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Offbeat Cats Make Facial Expressions, But Not Everyone Can Read Them

06:10  07 december  2019
06:10  07 december  2019 Source:   mentalfloss.com

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Science has finally confirmed what humans have suspected for centuries: Cats are inscrutable creatures prone to peculiar behavior. This new evidence of a cat ’s slightly malleable face comes from a study in the journal Animal Welfare. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada

This suggests cats really do have facial expressions , but most people are very bad at reading them , according to researchers. ' Cats are telling us things with Cat owners made up the majority of people taking the survey and so owning a cat doesn't appear to be any indication of ability to recognise their

a person holding a cat© takoburito/iStock via Getty Images

Science has finally confirmed what humans have suspected for centuries: Cats are inscrutable creatures prone to peculiar behavior. Some of us, however, are still capable of picking up on their subtle emotional cues, including facial expressions, without relying on clues like tails, ears, or whiskers.

This new evidence of a cat’s slightly malleable face comes from a study in the journal Animal Welfare. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, recruited 6329 participants to watch a series of 20 video clips featuring cats reacting to either a positive or negative event. A positive interaction was defined as a feline approaching a human for a treat or an owner-identified action the cat traditionally found pleasant, like climbing into a favorite spot.

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Cats can read human facial expressions , and they learn this ability over time. When faced with a smiling owner, the cats were significantly more likely We have known for a while that dogs are good at recognising human facial expressions . But this is the first convincing evidence that cats have the

cats DO have facial expressions but most humans are really bad at interpreting them - Science. facial muscles so they could more easily mimic human expression and facilitate communication Once they mastered the expression that everyone recognised as “give me the food you are holding”

A negative response was when a cat was confronted with something it wanted to avoid, was prevented from going into an area or outside, or was displaying an obvious sign of distress, like growling. (Sounds were edited out.) Most clips were from YouTube, though some were submitted by veterinarians and university colleagues. Breeds with long hair that might obscure facial changes were omitted. Most respondents were cat owners, and 74 percent were women 18 to 44 years old.

Using these brief clips, the researchers asked subjects to classify the cats as exhibiting positive or negative behavior by relying only on closely cropped footage of a cat’s face. They couldn’t rely on the tail or any other body language. The result? The average score was just 59 percent correct, accurately identifying a cat’s mood in an average of 12 out of the 20 clips. These humans, in other words, had little idea what a cat was experiencing based solely on their faces.

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Most of us just suck at reading them . Cats , those inscrutable creatures. I distinctly remember being bitten by my friend’s cat Emmett when I To Mason, this suggests that individual cats may have their own facial cues that owners recognize, but “We're hoping with more research to develop tools to help people read their cat better, and in turn that would make living with a cat more rewarding,” Mason said.

Cats have a reputation for being independent and even aloof, so it is no surprise that their facial expressions are difficult to read . Perhaps more unexpected are findings indicating that very few people can decode the emotions in feline facial expressions and that this ability has little to do with

So why do researchers think they have any expression at all? Roughly 13 percent of subjects scored well on the test, getting at least 15 of the 20 questions correct. Those that did well were generally people who had extensive experience with cats, like veterinarians. That led researchers to conclude that people can become more attuned to the subtle flickers of emotion that may pass over a cat’s face.

“They could be naturally brilliant, and that’s why they become veterinarians,” Georgia Mason, a behavioral biologist and the study’s senior author, told The Washington Post. “But they also have a lot of opportunity to learn, and they’ve got a motivation to learn, because they’re constantly deciding: Is this cat better? Do we need to change the treatment? Does this cat need to go home? Is this cat about to take a chunk out of my throat?”

The paper appears to offer encouraging evidence that “cat whisperers” really do exist. If you’re curious whether you could be one of them, you can take a shortened version of the video test online.

[h/t Washington Post]

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