Like a cat and a dog: who in the world is smarter, prettier and sweeter than everyone else?
Do you and I think about how and why our most beloved “family members” – dogs and cats, we really adore, appeared next to a person?
Why do cats and dogs not get along with each other, and sometimes their owners follow them? Our almanac tried to understand these difficult questions.
Two types of animals – two types of people
Poet Anna Akhmatova (recall that she preferred to call herself a “poet” rather than a “poetess”) came up with a psychological test that is well known to a lot of people. She asked her friends three questions: Tea or coffee? Cat or dog? Pasternak or Mandelstam? With the help of these three dichotomies, the two poles of human nature were determined.
Those who chose “tea, dog, Pasternak” are simple-minded, calm, reliable, think sensibly and optimistically. The type of mentality is “Muscovite”. “Coffee, a cat and Mandelstam” – these people Akhmatova attributed to “Petersburgers”, people with a fine mental organization, inclined to dramatize events and worry about trifles.
I must say that intuition really did not disappoint the great poet. Cat lovers and dog lovers historically belong to different economic and cultural types, which probably influenced not only psychology, but also the physiology of people.
For example, the division by blood groups in modern mankind corresponds to the diet characteristic of certain economic and cultural types: hunters and gatherers, farmers, nomadic herders.
An analogue of the expression “like a cat and a dog” may well be something else – “like Cain with Abel”. Cain, as you know, was a farmer, and Abel raised cattle. Sedentary farmers and nomadic herders have historically had a rocky cat-dog relationship. However, the domestication of these animals also drew a certain cultural and civilizational border between people.
Cats domesticated themselves
They did this much later than the dogs and not at all in Egypt, as was commonly believed until recently. The common ancestor of all felines lived about 35 million years ago. Lizangs were cute, predatory animals that lived in the trees. From them, one after another, phylogenetic branches were separated, eventually forming the genus Felis.
The oldest joint burial of a human and a cat, that was 9500 years old BC, was found in 2004 in Cyprus. After that, scientists from a dozen other countries joined the genetic studies of the French Eva-Marie Geigl and Thierry Granger from the Jacob Monod Institute. In 2007, they finally found out that the unambiguous ancestor of our domestic cat was the steppe cat Felis silvestris lybica – it still lives in the desert regions of Africa, Central Asia, North India and the Caucasus.
The Neolithic Revolution, the epicenter of which was located in the region of the Middle East “fertile crescent”, led to the emergence of granaries. Naturally, hordes of rodents rushed there, followed by hordes of Felis silvestris lybica – such fat mice and rats were definitely not found in natural conditions for cats.
The most ancient Neolithic proto-cities and sanctuaries of 10-12 thousand years BC, such as Gebekli Tepe and Chatal Huyuk, were located in the territory of modern Turkey. The remains of a domesticated cat are also found there most of all. In Egypt, the cat became domestic much later – 5-7 thousand years ago. But, probably, the Egyptians were the first to see in a cat not an applied, but an aesthetic meaning. Cats began to be taken care of as pets.
Something similar happened in parallel in China. True, only from the XIV century A.D. domestic cats begin to look different from their wild relatives – the striped color begins to gradually blur. Until that time, the appearance of pets of people for some reason did not really care. They were primarily interested in the behavior of cats – preference was given to the most friendly and affectionate.
Purposeful work on breeding cat breeds began only 200 years ago. Until the X century, Kievan Rus practically did not know domestic cats. This animal came to us thanks to the sea trade, it was considered a real luxury item. Not everyone could afford an expensive overseas miracle. The fine for stealing a cat was equivalent to a fine for stealing a cow. The killer of someone else’s cat, accidental or malicious, had to not only pay this fine, but also buy another cat for the owner in return.
The Catholic Church considered cats to be hellish creatures and often burned them at bonfires along with witches. On the Orthodox soil, seals, on the contrary, took root in monasteries and, unlike “unclean” dogs, could freely enter the church. The temples even had small holes designed specifically for cats.
Such love for cats can be explained by the fact that even before the adoption of Christianity, the cat was revered by our ancestors as a sacred animal “cattle god” of Veles. The cat was the keeper of the hearth and the guide to the other world. Then Veles, in consonance with him, was ousted by another patron of cattle – the Christian Saint Blasius. This is where the famous and popularly beloved “cat Vaska” – the most common cat’s nickname in our country – went from there.
