Scientists have proven that you can communicate with your cat by blinking very slowly.
In a study published in 2020, scientists observed cat-human interactions and confirmed that the act of blinking slowly makes cats – both familiar and unfamiliar, become more receptive to humans.
It turns out its actually easier than you may have first thought to communicate with your feline, you just need to smile at them a little more. However, not in a show all your teeth kinda way, but by adopting your cat’s method of smiling by narrowing your eyes and blinking slowly.
Psychologist Karen McComb of the University of Sussex in the UK shared: “As someone who has both studied animal behaviour and is a cat owner, it’s great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way. It’s something that many cat owners had already suspected, so it’s exciting to have found evidence for it.”
If you’ve spent time around cats, you’ve probably seen their happy relaxed face with ‘partially closed eyes’ facial expression, accompanied by slow blinking. This expression has been interpreted as a cat’s smile.
A team of psychologists designed two experiments to determine whether cats behaved differently towards slow-blinking humans. In the first experiment, owners slow-blinked at 21 cats from 14 different households. Cameras recorded the slow blinking interactions, likewise comparing to how cats respond with no slow eye blinking.
The results showed that cats are more likely to slow-blink at their humans after their humans have slow-blinked at them, compared to the no-interaction condition.
The second experiment included 24 cats from eight different households. This time, it wasn’t the owners doing the blinking but the researchers, who’d had no prior contact with the cat. For a control, the cats were recorded responding to a no-blink condition, in which humans stared at the cats without blinking their eyes.
The researchers performed the same slow-blink process as the first experiment, adding an extended hand toward the feline. And they found that not only were the cats more likely to blink back but that they were more likely to approach the human’s hand after the human had blinked.
“This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication,”
“And it is something you can try yourself with your own cat at home, or with cats you meet in the street. It’s a great way of enhancing the bond you have with cats. Try narrowing your eyes at them as you would in a relaxed smile, followed by closing your eyes for a couple of seconds. You’ll find they respond in the same way themselves and you can start a sort of conversation.”
If anything the study is the ultimate meditation on how to live well, so take heed, slow down and connect with the animals and the people in your life, with a lot more presence, and intent.
Check out the full report here.