How good are you at reading your cat's facial expressions?

Behavioural biologists at the University of Guelph recently published a paper that confirmed'cats are quite hard to read

Behavioural biologists at the University of Guelph recently published a paper that confirmed'cats are quite hard to read

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada chose to test how well people could determine cats' moods based on feline facial expressions. "Our finding that some people are outstanding at reading these subtle clues suggests it's a skill more people can be trained to do", said Prof.

New research from Canada's University of Guelph found that some people excel at deciphering the subtle differences in feline faces that reveal mood.

The videos showed cats experiencing positive or negative emotional states - judged by whether the animal sought out the behaviour, like with treats or petting - along with negative emotional states, like when experiencing health problems, or situations that made them flee.

Science is confirming what many pet owners already know - cats are hard to read. Don't fret. Most people aren't.

Before this study, which was published in the November 2019 issue of Animal Welfare, the only research on reading feline facial expressions focused on pain. The videos focused on the cat's face (eyes, muzzle, and mouth). The participants were asked to watch 20 short online videos of cats from a collection of 40 videos (most of them from YouTube) and then complete a series of online questionnaires.

Most participants found the test challenging.

Vitale, who said she takes facial expressions into account "all the time" when interacting with cats at her Oregon State University lab, got a flawless score on a shortened online version of the new study's survey. Their average score was 12 out of 20 - somewhat above chance.

But 13% of the participants performed very well, correctly scoring 15 or better - a group the researchers informally called 'the cat whisperers'. Younger adults also generally scored better than older adults. Women were more likely than men to be cat whisperers, as were veterinarians or vet technicians compared to other professions.

"The fact that women generally scored better than men is consistent with previous research that has shown that women appear to be better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion, both in humans and dogs", said Mason, who worked on the study along with post-doctoral researchers Jenna Cheal and Lauren Dawson.

But aside from the visage of Grumpy Cat - who may not have been grumpy at all - feline faces don't tell us much about how cats feel.

No, your cat can't read minds, and probably can't communicate telepathically.

"This is important to be able to do because it could help strengthen the bond between owners and cats, and so improve cat care and welfare", said Niel.

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