Ever feel like your cat talks back? Turns out, scientists agree. New research from the University of Sussex and University of Portsmouth has confirmed that exchanging slow blinks with your cat is an effective way to connect and bond. While slow blinking has long been considered the holy grail of cat affection, this is the first study to prove that it’s basically feline-speak for “I love you”. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports, to the delight of cat-crazy scientists around the world.
"It's something that many cat owners had already suspected, so it's exciting to have found evidence for it," says senior author Karen McComb.
Exchanging slow blinks
So what does slow blinking mean? For cats, slow blinking is a way to show humans they accept their presence and feel comfortable. When you blink back, you’re communicating to a cat that your guard is down and you’re not in attack mode. This narrowing of the eyes, which is commonly referred to as a “slow blink” by cat owners, helps kitties relax and feel at ease.
"It's definitely not easy to study natural cat behaviour," says co-author Leanne Proops. “These results provide a rare insight into the world of cat-human communication."
"Meow. I slow blink you so much hooman"
A breakthrough in cat-human communication
The proof is in the catnip, with the team finding that cats are more likely to offer a slow blink if their owners initiate the exchange. Furthermore, cats were more likely to approach strangers following a slow blink exchange than they were to strangers with neutral expressions.
As well as exchanging slow blinks with your own cat, you can also use the eye narrowing technique to bond with other cats.
"This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow blinking in cat–human communication," McComb says. "And 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."
Want to read the report? Check it out here: The role of cat eye narrowing movements in cat–human communication.