Cats have a reputation for being “inscrutable,” the researchers say, and their results mostly back up this notion. More than 6,000 study participants in 85 countries, the vast majority of them cat owners, watched brief cat videos and then judged the animals’ moods. The average score was just under 60 percent correct — an F, if cat videos were a school subject.
However, 13 percent of participants did quite well, scoring 75 percent or above. The researchers dubbed these achievers “cat whisperers” — and said their results are important.
“Cats are telling us things with their faces, and if you’re really skilled, you can spot it,” said author Georgia Mason, a behavioral biologist at the University of Guelph in Ontario. “Some people can do it — that means there’s something there. That means that cats are hard to read,” but not wholly inscrutable, she said.
Women, who made up three-fourths of participants, scored better than men, but not by much. Younger people did better than older people. But the most skilled diviners of feline feelings were people with professional experience involving cats, including veterinarians. (You can take a shortened version of the survey here.)