It’s kind of like Morse code.

By Austin Cannon
October 12, 2020
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Cats are singular creatures, so they require an equally unique bonding process. It’s not smiling. 

Researchers at universities in England think slow-blinking at your cat, who might respond in kind, could be a way to get them to warm up to you. Exchanging slow blinks—blinking your eyes for half a second or more—gives you and your feline buddy a special way to communicate. 

According to the study, cats are more likely to approach an unfamiliar person who slow-blinks at them than someone who keeps a neutral face. So if you want to get the cat at the park to notice you, maybe give ’em those long, deliberate blinks—no matter the odd looks you get from the other humans present. (You’re not there for them anyhow.) 

The study shows that slow-blinking at cats is also a good way to get them to repeat the blink back to you, even if you’re not familiar with the cat. 

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The first experiment involved owners slow-blinking at their 21 different cats. The second experiment included 24 cats, but this time the researchers, a collection of unfamiliar people,  were the blinkers. 

“It is something you can try yourself with your own cat at home, or with cats you meet in the street,” says Prof. Karen McComb, of the University of Sussex’s psychology school, in a news release. “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.” 

The lead author of the study, Tasmin Humphrey, says the research could also help people understand cats more, including assessing their well-being. 

“In terms of why cats behave in this way, it could be argued that cats developed the slow-blink behaviours because humans perceived slow blinking as positive,” Humphrey says. “Cats may have learned that humans reward them for responding to slow blinking. It is also possible that slow blinking in cats began as a way to interrupt an unbroken stare, which is potentially threatening in social interaction.”

Feeling scientific during quarantine? Try this out at home and see what happens. You might finally start communicating with your car the way she wants.