Cats have a reputation for being stoic and unreadable, especially when compared to their canine counterparts who wear their hearts on their sleeves. It’s a huge part of the never-ending argument between “cat people” and “dog people.” According to a new study, however, our feline friends are actually just as expressive as any pup out there — we’re all just terrible at reading them.
Researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada discovered that cats simply have a more subtle approach when it comes to letting us know exactly how they feel, but that doesn't mean they aren't doing it. The team asked more than 6,300 human participants of all ages from across the globe to view 20 short videos of cats in varying states — like being petted or experiencing health problems. The felines were all displaying positive or negative physical reactions, but instead of showing signs like puffed up tails or audible purring, the videos focused exclusively on the cats’ facial features.
On average, participants were only able to correctly guess the moods of 12 out of 20 videos. If that was a pop quiz in school, we’d be looking at a big fat F. Only about 13 percent of those who took part in the study were able to achieve a score of 15 or better. The researchers gave this group the nickname “cat whisperers.” Women were more likely to score higher than men, while younger adults scored better than those who were older. Unsurprisingly, participants who also happened to be veterinary professionals were the best at understanding the feline display of emotion.
All of this boils down to a fact that most cat owners have already known for awhile now — these poor felines are sorely misunderstood by the masses who assume they’re a less loving or loyal pet. That said, there’s a chance even the biggest cat lovers are missing out on important clues their kitty is projecting on their face.
Think you’re a bonafide “cat whisperer?” Then go ahead and test yourself with the study’s Cat Face Quiz — but don’t be surprised if you learn that even you could use a little work when it comes to truly understanding your favorite feline. For example, some of the videos might seem like the cat is bored or feeling upset when in reality they're excited or happy to see their owner approaching them.
The researchers hope these findings will help encourage us all to learn more about cat facial expressions and strengthen our bond with the purr-fectly sweet pets.
Plus, you now have scientific evidence to back you up the next time someone tries to claim your cat isn’t as friendly as their pooch!