How to get your cat to like you: Smile like them, study says. Here’s how to do it
Researchers in England may have found a way to strengthen you and your cat's bond. All you have to do is cross your eyes, continue with a "slow blink," then your cat may, just maybe, tolerate you.
The "eye constriction" technique isn't particularly new, but it is the first time it has been tested in a controlled experiment, according to the researchers, who say the eye play can be a form of "positive emotional communication between cats and humans" could.
Experts call it a "cat smile".
They also find that their results can help improve people's understanding of cat wellbeing, especially in settings such as veterinarians and animal shelters, where strong connections may be required to care for the animals.
A study was published Monday in the journal Scientific Reports.
"As someone who has studied both animal behavior and is a cat owner, it's great to show that cats and humans can communicate this way. It's something that many cat owners have already suspected, and it's exciting evidence founding it, ”study director Karen McComb, professor of psychology at the University of Sussex in England, said in a press release.
“It's something you can try with your own cat at home or with cats you meet on the street. This is a great way to bond with cats, ”added McComb.
Here's what you need to do: Stand in front of your cat, narrow your eyes as if in a relaxed smile, then close them for a few seconds and imitate slow motion blinking.
"You will find that they react the same way themselves, and you can start some kind of conversation," McComb said.
To test the technique, the researchers conducted two separate experiments. The first involved 21 cats from 14 different households. Owners were taught how to blink slowly while sitting about three feet from their cat.
The experiment showed that cats were more likely to blink slowly at their owners after their owners blink them slowly, rather than no interaction between the two, according to the study.
The second experiment was done similarly, but with 24 different cats from eight different homes. This time the cat was matched up with an unknown researcher to look down.
The stranger either blinked slowly at the cat or showed a neutral expression with no direct eye contact. They were also instructed to extend an open palm to the cat or simply sit across from the cat. It turned out that the cats were more likely to approach the stranger's outstretched hand after slowly blinking than if they had a neutral face.
Why do cats like eye constriction?
The researchers speculate that cats behave more kindly when their owners narrow their eyes because humans may have positively rewarded them for the action over time.
Another theory is that cats blink slowly because it's a way of breaking intense stare "that may threaten social interaction with other cats or species," the researchers said.
While cats may be more mysterious than dogs, previous research has broken this line between the misunderstandings between humans and cats.
We know, for example, that cats can purr and manipulate human attention, that they can distinguish their name from other words, and that they can be "sensitive" to human emotions by rubbing or poking their head against their owner for assistance to offer, said the researchers.
These measures have long been part of what makes cats such popular pets. However, studying their natural behavior and providing evidence through experimentation can provide "rare glimpses into the world of cat-human communication," according to study co-supervisor Dr. Leanne Proops from the University of Portsmouth in England said in the press release.
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