Blink slowly if you want to bond with your cat, say researchers

28 October 2020 - 08:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
Do you speak fluent feline?
Do you speak fluent feline?
Image: 123RF/Yulia Zelenenka

If you’ve been trying but failing to form a more loving relationship with your cat, perhaps you need to learn a bit of their “language”.

A research team from the universities of Sussex and Portsmouth in the United Kingdom have discovered it is possible to build rapport with your cat by using an eye narrowing technique.

The motion of narrowing your eyes, or a slow blink, is also known as a cat smile, and is the feline equivalent of a human smile.

Professor Karen McComb, an animal behaviour scientist who led the study with Dr Tasmin Humphrey, suggested trying the technique with your own cat.

“It’s a great way of enhancing the bond you have with cats,” she says.

McComb advises narrowing your eyes while looking at your cat and then closing your eyes for a few seconds. This will likely prompt your cat to respond in a similar way and might spark a type of “conversation” between the two of you.

To make their findings, which were published in Nature earlier this month, the team conducted two experiments.

The first examined whether cats will respond to humans who slow blink at them, and the second examined whether cats were more likely to approach a human who has slow blinked at them as opposed to one who maintained a neutral expression.

Both experiments showed cats respond positively to a slow blink from humans.

The first revealed that cats are likely to slow blink at humans in response to receiving a slow blink, and the second revealed that cats were more likely to approach a human after they had slow blinked at them.

Apart from building a closer relationship with your cats, Humphrey says understanding human and cat interaction can “enhance public understanding of cats, improve feline welfare, and tell us more about the socio-cognitive abilities of this understudied species”.