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The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication

By Tasmin Humphrey, Leanne Proops, Jemma Forman, Rebecca Spooner, Karen McComb

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Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Domestic animals are sensitive to human cues that facilitate inter-specific communication, including cues to emotional state. The eyes are important in signalling emotions, with the act of narrowing the eyes appearing to be associated with positive emotional communication in a range of species. This study examines the communicatory significance of a widely reported cat behaviour that involves eye narrowing, referred to as the slow blink sequence. Slow blink sequences typically involve a series of half-blinks followed by either a prolonged eye narrow or an eye closure. Our first experiment revealed that cat half-blinks and eye narrowing occurred more frequently in response to owners’ slow blink stimuli towards their cats (compared to no owner–cat interaction). In a second experiment, this time where an experimenter provided the slow blink stimulus, cats had a higher propensity to approach the experimenter after a slow blink interaction than when they had adopted a neutral expression. Collectively, our results suggest that slow blink sequences may function as a form of positive emotional communication between cats and humans.

Submitter

Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Publication Title Scientific Reports
Volume 10
Pages 8
DOI 10.1038/s41598-020-73426-0
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73426-0
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Cats
  5. Human-animal communication
  6. Mammals
  7. open access
  8. Psychiatry and psychology
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  1. open access