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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465 Comments
  • gachagirl1234
    gachagirl1234Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 6:53 pm
    My parents won't make a decision we have so many dogs why not a cat I will take care of it I'm a cat whisperer
    • dert0916
      dert0916Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 3:29 pm
      So every body stay safe
      • dert0916
        dert0916Tuesday, May 19, 2020 at 3:26 pm
        Want to be friends
        • lilabug
          lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 1:27 pm
          my siblings didn't get it though
          • lilabug
            lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 1:14 pm
            I did both!
            • lilabug
              lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 1:08 pm
              I am a cat whisperer!
              • lilabug
                lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 12:56 pm
                OMG!!!!!!!!!! SO ADORABLE!!!
                • esperanza-cat
                  esperanza-catThursday, May 7, 2020 at 8:36 am
                  I absolutely LOVE cats!
                  • glittercat
                    glittercatTuesday, May 5, 2020 at 7:06 am
                    I didn't even know my friends cat then the next thing I knew she was on her back and I was Petting her!!😻😻😺😺
                    • thernsi
                      thernsiThursday, April 30, 2020 at 9:16 am
                      I love cats I live in a house now but I used to l live in an apartment I used to have 2 cats but the where not allowed in my apartment so when I found out we had to give the m away I was so heart broken 💔😫
                      • lilabug
                        lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 12:57 pm
                        Oh. I'm so sorry. I had 2 cats to but one of them passed away recently.
                        • glittercat
                          glittercatTuesday, May 5, 2020 at 7:04 am
                          So sorry for you I love cats my aunt and uncle had one but she died and my mom doesn't like cats.😢😢😭😭
                          • lilabug
                            lilabugSunday, May 10, 2020 at 12:58 pm
                            I'm sorry. Mine passed away to