How to find a common language with a cat: two clever ways

Yulia PoteriankoLife
Unlike humans, cats smile with their eyes

Unlike dogs, which can obviously understand some words of human speech, cats remain somewhat alienated animals. When we bring a feline home, we prepare ourselves for the fact that we will now live by its rules because it is a cat—you can't explain anything to it.

However, psychologist Karen McComb from the University of Sussex (UK) decided to find a way to communicate with cats. The results of her research were described by Science Alert. It turns out that the main secret is to learn to smile at your pet, but not in a human way, but in a cat way. Observations made by McComb and her colleagues in 2020 show that this helps to find a common language not only with your pet but also with strangers.

A cat's smile looks nothing like a human smile. Cats don't show their teeth but rather narrow their eyes languidly and slowly blink their eyelids at each other and people. By the way, our eyes also become narrower when we smile. The researcher, a cat owner herself, already knew this gesture but decided to test its meaning according to scientific standards. She and her colleagues conducted two experiments.

The first experiment involved 21 cats from 14 different households. In it, the owners slowly blinked at their cats. As soon as the cat got comfortable in one of its favorite places in the house, a person, according to the experiment, sat down at a distance of about 1 meter from it, made eye contact with the animal, and started blinking slowly. The cameras recorded the faces of both the owner and the cat.

The results were compared to how cats blink without a human. It turned out that the felines were more likely to blink at their human in response to a similar gesture compared to when they were not interacting.

The second experiment involved 24 cats from eight different households. This time, it was not the owners who blinked, but the researchers who had not previously interacted with the cat. As a control, they used the reaction of cats to a person who did not blink while looking at the animal.

Then, the scientists performed the same gesture as in the first experiment but added a hand extended to the cat. And it turned out that the animals not only responded more readily to the blinks but also approached the stranger's hand more often after exchanging "cat smiles." "This study is the first experimental investigation of the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication," said McComb.

According to the researcher, anyone can try to repeat this trick with their cat at home or with animals on the street. Scientists interpreted this gesture as a sign of friendly intentions. It is believed that cats perceive direct, uninterrupted eye contact as a threat. If you soften it with a "smile," they react much more favorably. "Understanding the positive ways cats and humans interact can improve public understanding of cats, improve their welfare, and tell us more about the social and cognitive abilities of this poorly understood species," said psychologist Tasmin Humphrey of the University of Sussex.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told how to determine by behavior that a cat is stressed and help it overcome the problem.

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