As cat parents, we work hard to learn the cat’s language so we can better communicate with our favorite kitties.
And one of the most popular ways we talk to our cats is by blinking slowly! Cat lovers know that a luxuriously long blink is a sign of a happy, friendly cat. But now research is putting facts behind what our heart tells us.
Animal behaviorist Karen McComb from the University of Sussex in the UK worked on the slow blink study. As a mother cat herself, delighted with the results, she explains, “It’s something that many cat owners have suspected. So it’s exciting to have evidence of it.”
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The Slow Blink Study
To investigate slow blinking, which can be equated with a friendly smile, the researchers created two different versions of the experiment.
In the first round, 21 cats from 14 homes served as slowly flashing test subjects. The cats were examined within their own four walls, which kept the kittens nice and calm in their familiar surroundings. The researchers instructed the cat parents to sit three feet, or about 3 feet, from their cat and slowly blink their cat.
The result of the first round?
When cats blinked slowly, cats often returned the friendly gesture. If their parents did not initiate the blink, some of the cats would still blink slowly at their humans, but not nearly as often.
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In the second round, a similar setup was carried out with 24 cats in 8 different households. What was different was who was interacting with the cats. This time the researchers blinked at the cats. Before the blinking began, a control interaction, where the researcher stared with a neutral expression, served as the basis for this part of the study.
Once the slow blink started, however, most cats returned the message, essentially smiling at the friendly stranger who smiled first. And when the researchers offered a hand to inspect, the cats often followed the slow blink by visiting.
This changes the perception that cats are not friendly and shows that people have not yet fully understood the nuances of cat talking. But we learn!
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Try it at home
Professor McComb recommends trying the slow blink with your cats, or even cats you are about to meet. “It’s a great way to bond with cats. Try narrowing your eyes, as you would with a relaxed smile, then close your eyes for a few seconds. You will find that they react the same way themselves, and you can start some kind of conversation. “
And who better to chat to than your cat!
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The why behind the blink
But why is slow blinking considered a kind gesture in the cat world?
We haven’t really figured this out yet, but there are thoughts on the subject. Cats, like many predators, view long, blink-free looks as a threat. So it stands to reason that adding long, dramatic blinks to a look is a way to indicate that everything is cold.
So look at your kitten and slowly blink at her. I bet you’ll get that blinking “smile” right back!
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H / T: www.sciencealert.com
Feature Image: @ tibbles_world / Instagram & @ jake_n_elwood_ / Instagram