The research team recorded 276 unique and distinct facial expressions in cats – compared to chimpanzees having around 357 different facial expressions.
They also found that cats share some facial expressions with humans, and that cats may have picked them up from their 10,000 years of coexistence with humans.
How did researchers find out that cats make different facial expressions?
Scientist Lauren Scott visited a charity cat cafe in California.
During this time, the researcher filmed the cats’ facial expressions, especially those directed towards other cats, for about 194 minutes.
Lauren then analyzed the recordings with the help of Brittany Florkiewicz, an evolutionary psychologist who studies the emotions and behavior of certain animal species.
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What did they discover about cats’ facial expressions?
They discovered 276 different facial expressions of the filmed cats.
Each cat’s facial expression was made up of four of 26 unique facial movements – such as mouth open, pupils wide or small, blinking, nose licking, whisker movement and ear position.
In comparison, humans have about 44 unique facial movements and dogs have 27, but the total number of facial expressions is unknown.
Of the recorded facial expressions, approximately 45% were considered friendly, 37% were considered aggressive or angry, and the remaining 18% were an unclear combination of both.
Some of the cats’ friendly facial expressions – when the mouth is pulled back and the jaw is open to form a smile or laugh – were similar to the “playful faces” of humans, dogs, monkeys and other animals.