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Study Finds Slow Blinking Is Key To Befriending Cats

Study Finds Slow Blinking Is Key To Befriending Cats

The slow blink is thought to be a bit like a smile for cats

Claire Reid

Claire Reid

A new study has found you can win over your feline friends by narrowing your eyes or slow blinking at them.

The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Sussex and the University of Portsmouth, has revealed that cats are more likely to approach a stranger after the stranger had slow blinked at them.

The cats were also more likely to slow blink back to their owners after their human friends had done so.


The researchers, led by Dr Tasmin Humphrey and Professor Karen McComb, animal behaviour scientists at the University of Sussex, carried out two experiments.

The first involved 21 cats from 14 different households and their 14 owners. The experiment took place in their own homes and involved the owners slow blinking at their pets.

The results showed the cats were more likely to slow blink back at their owners in response to a slow blink, compared to if their owner kept a neutral expression.

The second involved 24 cats from eight households. In this experiment, the researcher, who was unknown to the cat, either slow blinked at the cat or adopted a neutral face without direct eye contact.


This experiment found that cats were more likely to slow blink at the unfamiliar experimenter, compared to when they kept a neutral expression.

They also found that the cats preferred to approach an experimenter after they had slow blinked at the cat than if they had maintained a neutral expression. So, basically the slow blink is your fast-track to kitty friendship.

Professor Karen McComb said: "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.


"This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat-human communication.

"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."

The paper has been published in Scientific Reports and you can check it out here.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Animals, Cats