Reading cat facial expressions is a gift

University of Guelph research has found that some people have the gift of the “cat whisperer.” They are able to identify the moods of cats based on facial expressions.

Women and those with veterinary experience are especially good at deciphering feline expressions, even those who admit to having no strong attachment to cats.

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

News of the study spread far and wide, with stories in the Washington Post, Daily Mail, CBC, and others. The research, published in Animal Welfare, looked at a wide range of positive and negative emotional states in cats. More than 6,300 people in 85 countries participated, watching a number of short online videos of emotional cats and attempting to interpret whether their expressions were positive or negative. While most participants scored roughly 50 percent, 13 percent scored 75 percent or better. They were deemed “cat whisperers.”

Test your own ability to read cat expressions at