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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537 Comments
  • jel
    jelMonday, January 25, 2021 at 12:33 pm
    I love cats
    • kittiesmama
      kittiesmamaMonday, January 25, 2021 at 8:48 am
      That white and orange one looks exactly like my cat nugget
      • unicorngirl22
        unicorngirl22Thursday, January 21, 2021 at 9:38 am
        I am more of a dog person but they are still super cute and I want to be a cat whisperer
        • cina-oreo
          cina-oreoThursday, January 21, 2021 at 8:16 am
          I looove cats, their so cute!
          • kittiesmama
            kittiesmamaThursday, January 21, 2021 at 7:17 am
            Awww I love cats I'm crying they are so cute
            • anita_11
              anita_11Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 10:00 am
              aww they are soo cute im glad i have cats
              • 100047910
                100047910Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 9:42 am
                i love cats but i wish i had a cat :(
                • ilovedinos
                  ilovedinosThursday, December 31, 2020 at 1:56 pm
                  I have a cat that is 22 years old
                  • astetic_dreams
                    astetic_dreamsSunday, December 27, 2020 at 10:13 am
                    I love cats! I am snuggling so h one of mine right now. I have 3 cats fluffy,mittens and darkness! My grandma had one and when she died😢They took the cat to her work the vet and it still is there it is about 20 years old!My mom could not take it in because at the time she had 2 dogs.🐕 .
                    • cidicoly-160270463902
                      cidicoly-160270463902Friday, December 11, 2020 at 9:24 am
                      I LOVE CATS