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Study Aims to Find Out if People Can Identify a Cat’s Mood Through Facial Expressions

Some cat owners, including University of Guelph researcher Georgia Mason, believe they can read their pet’s mood by looking at its face.

Now, she’s putting that idea to the test with a research project that aims to find out if people can identify feline emotions through a cat’s facial expressions.

“I developed the idea from my conviction — right or wrong — that I can tell when my own cats are happy,” says Mason, a professor in the University of Guelph’s Department of Animal Biosciences. “I think many cat owners share this feeling.”

Mason, along with postdocs Jenna Cheal and Lauren Dawson, and population medicine professor Lee Niel, has created an online survey to explore people’s abilities to detect positive and negative emotions in cats. The survey involves participants watching short video clips of close-up cat faces taken from various positive and negative situations. After watching the videos, participants will then be asked if they think the cat is feeling positive or negative emotions. The results will be compiled to determine the accuracy of participants.

The researchers say that understanding feline facial cues can help owners and veterinary staff better manage cats’ health and welfare.

Previous research has shown that cats are taken to the vet less often than dogs, and are handled differently during appointments. If a cat’s facial expressions can be interpreted more accurately, veterinary staff and pet owners may be able to better understand a cat’s needs and preferences in the clinic and at home.

Read the entire article on the UofG website

Story by Sydney Pearce, a U of G student writer with Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge (SPARK)