Are You A Cat Whisperer?

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CCSS NAS-3
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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410 Comments
  • boonyang
    boonyangWednesday, March 25, 2020 at 5:06 am
    CATS ARE FANTASTIC!!!!!! ANYONE WHO THINK SO WOULD WANT TO FOLLOW ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    • fuzzybunnies132
      fuzzybunnies132Monday, March 23, 2020 at 3:07 pm
      I love, love , looooooove cats!
      • beachheartdance
        beachheartdanceMonday, March 23, 2020 at 1:34 pm
        cats are great!!! any one want to follow me?!
        • 28bloox
          28blooxMonday, March 23, 2020 at 11:25 am
          I LOVE CATS
          • rewobiny-158463639537
            rewobiny-158463639537Friday, March 20, 2020 at 11:59 am
            i love cats
            • 28ederrow
              28ederrowWednesday, March 18, 2020 at 7:33 am
              i love cats
              • amberlight
                amberlightTuesday, March 17, 2020 at 7:09 pm
                wow,that is cool,but i wish i had a cat
                • msbeckysclass
                  msbeckysclassMonday, March 16, 2020 at 7:33 am
                  Kids can see the cats faces or emotions more than parents or adults. I got 87% can you try to do better than that?
                  • stormb55
                    stormb55Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at 9:33 am
                    I use this for shool
                    • kellencatmaster
                      kellencatmasterWednesday, March 11, 2020 at 8:52 am
                      <3 cats