Research Finds Cats’ Faces Hard to Read

Posted on Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Cats have a reputation for being hard to read, but new research from the University of Guelph has found that some people are veritable “cat whisperers” who excel at deciphering subtle differences in cats’ faces that reveal mood.

Women and those with veterinary experience were particularly good at recognizing cats’ expressions — even those who reported they didn’t feel a strong attachment to cats, the large study found.

“The ability to read animals’ facial expressions is critical to welfare assessment. Our finding that some people are outstanding at reading these subtle clues suggests it’s a skill more people can be trained to do,” said Prof. Lee Niel, who led the study with Prof. Georgia Mason, both from U of G’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare.

The research findings were recently featured in the Washington Post.

The only research so far on readings cats’ faces has focused on expressions of pain. “This study is the first to look at the assessment of a wider range of negative emotional states in animals, including fear and frustration, as well as positive emotional states,” said Mason.

More details on the research are availble on the University of Guelph news site. 

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