Are You A Cat Whisperer?

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Cats' facial emotions are harder to read than those of dogs (Credit: catdogwelfare.wixsite.com)

While dogs openly demonstrate joy or displeasure through grins and grimaces, discerning a cat's emotions from its face is often hard, even for its owners. Now, researchers from Canada's University of Guelph assert that stoic as they may appear, cats also express emotions on their faces — one just has to learn how to interpret them!

For their study, Professors Lee Niel and Georgia Mason recruited 6,300 people from 85 countries. The participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and watch 20 short cat videos, obtained mostly from YouTube. Each clip highlighted just the cat’s face — its eyes, muzzle, and mouth — and gave no clues to its surroundings or circumstances. The viewers did not have to determine the cat's exact emotion, but just decide whether it was in a positive state, a negative state, or if they were unsure.

Study participants were only shown the cats' faces from a series of short video clips (Credit: catdogwelfare.wixsite.com)

The researchers, who published their findings in the November 2019 issue of Animal Welfare, found that only 13 percent, or 819 participants, were able to read the cats' emotions accurately over 75 percent of the time. Further research showed that the so-called "cat whisperers" were primarily women and veterinarians or vet technicians. Younger adults also seemed to be able to read the expressions better than older individuals.

"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. Surprisingly, being a cat owner did not help study participants, indicating that a strong attachment to the animal did not necessarily mean better understanding of its emotions.

Inscrutable as they may be, cats' expressions can be learned over time ( Credit: catdogwelfare.wixsite.com)

Fortunately, all is not lost for cat owners who are unable to tell their pet's moods. The researchers believe the skills are not innate but learned over time, which explains why veterinary staff scored high in the study. "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.

To find out if you have what it takes to be a "cat whisperer," take the fun, interactive catfaces quiz created by the study's researchers.

Resources: catdogwelfare.wixsite.com

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663 Comments
  • catgirl218
    I really want a cat but my dad's allergies are saying I won't have a cat until I move out😭🐈
    • catgirl218
      I am a cat whisperer because when I go to my friends house the cats always rub my back and my mom said that means the cats want me to be apart of there tribe cats love me and I love them!!!!!🐈
      • catgirl218
        I love cats🐈
        • monicaflores
          Cats are the most loyalest pets ever!!!
          • ruhee204505
            I am a cat whisperer because for some reason when I was born, I could understand what cats are saying. I have this cat named Lucy and I could understand her and she could understand me when I talk to her.
          • wamapisypuje
            wamapisypujeabout 1 month
            My cats are the most cutest!
            • ilovedogg
              ilovedoggabout 1 month
              We've had like 20 stray cats come up to our house and we took care of every one of them and I could always make them happy
            • andreagarsia
              andreagarsia2 months
              ay love cats
              • lewislyd
                lewislyd3 months
                You love cats (like)!
                • allicat12
                  allicat123 months
                  I love cats and I have two of my own. pumpkin and nugget. pumpkin is a very chunky cat.
                  • samue
                    samue3 months
                    I wish I had a cat because it's so cute but I have two gerbels named zoe & zelda. They are bery cute to. I expecially wish I had a very fat cat cause they are so chubby and cute.