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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564 Comments
  • nightwaves
    nightwavesThursday, April 15, 2021 at 10:14 am
    Cool!
    • mh249006
      mh249006Monday, April 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm
      ❤️ Cats. My cat is so CUTE! My mom is allergic to cats, so we keep our cat outside. Also my cat is about to have babies!
      • candykitten
        candykittenThursday, April 15, 2021 at 3:57 pm
        YAY! Tell the kittens hi for me!
        • unicornpuppy10
          unicornpuppy10Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 2:30 pm
          aww im allergic to cats too i don't even have a cat its sad i want one sooooo bad
        • lexi1010
          lexi1010Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 1:15 pm
          I have a cat named White Paws but i call him steve we have to give him to my grandma because he keeps peeing on the walls and my mom thinks its those bug tubes and he does not like the smell but i don't know guys tell me why he keeps peeing on the walls!???!!!!
          • mary_jane77
            mary_jane77Wednesday, March 31, 2021 at 4:48 am
            I love cats omg
            • haleybugjj
              haleybugjjFriday, March 26, 2021 at 6:21 am
              this really warmed m heart im in love with cats
              • kittenlover11
                kittenlover11Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 1:18 pm
                and my cat Jasmine her fur has like 5 colors brown, black, orange, grey, and white.
                • kittykat720
                  kittykat720Friday, March 26, 2021 at 8:56 am
                  cool
                • kittenlover11
                  kittenlover11Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 1:15 pm
                  I have a cat and i can read her emotions sometimes but not all of the time. Her name is Jasmine and i adopted her from the shelter. <3
                  • sahorilu-161667296913
                    sahorilu-161667296913Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 10:03 am
                    🐈 i love cats i had one but he had passed but i know that he is in a better place he was gray and white and he was the best and so cute i loved him and still do i will always
                    • jazmine2008
                      jazmine2008Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 11:37 am
                      I have a stray cat friend named pepper because she's grey and white and we "adopted" the street cat. but we feed pepper with some hot dogs and other meat. i <3 my cat pepper.
                      • jazmine2008
                        jazmine2008Wednesday, March 24, 2021 at 10:06 am
                        hi don't know if I'm a car whisperer but I really love cats ;)