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You laugh at a cat with your eyes – Insurance for Pets

Researchers from the English universities of Sussex and Portsmouth have scientifically shown that you can let cats know if you are friendly by ‘talking’ with your eyes. The researchers looked at the so-called ‘slow blink‘which, translated into human communication, can be seen as a smile. You laugh at a cat with your eyes.

Blink your eyes slowly and the cat will blink back as a sign of confidence | Photo: public domain

The study called ‘The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat-human communication’, published on, first confirmed what many cat owners have suspected for years: You can bond with a domestic cat (Cat) build up by the so-called ‘slow blinking’. This special method of squeezing and then blinking slowly is popularly known as the ‘cat smile’ and seems to make humans more attractive to cats.

In the video below it is slow blinking good to see:

You laugh at a cat with your eyes

The research team’s conclusion was based on two experiments, which looked at how the cat responded to slow blinks in the home setting. This was tested first by the owner of the animal and in the second study by an unknown researcher. The owner of the cat was given an explanation of the slow blinking in advance so that it was as similar as possible for each test. Loosely translated the instruction was:

“With a positive but calm expression, slowly and purposefully close your eyelids while pulling your cheeks upward. Try to slow this action down to about 2-3 seconds. Be careful not to lower your eyebrows or wrinkle your nose. ”

Both the cat itself and the person blinking were filmed, and an investigator gave additional instructions to the owner as needed. D.You can read full instructions on how to blink your eyes here (PDF).

You laugh at a cat with your eyes | Photo: public domain

Cats blink back

The first study showed that a cat was more likely to blink slowly back to the owner if the owner first blinked slowly at the cat. This compared to when the owner did nothing. The second experiment, with an unknown researcher, also found that a cat is more likely to blink in situations where it was blinked at first. Furthermore, the cats studied were more likely to approach the experimenter’s outstretched hand after slowly blinking their eyes than if they had maintained a neutral facial expression.

The cat’s slow blink sequence, starting from a neutral face transitioning to half blink, then to full eye closure and then to eye narrowing, was also recorded in detail (see photos below).

Photos: Unaltered figure from T. Humphrey et al. (2020), The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication (license CC BY 4.0) | Source: Nature

The results show that this slow blinking technique can provide a form of positive communication between cats and humans and can even be an indicator of positive emotions.

Start a conversation with the cat on the street

Professor McComb of the University of Sussex, who supervised the work:

“As someone who has both studied animal behavior and is a cat owner, it is great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way. It’s something many cat owners suspected, so it’s exciting to have found evidence for it. ”

McComb adds:

“This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication. 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 improve the bond you have with cats. Try to narrow your eyes just as you would with a relaxed smile, followed by closing your eyes for a few seconds. You notice that they themselves react in the same way and you can start a kind of conversation. ”

Start a conversation with a cat | Photo: public domain

Improve well-being

Dr. Humphrey, lead author and PhD candidate at the University of Sussex at the time of the study, said:

“Understanding positive ways in which cats and humans interact can improve public understanding of cats, improve feline welfare, and tell us more about the social cognitive abilities of this under-studied species. (…) Our findings could potentially be used to assess the welfare of cats in a variety of settings, including veterinary practices and animal shelters. ”

Humphrey gives as possible reasons for the development of the eye blinking behavior:

“In terms of why cats behave this way, it could be argued that cats developed the slow blinking behavior because humans perceive slow blinking to be positive. Cats may have learned that people reward them for responding to slow blinking. It’s also possible that slow blinking in cats started as a way to interrupt a continuous gaze, which is potentially threatening in social interaction. ”

Mutual trust | Photo: public domain

Cat-human communication

Dr. Leanne Proops from the University of Portsmouth and co-supervisor:

« It is certainly not easy to study natural feline behavior, so these results provide a rare insight into the world of cat-human communication. »

In addition to the slow blinking of the eyes, some peculiarities related to cat psychology were already known. For example, it was known that cats demand attention and can manipulate effectively via the so-called ‘solicitation purring(quizzically purr). Also, cats are able to distinguish their names from other words, even when unknown people call them. Furthermore, cats can be sensitive to human emotional cues and rub or bump their head against an owner who is feeling sad.


© Aurora van de Loo