Cats have facial expressions: how to decipher them

We often hear that cats have a mysterious air that sometimes makes them difficult to pin down. And yet, like many other animals, they have facial expressions that can be deciphered! Didn’t you notice? Don’t panic, it seems that humans aren’t the best at this game… But there’s nothing stopping you from trying. 

The bond between cat and humans

We often tend to compare dogs and cats, and it is not uncommon to hear that the bond between a master and their dog is more obvious and deeper than that of a master and their cat – or at least that it is different. The explanation provided to “justify” this fact very often calls into question the perhaps more nonchalant and mysterious character of cats.

Of course, there are always exceptions… And that does not mean that cats are totally indifferent beings! Moreover, it would seem that the latter are not necessarily to blame in this equation, quite the contrary. The proof is with this study which studied the reactions of humans to facial expressions of cats.

A unique and surprising study 

The goal of researchers, was therefore to see if humans were able to decipher the expressions of the muzzles of our dear felines. For this, they mobilized 40 videos, knowing that 20 videos presented cats in a positive state of mind, and 20 others showed the exact opposite.

So 20 videos from this selection were randomly broadcast to no less than 6329 people from 85 different countries. Note also that the videos did not show cats with overly obvious physical signs (folded ears, growling, etc.), these behaviors being easily understandable!

Scientists asked people to determine if the cat was in a good or bad mood, or if they didn’t know. And the least we can say is that the final score is final: only 13% managed to guess correctly!

Humans are not good at deciphering a cat’s emotions

In other words, the average for 20 videos viewed turned out to be only 11.85 correct answers… A score that may surprise you when you consider how popular and widespread cats are pets. And that does not depend on whether or not the participants are used to being around cats.

The veterinarians in the panel scored above average, as did the women. For the researchers, this is explained by the fact that in general, women are better at analyzing non-verbal behavior. These results also indicate something else: by dint of habituation – as for veterinarians – it is possible to sharpen this capacity!

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