Doing the 'Cat Smile' Actually Gets Cats To Like You, Confirms Study

Turns out cats have a smile of their own, one that doesn't involve teeth.
Irmak Bayrakdar

You know how cats look when they're happy or relaxed? Those squinted eyes? Turns out that's how cats smile. 

Psychologists from the University of Sussex and the University of Portsmouth have recently released a study regarding the relationship between humans and cats. According to the study, humans can positively communicate with cats as long as they "slow blink".

Relationship between slow blinking and cats 

A slow blink is bringing the eyelids together, but not completely shutting the eye. Much like when you're actually smiling. When you're slow-blinking your face resembles a cat, and perhaps that's why cats respond positively to slow blinks.

Study results show that humans who slow-blink and have eye-narrowing facial expressions similar to that of a "cat smile" appear friendlier to cats. Surprisingly, a "slow blink" is the cat equivalent of a human smile and helps purr-fect a relationship between a human and a cat

Experimenting on cats with and without their owners

The team, led by Dr. Tasmin Humphrey and Professor Karen McComb, animal behavior scientists at the University of Sussex, had done an experiment in two parts: one experiment was done using cats and their respective owners and the other using cats with the researchers. 

For the first experiment, researchers used 21 cats from 14 households. The owners then were asked to sit across their cats and slow-blink at them when the cats were looking at them.


When comparing the recordings of the cats with their owners to when they were alone, cats were actually seen slow-blinking back at their owners. 

In the second experiment, the team used 24 cats from eight households. This time, the owners were replaced by the researchers, total strangers to cats. During the first part of the experiment, the researchers were asked not to blink at the cats at all.

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In the second part, however, the researchers also slow-blinked at them, along with an extended hand. 

The experiment results showed that cats not only responded to slow-blinking, but they were also reaching towards the researchers. 

Cats communicate with us

Dr. Tasmin Humphrey stated, "Understanding positive ways in which cats and humans interact can enhance public understanding of cats, improve feline welfare, and tell us more about the socio-cognitive abilities of this understudied species," and added, "Our findings could potentially be used to assess the welfare of cats in a variety of settings, including veterinary practices and shelters." 

For a long time, cat owners had been wondering what their cats meant by slow blinking at them. Karen McComb of the University of Sussex said, "It’s something that many cat owners had already suspected, so it’s exciting to have found evidence for it," about the topic. 

Cats take humans' slow blinking as a sign of trust and comfort and respond in a friendly manner. Next time you want a cat to like you back, slow blink at it for some paw-sitive vibes. 

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