Many cat owners are used to their pets communicating through meows and purrs. But beyond these sounds, kitties seem to be aloof, at most blinking or occasionally nudging their ears. However, they are much more expressive than we thought. A recent study found that cats have nearly 300 facial expressions that they use to communicate with other felines—from sweet smirks to hostile hissy faces.
The study was carried out by Lauren Scott and Brittany N. Florkiewicz, who caught footage of a colony of 53 cats living at a cat cafe in Los Angeles. They put special attention to the faces made by kitties to communicate with other felines once the cafe had closed up for the night, hoping to unravel cat-to-cat communication.
Over the course of 10 months, they recorded 276 different expressions among the cats. Each of these combined an average of four of 26 unique facial movements, which include parted lips, dilated or constricted pupils, blinking, nose licks, and ear positions. Following their observations, Scott and Florkiewicz determined that 45% of the expressions were friendly, while 37% came across as distinctly aggressive. The remaining 18% was ambiguous or simply could be read both ways.
While it's impossible to determine what cats were “saying” to each other, they found that cats tend to move their ears and whiskers toward other felines during friendly interactions, and to move them away during hostile encounters. Constricted pupils and licking lips were also determined to be signs of confrontation. The researchers pointed out a particular interaction, where a pair of kitties quickly went from cheerful to aggressive. After playing for a while, one of the cats suddenly crouched down and hissed at the other before running away.
For all the mystery surrounding their expressions, the researchers found that cats share “a common play face” with humans, dogs, and other creatures. This features the corners of the mouth being drawn back with the jaw lowered to form an open smile.
While many are now hoping for an app that could decode a cat's expression, Scott and Florkiewicz's findings could certainly be the first step to a deeper bond between cats and humans. Not only could owners know what their pet may need or feel, but it could also provide better matches when adopting a new cat. With a little luck, these findings may be the first step to better understanding cats in the future.
A recent study found that cats have almost 300 facial expressions that they use to communicate with other felines.
Over the course of 10 months, researchers recorded 276 different expressions among 53 felines living in a cat cafe in Los Angeles. About 45% of the expressions were friendly, while 37% came across as distinctly aggressive.
h/t: [Live Science]