Friendly Felines

Two cats, one with blue eyes and other with green eyes, looking at the camera

If you love cats, blink once!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Unless your kitty is Garfield, you don’t really know what it’s thinking. Cats can’t speak! So, how CAN we communicate with our feline friends?

Tasmin Humphrey at the University of Sussex says: it’s all in the EYES. Dogs, horses, and cows use their eyes to express warm feelings. Humphrey and colleagues think cats do the same with their super-cute slow blinks.

The researchers recruited fifty kitties and their keepers. They trained owners to do SLOW half-second blinks and videotaped the cats’ reactions. A researcher also tried ushering the cats with her open hand. She did this with a neutral face or a slow blink.

Results? Given a slow blink, cats were fifty percent more likely to approach the researcher’s hand! Cats also narrowed their eyes MORE OFTEN when owners slow blinked than at rest. This simple gesture may help pet owners, vets, and shelters better judge kitty’s comfort.

That’s how you put the CAT in communiCATion!  “Fur” real. Sorry.

Humphrey, T., Proops, L., Forman, J., Spooner, R., & McComb, K. (2020). The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1-8.