Study Confirms 'Slow Blinks' Really Do Work to Communicate With Your Cat
Cats have a reputation for standoffishness, especially compared with dogs, but if you find your feline friend a little hard to bond with, maybe you're just not speaking their language. Never fear - new research has shown that it's not so difficult. You just need to smile at them more.
Not the human way, by baring your teeth, but the cat way, by narrowing your eyes, and blinking slowly. By observing cat-human interactions, scientists were able to confirm that this expression makes cats - both familiar and strange - approach and be receptive to humans.
"As someone who has both studied animal behaviour and is a cat owner, it's great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way," said psychologist Karen McComb of the University of Sussex in the UK.
In the first experiment, owners slow-blinked at 21 cats from 14 different households. Once the cat was settled and comfy in one spot in their home environment, the owners were instructed to sit about a metre away and slow-blink when the cat was looking at them. Cameras recorded both the owner's face and the cat's face, and the results were compared to how cats blink with no human interaction.
The results showed that cats are more likely to slow-blink at their humans after their humans have slow-blinked at them, compared to the no-interaction condition.
The second experiment included 24 cats from eight different households. This time, it wasn't the owners doing the blinking but the researchers, who'd had no prior contact with the cat. For a control, the cats were recorded responding to a no-blink condition, in which humans stared at the cats without blinking their eyes.
The researchers performed the same slow-blink process as the first experiment, adding an extended hand towards the cat. And they found that not only were the cats more likely to blink back, but that they were more likely to approach the human's hand after the human had blinked.