Unlike dogs, cats often have a reputation for being independent and sometimes even aloof. But maybe that’s because we just don’t speak their language well. Don’t worry; science is now providing a way to build a good relationship with a cat. Just smile for a moment.
Of course, not in the way we all do this, but by narrowing your eyes and blinking slowly. That’s according to a new study by scientists at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. There has been mostly anecdotal evidence so far that hinted that by copying this cat’s smile, you can convey to be friendly. But now there is also scientific evidence.
The psychologists developed 2 experiments to test the hypothesis. In the first, they had some cat owners slowly blink their eyes at their cat(s). The interaction was monitored with cameras that recorded both the face of the person and the cat. As it turned out, cats were more likely to blink at their owner when they blinked compared to when they didn’t.
The second experiment did the same, but with strangers. The researchers saw that the cats not only blinked back at the unknown person when it blinked, but also approached their outstretched hand more quickly.
Something that was not the case with a person who just stared at them and reached out. “This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication,” said researcher Karen McComb.
“And it is something you can try for yourself with your own cat at home, or with cats you meet on the street. It’s a great way to strengthen the bond you have with cats.”
How do you best do that, according to the scientists? “Try to narrow your eyes as you would in a relaxed atmosphere. And then close them for a few seconds. You will notice that they will respond in the same way.”
This news will no doubt come as no surprise to the feline lovers among us. Studies have shown that cats seem more attuned to their roommates in recent years than we previously thought. Why cats blink slowly is not yet known.
It is believed to signal good intentions as cats interpret continuous staring as threatening. But it is equally possible that cats developed the expression because humans respond positively to it. It is not always easy to distinguish between domesticated animals.
“Understanding the positive ways in which cats and humans interact will not only increase our knowledge about cats but also improve the well-being of cats and tell us more about the social cognitive abilities of this under-studied species.”
So the next time you see someone on the street blink at a cat, now you know why. Or who knows, you might be that person.