced back to between 16,000 and 135,000 years ago.FELLOWSHIPWinner:Dogs. “By nature, cats are loners,” the study said. Yet dogs havedescended from pack animals. “Give a four-month-old puppy the choiceand it will choose a human companion over a dog.”MASS APPEALWinner:Cats. In the top 10 cat-owning countries there are almost 204 millioncats, while in the top 10 dog-owning countries there are fewer than 173million pooches.UNDERSTANDINGWinner: Dogs.”Dogs can follow human pointing gestures such as an outstretched fingeror nod of the head to find food,” the study said. The “superiorvocabulary” of a dog and “eagerness to engage with its owner” also madethem winners.PROBLEM SOLVINGWinner: Dogs.They favour a collaborative approach. Being guide dogs for the blindand their ability to step in and solve problems for their masters arelisted as positives.VOCALISATIONWinner:Cats. This is supported by a study this year which reveals that catscan use their “crooning to ensnare us . . . they produce a sound thatbrings out our nurturing side”.TRACTABILITYWinner: Dogs.Findingit easy to learn and obey rules makes dogs the winners here. They”learn the same way as human infants . . . with the dog attending tocues such as eye contact, gesture and vocalisation”, the study said.SUPER SENSESWinner:Cats. The average cat with its 200 million smell receptors has a moreacute nose than a dog. Cats can also see in light levels six timeslower than we can, while dogs can only see five. A cat’s auditory rangeof 45 to 64,000 hertz is also greater than a dog’s 67 to 45,000 hertz.ECO-FRIENDLINESSWinner: Cats. The average cat requires 0.15 hectares of land a year to keep it fed, while a medium-sized dog needs 0.84 hectares.UTILITYWinner:Dogs. They are the clear winner here, owing to their ability to hunt,herd and guard. They are used to detect drugs and bombs with theirnoses, race for sport and pull sleds. They also have health and socialbenefits for owners by needing to be walked.
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