Women, young people make better cat whisperers: Study

The fact that you may be a cat lover, doesn’t necessarily make you a cat whisperer, says a new study.

Researchers from the University of Guelph conducted a study that measured people’s ability to determine the emotional state of a cat just by looking at its face.

Their work, published in the journal Animal Welfare last month, found that regardless of participants’ attachment to the animal, those who excelled at correctly reading cat expressions were typically women or people that had a veterinary background. Younger people were also more skilled than the study’s older participants.

The research involved more than 6,300 people from 85 countries who were required to watch 20 online cat videos that specifically focused on the animal’s eyes, muzzle and mouth.

When watching each video, study participants were asked to judge if they thought the cat was in a positive state, a negative state or if they weren’t sure.

Most participants found the assessment was difficult. The average score was 12 out of 20. Only 13 per cent of the participants scored 15 or better. Researchers referred to these people as “the cat whisperers.”

Georgia Mason, who helped lead the study, said in a press release that one of the research findings mirrors past studies in the field.

“The fact that women generally scored better than men is consistent with previous research that has shown that women appear to be better at decoding non-verbal displays of emotion, both in humans and dogs,” she said.

Showing that some people are skilled at reading feline faces suggests that others could be trained to do so, researchers say, adding that increasing emotional intelligence between cats and humans could improve animal welfare as well as cat care.