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Cats & facial expressions: correctly interpret body language on the face

Cats & facial expressions: correctly interpret body language on the face


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Facial expressions are an important clue to interpreting the body language of cats. The position of the ears and whiskers, the movement of the lips and the size of the pupils reveal a lot about the feelings of the four-legged friends.

Not only the body language, but also the facial expressions of their favorites should be able to interpret cat owners. This often works intuitively. But sometimes people are wrong, because the facial expressions of cats are sometimes very different from human facial expressions.

Eye contact: If you look away, you lose

When cats look at someone, their intentions can be very different. The velvet paws simply signal attention to familiar people. Cats sometimes stare at gazing competitions with their peers: If you look away, you lose; because avoiding eye contact shows peacefulness or the willingness to submit.

This may be one reason why cats always cling to the visitors who are least able to start with cats - in contrast to real cat fans, they do not stare at the house tigers and are therefore much more inviting from a cat perspective.

Body language in cats: interpreting tail positions

In cats, the tail is crucial if you want to interpret the body language of your velvet paw ...

Wink & pupil size in the cat language

The size of the pupils changes with changing light conditions, but the emotional state of the cat also has an influence on the pupil size: with great excitement, the black area in the eye becomes significantly larger. This excitement can be both joy about a treat and tension because there is an enemy nearby. Wide-open eyes also show that the animal is observing its surroundings very carefully, possibly being afraid. The animals only close their eyes completely when they feel really safe and relaxed.

With a typical, slit-shaped cat's eye, caution tends to be advised. In a mood to attack, they narrow their eyes to a narrow slit to reduce the risk of injury. A quick wink indicates stress, whereas blinking slowly once or twice is a friendly gesture. Your cat almost smiles at you.

Ears position complements the facial expressions of cats

Ears are an important part of a cat's facial expressions. To listen, however, the velvet paws turn their ears in the direction from which the noise comes. This sometimes makes it difficult to correctly interpret the ear movements. Basically, however, the following applies: In a relaxed state, the auricles look forward. If something exciting is happening, they straighten up especially straight.

If the auricles of the raised ears point backwards, this is a threatening gesture that precedes a possible attack. In addition, the ears can be put on quickly from this position - this protects against injuries. Ears put on show fear if the rest of the facial expressions and gestures do not indicate an attacking posture. If the ears move restlessly, the animal is probably nervous.

Cat's eyes: mesmerizing looks

Mouth movements and whiskers as a means of communication

In a relaxed normal state, the lips do not move very much and the whiskers stand inconspicuously to the side. If something exciting happens, the whiskers spread out so that the cat doesn't miss anything. In the event of fear or skepticism, the cat's face appears narrow and pointed: the lips are pressed together and the whiskers are placed close to the head.

If the velvet paws pull up the upper lip and drop the lower jaw, they express frustration. Licking the nose is also not about hunger, but rather: "keep me busy!"

CatFACS - the science behind cat facial expressions

FACS stands for Facial Action Coding System, a system for coding facial movements, and was originally developed for people. Today, however, it is also used for other mammals, such as horses (EquiFACS) and cats (CatFACS).

Scientists from Portsmouth, England have cataloged the possible muscle movements in the cat's face and thus created a basis on which researchers can interpret the connection between facial expressions and emotion in cats. So far, it looks like cats only have three measurable facial expressions. The computer-aided system probably does not get along well with the fur of the four-legged friends when evaluating the image material. In addition, the test groups were previously rather small.