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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466 Comments
  • 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
      • snowycat56789
        snowycat56789Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 9:03 am
        I love cats I'm obsessed with them so I took the quiz and I'm a cat whisperer
        • gilchey
          gilcheyWednesday, April 29, 2020 at 4:46 am
          I don't have a cat (or any pet) but I think I would be a cat whisperer and I think cats are ADORABLE!
          • animereina2020
            animereina2020Sunday, April 26, 2020 at 7:51 am
            I don't have a cat, but if I did I probably wouldn't have been a cat whisperer... I have two dogs, and I could understand them well. I mean, I can tell what they want and where they want to go, and also many other things... I can literally "understand" them. (What I mean by "understand" is complicated . Dog owners would most likely understand since doggos are much more emotional than cats.) Anyway, I still like cats because they look so cute and can do many hilarious things, and it would be interesting to have a cat!
            • juneaala
              juneaalaTuesday, April 21, 2020 at 2:14 pm
              I wander what my cat is up to. 🐱
              • queenscience12
                queenscience12Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 9:45 am
                I wish I could tell what my cat is thinking!
                • janan10
                  janan10Sunday, April 19, 2020 at 6:56 am
                  My sister's 😼 amassed have her a hug when she got back from school but hate 😼 and also she got to 😼 for her birthday and always had to clean the litter box
                  • grangergurl4eve
                    grangergurl4eveThursday, April 16, 2020 at 12:12 am
                    I am OBSESSED with cats and Harry potter it mainly cats😺
                    • queenscience12
                      queenscience12Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 7:01 am
                      Have you read any of the Harry potter books? I have read all of them.
                      • thernsi
                        thernsiThursday, April 30, 2020 at 9:17 am
                        I haven't read any of the books but the movies are amazing
                      • queenscience12
                        queenscience12Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 6:57 am
                        Have you read all the books?
                      • vehyniju-158445201895
                        vehyniju-158445201895Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 1:04 pm
                        i love cats so much that i watch cat video
                        • lillyrose123
                          lillyrose123Monday, April 6, 2020 at 2:20 pm
                          i really don't know if i like cats