Over the millennia shared with mankind, felines have cultivated a wide repertoire of facial expressions. A team of researchers from the University of California made a fascinating discovery: cats have the ability to exhibit at least 276 different facial gestures. Surprisingly, many of these gestures resemble human expressions, furthering our understanding of interspecies communication.
Compared to dogs, whose ability is limited to only 27 facial expressions, and chimpanzees, which can make up to 357, cats fall somewhere in between. To create these gestures, cats employ a combination of half-opened lips, dilated pupils, jaw changes, ear movements and nose licking.
Meanings of feline facial expressions
The results of this research revealed that almost half of the gestures identified in cats were interpreted as friendly, while less than 40% were perceived as aggressive. Only about 20% of the expressions were considered ambiguous in their meaning. Some of these expressions have similarities with human and other animal gestures, suggesting a possible capacity for imitation.
These findings open a new window into the understanding of feline communication. The gestures were classified using a coding system specifically designed for cats. However, it is important to note that the study did not consider movements associated with biological processes such as breathing or yawning.
Evolution of feline communication
Over the millennia shared with humans, cats have developed this extensive range of expressions, some of which bear similarities to several species, including humans, dogs and monkeys.
It is interesting to note that certain friendly expressions of cats resemble those of people, dogs, monkeys and other animals. This suggests the possibility of a common “game face” between these species, possibly the product of a process of coevolution.
Furthermore, this work confirms the observation of previous studies: the slow and rhythmic closing of the eyes, as well as the possible reciprocity of this action, is revealed as a clear sign of friendship, serenity and peace shared between cats and their interactions with humans or other species.
Once again, the enigmatic world of cats gradually unfolds its mysteries, revealing an unparalleled communicative richness that invites us to continue exploring their fascinating forms of interaction.
In general, cats are fascinating animals that use a variety of methods to communicate, combining vocal, body and visual signals to convey their messages. Some of the most common ways in which cats communicate are the following.
meows and vocalizations. It should be known that meowing is a major form of vocal communication in cats. They emit different types of meows to express needs such as hunger, attention, discomfort or simply to interact with humans. In addition, they can also emit grunts, whistles and snorts. These sounds usually indicate discomfort, aggression or fear. Cats make these sounds to warn other animals or people to stay away.
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