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Scientists finally prove common bodily function is the way to your cat's heart

Close up of a cat's eyes cat-happy
© Pixabay

It has been suspected for some time: if you slowly blink while you are looking a cat in the eye, the cat is more likely to consider you a friend. This week it’s proven.

By Nick Whittle

Published on the 13/10/2020, 10:00, Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:24

Researchers Tasmin Humphrey et al from the University of Sussex performed experiments on domestic cats both in the animal’s own environment and within a test setting. 

The experiments included a number of cats from different households. The cats’ owners were asked to blink slowly at their pets. The slow blink stimulus was performed and compared to the cats' receiving no human interaction. 

Narrow eyes: good or bad?

Ms Humphrey discovered from this test that during the slow blink stimulus condition the rate of the cat’s narrowing eye was significantly higher than in the condition of absent human interaction. 

If a cat is seen with narrow pupils - yet the eye is relaxed - it is apparently happy in your presence and perfectly at ease. 

Nature or nurture?

In her appraisal of the results, Humphrey discussed whether a cat’s positive reaction to a human’s slow blink is natural or nurtured. If true, the cats are in luck according to Humphrey, who opines that we as a species perceive the slow blink as a positive unspoken communication. 

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The team hopes its findings will inform current veterinary and shelter working practices. If the slow blink really does enhance the feline-human relationship its deployment could be a staple measure of professional animal carers to aid their more effective communication with cats.