2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Slow blinking with a squint can be an effective way of communication between cats and humans. This was found by British researchers: with the help of two experiments, they showed that cats, when they see a person's slow blinking, begin to respond to him in the same way, which, according to previous studies, indicates the comfort and location of the pet. This strategy is effective even in the case of a cat communicating with a stranger: the animal will reach for a slowly blinking stranger more. The article was published in Scientific Reports.
Effective social communication involves the mutual reading of signals - including those related to non-verbal communication. This can be especially important in interspecific communication, for example, when people communicate with their pets: for example, studies show that domestic goats, although they can recognize human emotions, still prefer happy faces, and dogs react more actively to a smile if they introduce oxytocin.
Such mutual reading of signals, however, is rarely studied in communication between cats and humans - largely because cats are usually considered loners who do not strongly attach to their owners (although scientists have repeatedly shown that this is not the case). However, it was still possible to identify some signals: for example, a cat squint (or simply slow blinking) is considered a positive signal and indicates that the cat is comfortable and that it is disposed to a person.
Psychologists from the University of Sussex under the leadership of Karen McComb decided to study the role of feline squint in communication with humans. Scientists have suggested that cats will begin to squint in response to the slow blinking of the owner, and will be more disposed towards blinking (even strangers) people. To test this, the scientists conducted two experiments.
In the first experiment, 21 cats and their owners took part: to increase the ecological validity of the study, the experiment was carried out in the same houses where the cats lived. Each human participant was asked to wait for direct eye contact with the cat and at this point either blink slowly or do nothing depending on the condition (active or control).
The reactions of the cats and the actions of the owners were recorded on video and then analyzed, in particular - by counting the number of different movements of the animal's eyes: blinking, closing, squinting and slow blinking - similar to those demonstrated by the owners. In the case when the owner slowly closed his eyes, the cat more often followed his example and blinked slowly (p <0.01), and also squinted more often (p <0.05), and this did not depend on the age of the cat and the number of animals living in one house.
In the second experiment (24 cats took part in it), the task was similar - only this time the animals watched not the owners, but unfamiliar experimenters. Scientists, therefore, had the opportunity to see if a cat would want to get closer to a stranger if he extended his hand to her - and whether this would depend on eye movements.
As in the previous experiment, cats significantly (p <0.01) blinked slowly and squinted more often in response to a person's slow blinking, even though he was a stranger. In addition, animals also reached for a slowly blinking person much more often (p = 0.035).
The researchers have thus shown that slow blinking and squinting is an effective way of communication between cats and humans. It is interesting that such mutual signals work not only between pets and their owners, but also when animals communicate with strangers - which is why you can reduce the likelihood that such mutual winking is an individually learned communication strategy. However, the authors note that in future studies it will still be necessary to study in more detail how the ability to such communication appears in cats.
For a long time it was believed that cats, unlike dogs, cannot distinguish their name from other words spoken by a person. Last year, Japanese scientists proved the opposite: they experimentally showed that cats not only recognize their name, but also distinguish it from the names of other cats that live with them.