Scientists have counted hundreds of facial expressions in cats: what else is discussed in a sensational study

By Jurassic JennApr 5, 2024 12:38 PMScience
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Scientists have counted hundreds of facial expressions in cats
Scientists have counted hundreds of facial expressions in cats. Source: www.livescience.com

Flattened ears, constricted pupils, licking lips. If you've ever wondered if the furry faces of your feline friends are saying something to each other when they get together, it's likely that they are.

Thus, SSPDaily reports: "According to a recent study published in the journal Behavioral Processes, there are 276 different expressions on feline 'faces' when these animals communicate with each other." In particular, Brittany Florkiewicz, co-author of the study, an evolutionary psychologist at Lyon College in Arkansas, said: "Our study demonstrates that the level of communication in cats is much more complex than previously thought."

She also added that, according to scientists, the domestication process had a significant impact on the development of facial signaling in cats.

Are domestic cats more developed than wild cats?

Florkiewicz explained that domestic cats are generally more socially tolerant than their wild relatives because they live in close proximity to humans. Therefore, the researchers expected to see expression in both positive and negative contexts, but were surprised to "observe 276 morphologically 'distinct' facial expressions."

To collect the data, the scientists filmed 53 cats in a cat cafe in Los Angeles. Out of 194 minutes of footage, they recorded 186 interactions between the animals. The researchers evaluated the differences in facial expressions using the Cat Facial Action Coding System, a coding system designed specifically for cats, and also looked at the number and types of facial muscle movements. At the same time, muscle movements associated with biological processes such as breathing and yawning were not taken into account.

They were unable to decipher the meaning of each expression, but found that 45.7% of them were friendly and 37% were aggressive.

The article details that a friendly expression is manifested by ears and whiskers moving forward and eyes closing, while an aggressive cat has constricted pupils, ears pressed to the head, and a stuck out lip.

"We hope to expand our sample to include animals living in other places... to study the facial expressions of cats living in multi-cat homes, in wildlife colonies," said Florkiewicz.

"Another goal in the future is to conduct a follow-up study to determine what other expressions mean," she added.

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