A dog is a wolf, but not that one!
In contrast to the cat, which “came to the person by itself”, the dog, apparently, was specially invited. And she underwent selection much longer. The oldest domesticated wolf, which can be considered a full-fledged dog, lived in the territory of modern Belgium 31,700 years ago. Cats did not have any responsibilities other than catching mice, and dogs were initially guided to perform practical tasks related to hunting, guarding and grazing livestock.
Once domesticated, cats continued to do the same as in the wild, dogs, on the contrary, began to lead a different way of life than before domestication. A cat is a cat even in Africa. But the modern dog is no longer a wolf. Unfortunately, its direct ancestor has not lived in nature for a long time.
The wolf population that gave rise to dogs became extinct immediately after the Ice Age, in parallel with the Neanderthals. Probably, these wolves could become the first civilizational weapon of the Cro-Magnons and one of the reasons for their dominance. The preglacial wolves, which our ancestors paid attention to, most likely differed from modern ones in their “psychology”, so it was easier to tame and domesticate them.
This is not at all surprising if you remember that a wild African elephant, as opposed to an Indian one, is unrealistic to tame! Unlike its preglacial counterpart, the modern wolf, even when tamed, still remains a wild beast that constantly “looks into the forest” – this feature is well known to dog handlers.
It is also known to geneticists, who seem to have established that the wolf is a canine ancestor, and nevertheless fix various genetic “inconsistencies”. The ancestor of modern dogs was the so-called Megafaunal wolf. Just like primitive man, he hunted large animals – bison, musk ox, mammoth. Its size, neck muscles and jaws were larger than that of a modern wolf.
When the glacier retreated, the megafauna disappeared, to the extermination of which for the sake of skins, decorations and materials for dwellings on an industrial scale, man also had a hand. The megafaunal wolf disappeared along with the megafauna. Only those individuals survived that made a symbiosis with a person, becoming with him to hunt and protect herds of domesticated sheep and goats.
In addition, over time, dogs developed a new gene that wolves did not have – AMY2B, MGAMand SGLT1. It allows you to digest starch and glycogen, that is, to eat not only raw meat, but also completely “humanized” food, typical for the countries of the Fertile Crescent. Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact place of domestication of a dog, unlike a cat – somewhere in Eurasia … However, huskies and malamutes are considered the closest to the original version of the domesticated wolf.
So which one is smarter?
The ministers of science do not remain aloof from the eternal dispute between cat and dog lovers – after all, Akhmat’s personality types, no doubt, concern them too. Recent tests by the German Institute for Brain Research confirm that cats are smarter than dogs. Yes, earlier experiments found that in the cerebral cortex of dogs there are 530 million neurons, and in cats – only 250. That is, the encephalization index EQ, which fixes the ratio of brain size and body weight of a mammal, put dogs in the lead.
By the way, according to this indicator, the raccoon dog, she is just a raccoon, unexpectedly turned out to be the smartest in the canine family – the most neurons were found in its cerebral cortex. The cat, on the index of encephalization, loses to very many animals. And thus, it turns out to be dumber even than a camel, not to mention a raccoon.
If we evaluate the susceptibility to training and obedience as a sign of high intelligence, then everything is not so simple here either. Many smart breeds of cats (Bengalis are considered the smartest) do not follow commands out of natural stubbornness. Although they understand their meaning better than some dogs.
Could scientists, who do not like cats in the soul, just tolerate the insult inflicted on cats? Of course not! “Neurons”, they said, “are not all. We need to look at the areas of the brain responsible for thinking. Whoever has the most neurons in this area is smarter”. German scientists came to an unambiguous conclusion – the density of neurons per square millimeter of the cerebral cortex in cats is higher not only than in dogs, but also than in most mammals.
And then it went and went: the Canadian Laval University found that short-term memory in cats is 3 times better than in dogs, they quickly remember sequences and analyze situations. The Swiss University of Lausanne found them to have better adaptability. In their opinion, having populated North America about 20 million years ago, cats became more skilled hunters than dogs, which led to the extinction of 40 species of the latter.
It turns out that dogs still have something not to love these cute and seemingly completely harmless animals. However, something tells us that the dispute of scientists as to which of their favorites is “cooler” is still far from final completion …
And the owners of dogs and cats are unlikely to ask scientists the question: “Do you really have nothing to do?”