Many cat owners are used to interpreting their pet’s feelings through meows and purrs, but the mysterious realm of feline communication is much deeper. A recent study has revealed cats’ secret language, finding that these seemingly stoic creatures have approximately 300 various facial expressions to indicate their emotions, ranging from cute smirks to violent hissy faces.
Cracking the kitty code
Lauren Scott and Brittany N. Florkiewicz undertook this revealing study as part of their mission to deconstruct the complex world of cat-to-cat communication. Their laboratory was a cat cafe in Los Angeles, which housed a thriving colony of 53 cats. The researchers were especially interested in the subtle expressions these cats displayed when engaging with their feline buddies after the cafe’s doors closed for the night.
Over the course of ten months, they methodically recorded 276 distinct facial expressions among the cat population. Each of these expressions was a combination of four of the 26 distinct facial motions, which included actions such as opened lips, dilated or constricted pupils, blinking, nose licks, and ear positions. Their findings revealed that 45 percent of these expressions indicated friendliness, while 37 percent clearly emanated anger. The remaining 18 percent were a mystery, falling into a murky area where interpretation may go either way.
Cats’ encrypted language
Deciphering exactly what cats were saying to each other was difficult, but some intriguing patterns emerged. During friendly contact, cats’ ears and whiskers tend to travel toward their fellow felines, while they retreat these facial features during antagonistic encounters. Additionally, narrowed pupils and lip licking appeared as warning indications of an imminent encounter.
The study highlighted an intriguing example of a quick change in mood, in which two cats went from a lighthearted friendship to a fierce exchange. Following a thrilling round of play, one of the cats abruptly bent down and hissed before fleeing in a show of aggressiveness.
Discovering the common ground
A surprise conclusion arose in the midst of these feline mysteries. Humans, dogs, and other animals all have a “common play face” with cats. This expression has the corners of the mouth pushed back and the jaw lowered, providing a warm and welcoming smile.
A better future for cat-human interactions
There’s a tempting potential on the horizon as we negotiate the maze of cat expressions. While we don’t yet have a cat-to-human expression translation software, Scott and Florkiewicz’s revolutionary findings reflect an important step toward strengthening the link between cats and their humans. Understanding a cat’s emotions and wants may become easier, resulting in deeper bonds and more informed decisions when adopting a new feline companion.
With each revelation, the curtain that shrouds the world of cats lifts a little higher, bringing us closer to really knowing and appreciating these cherished animals’ intricate language. More insights into the world of cats may be revealed in the future, uncovering new secrets and strengthening our bond with these enthralling creatures.
Source study: Behavioural Processes— Feline face: unraveling the social function of domestic cat facial signals