Michelle Starr writes Scientists Confirm You Can Communicate With Your Cat by Blinking Very Slowly:
In a study published in 2020, scientists observed cat-human interactions, and were able to confirm that this act of blinking slowly makes cats – both familiar and unfamiliar animals – approach and be receptive to humans.
If you’ve spent any time around cats, you’ve probably seen their ‘partially closed eyes’ facial expression, accompanied by slow blinking. It’s similar to how human eyes narrow when smiling, and usually occurs when puss is relaxed and content. The expression is interpreted as a kind of cat smile.
Anecdotal evidence from cat owners has hinted that humans can copy this expression to communicate to cats that we are friendly and open to interaction. So, in the study, a team of psychologists designed two experiments to determine whether cats behaved differently towards slow-blinking humans.
In the first experiment, owners slow-blinked at 21 cats from 14 different households. Once the cat was settled and comfy in one spot in their home environment, the owners were instructed to sit about a meter away and slow-blink when the cat was looking at them.
Cameras recorded both the owner’s face and the cat’s face, and the results were compared to how cats blink with no human interaction.
The results showed that cats are more likely to slow-blink at their humans after their humans have slow-blinked at them, compared to the no-interaction condition.