Do You Feel Like You Can Understand Your Cat with Just One Look? Science Says You Might Be a Cat Whisperer
Scientists have created a quiz on understanding cats' emotions—if you score high enough, you might be clinically dubbed a "cat whisperer" by experts.
Nearly any cat lover will tell you that they feel like they are directly in tune with their feline companions, but some pet owners may actually possess a unique set of talents that allow them to understand their cats' emotions, despite not being able to communicate with them, according to new scientific research published in the scholarly journal Animal Welfare. A team of researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, made the discovery after conducting a study involving 6,300 people from 85 different countries around the world—only 13 percent of these people were said to have this rare ability. Researchers ended up coining the term "cat whisperer" to explain the phenomenon in their paper.
These people, who are able to decipher otherwise unreadable expressions on cats' faces, are mostly professionals working in the veterinary field, which shouldn't come as a big surprise. But a minority of these cat whisperers were women who had professed that they didn't even own a cat. "Our finding that some people are outstanding at reading these subtle clues suggests it's a skill that more people can be trained to do," Lee Niel, a co-author on the study and a professor at the University of Guelph, said in a press release.
The study's participants were asked to watch 20 short online videos of felines in natural environments, and effectively judge whether each cat was in a good mood or a bad mood. According to Neil and Georgia Mason, another author on the study who is a behavioral biologist, the only research on understanding cats' emotions prior to this new study had to do with expressions of pain. But this study included a wider range of emotional states, including fear, frustration, as well as general happiness and glee, Mason said in the press release.
Average scores on the researchers' quiz were just about 12 out of 20, which is slightly higher than a random chance result. But these so-called cat whisperers were able to discern sour pusses much better: They scored 75 percent or better overall. Researchers noted that these individuals were also more likely to be younger adults. "The fact that women generally scored better than men is consistent with previous research that has shown that women appear to be better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion, both in humans and in dogs," Mason says.
Do you think you have what it takes to be one of the few cat whisperers in the world? While the scientists' experiment is over, they've left a shortened version of their official questionnaire published online for the public to use. You'll be asked to classify the emotions of eight different kitties, and you'll learn why certain traits are associated with particular emotions. If you score better than 75 percent, you've earned a special title: You're a bonafide cat whisperer.