According to a new American study, cats have no fewer than 276 different facial expressions. And they are largely positive.
Squinted eyes, constricted pupils, a lick on the lips. Anyone who ever wondered whether their cat wanted to say something about this was probably right. Because from a study published last month in the journal Behavioral Processes turns out cats have a lot of facial expressions. The two American scientists behind the study counted no fewer than 276 of them that domestic cats use to communicate with each other.
“Our study shows that cat communication is more complex than previously thought,” co-author Brittany Florkiewicz, an evolutionary psychologist at Lyon College in Arkansas, told reporters on Wednesday. CNN. According to Florkiewicz, the findings suggest that domestication has a significant impact on the development of those expressions or signals.
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Florkiewicz explained that domestic cats tend to be more socially tolerant than their wild counterparts due to the fact that they live in close proximity to humans. The researchers expected to see positive and negative expressions, but they did not expect there to be so many. According to them, domestication would provide more social interactions between cats.
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To collect the data, medical student and lead author of the study Lauren Scott filmed 53 cats at a local cat cafe in Los Angeles between August 2021 and June 2022. This involved cats of both sexes that had been spayed or neutered. They also all had short hair. Of the 194 minutes of video footage collected, she captured 186 feline interactions.
The researchers assessed the differences in expression using a coding system specifically designed for cats, the Cat Facial Action Coding System. They looked at the number and types of facial muscle movement. Breathing and yawning were not included.
They did not attach a meaning to the expressions. But 45.7 percent of the decoded expressions would have been friendly, while 37 percent were aggressive. A friendly expression is shown when the ears and whiskers move forward while the eyes close. An aggressive cat has constricted pupils, flatter ears and moves its tongue over its lips.