If you’ve ever been on the internet, you’ll know humans love their cats. But whether they love us has always been a little more unclear.
However, a new study suggests they can read our facial expressions and are sensitive to our emotions.
Two researchers at Oakland University have found that cats behave differently when their owners are smiling as opposed to frowning.
When their owner was smiling, the felines were significantly more likely to exhibit positive behaviors like purring. They also appeared to want to spend more time with their owner when they were smiling as opposed to frowning.
However, when presented with a human who was not their owner, the cats showed the same amount of positive behaviours regardless of the human’s expression.
This suggests that not only do cats read facial expressions but that it’s a learned behavior, developed over time with a particular human.
“People care about whether cats really do understand and pay attention to their owners,” says researcher Jennifer Vonk. “Our work shows that they may not be as indifferent as people accuse them of being.”
So does this mean your cat truly loves you? Maybe…
It’s more likely that cats have learned to associate their owners’ smiles with rewards - they're more likely to spoil pets when in a happy mood.
But at the very least, it means your cat is interested in you, and more in tune with your emotions than scientists had previously thought.
Perhaps the reason it took us so long to discover cats’ emotional intelligence is the subtle nature of their responses.
It’s long been known that dogs respond differently to happy and angry faces because their reactions are much more obvious.