Research indicates that cats can communicate with you through eye movement
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A team of psychologists has discovered a way to communicate positive emotions with cats using eye movement.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth and Sussex in the United Kingdom found that narrowing the eyes to a cat in a movement they described as a “slow blink”, followed by narrowing or closing the eyes for long periods of time is similar to smiling at cats. The results of their experiment with slow blinking in cats are published in the journal Scientific Reports this week.
Their study found that pet cats were more likely to slow their eyelashes if their owners blinked slowly at first, and they were more likely to communicate with a researcher they had just met if the person blinked slowly before presenting an open hand than if the researcher maintained a neutral facial expression.
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It was the first time that slow blinking in cat-human communication had been studied, according to Karen McComb, a professor at the University of Sussex School of Psychology and one of the study’s authors.
“As someone who has studied animal behavior and cat owner, it’s great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way,” McComb said in a press release. “It’s something many cat owners have already suspected, so it’s exciting to find evidence of this.”
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Animal behavior scientist Tasmin Humphrey, lead author of the study, said that a greater understanding of the interaction between cats and humans could help improve the public’s understanding of cats and feline well-being. She also noted that cats have not been studied to the same extent as some other human-friendly species such as dogs.
Humphrey said in a press release: “In terms of why cats behave in this way, it can be said that cats developed slow blink behaviors because humans considered slow blinking a positive thing.” Cats may have learned that humans reward them for responding to a slow flash. It is also possible that slow blinking in cats started as a way to interrupt constant staring, which could pose a threat to social interaction.
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According to Macomb, cat owners can also try to replicate the experience at home.
It’s a great way to reinforce your bond with cats, ”McComb said. “Try to narrow your eyes to them as you would with a comfortable smile, followed by closing your eyes for a few seconds. You will find that they respond in the same way and you can initiate some kind of conversation.”
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