If you’re like us, you’re always looking for new ways to bond with your cat. Our furry felines are our best friends, and showing them just how much we love them is the least we can do in exchange for all their affection and cuddles.
Most recently, scientists have discovered that a certain eye gesture may help strengthen the relationship you have with your cat. Whether you’re bringing a new kitty into the family or you just want to show affection to your longtime pet, “slow blinking” may make them feel closer to you.
The researchers say that it’s long been suspected by cat owners that slow blinking enhances the relationship between cat and owner, and so they aimed to put the gesture to the test. For one part of the research, the team analyzed 21 cats in 14 different homes in the UK. Each of the cat owners were instructed to sit three feet away and slow blink at their cats.
For the slow blink, the owners simply squinted their eyes and blinked for more than half a second. The cats reactions to the slow blink were captured on camera and the footage showed that the cats were more likely to slow blink back at their owners who slow blinked at them compared to owners who didn’t blink at all.
The researchers also conducted a second experiment to see if slow blinking helped establish positive communication when the human was a stranger to the cat. For this experiment, 18 cats from eight households were observed. This time, the researchers themselves — who were unfamiliar to the cats — slow blinked at the cats and then extended their hands towards them slowly.
According to their results, the cats were more likely to approach the scientists after they slow blinked at them, compared to when they sat in front of the cats with a neutral expression. It was also observed that the cats often slow blinked back at them!
In a press release, Karen McComb, animal behavior scientist from the University of Sussex and lead author of the study, said, “As someone who has both studied animal behavior and is a cat owner, it’s great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way.” She continued, “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.”
As to why the researchers think slow blinking works on cats, there are a few theories. One is that a cat could perceive direct eye contact from a human as a threat, and slow blinking interrupts such a stare down, helping to relax the animal. Another theory is that slow blinking could be a positive reinforcement to the cat, almost like a smile. What ever the reason, the researchers concluded, that slow blinking “appears to be an indicator of positive emotion in cats.”
So the next time you’re trying to give your kitty some affection, try slow blinking at them! This simple gesture could be the smile they’ve been waiting for all day.