Researchers from the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph have developed a Cat Faces Study to find out if people can detect whether a cat is in a positive or negative situation, just by looking at the face alone.

The researchers used Internet cat videos, zeroing in on just the cats’ faces, to see if the 6,300 study participants could determine feline emotions.

The goal of the study is to use this information to better understand cat welfare and develop new tools for cat welfare assessment.

Cats are famously inscrutable, but adept “cat whisperers” can determine their emotional states by looking at subtle facial expressions.  Women and veterinary professionals are particularly good at this, the researchers have found.

The cat videos showed the faces of cats in both positive and negative situations (such as getting a treat or being afraid of something).  The videos focused on the cats’ eyes, muzzles, and mouths (leaving out the ears which give stronger visual clues).

Most participants found the test challenging, rating around 12 out of 20 videos correctly.  Just 13% of the participants got 15 or more videos correct, earning them the title of “cat whisperer!” Besides women and people in the veterinary field, younger people also tended to score better than older people.

Are you a cat whisperer?  Click HERE to take an 8-video quiz, which is a fun mini version of the full study!  Read more about the study findings in this results summary. The full study is published in the journal Animal Welfare…you can read a summary HERE.


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