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This is paw-some! Cats have nearly 300 distinct facial expressions: study

By NICK GARCIA Published Nov 08, 2023 2:40 pm

Contrary to popular belief that cats are generally grumpy, if not deadpan, new research found that they have nearly 300 distinct facial expressions.

In the peer-reviewed ethology journal Behavioral Processes published on Oct. 18, researchers found that our feline friends use a total of 276 facial expressions to communicate hostile and friendly intent, and everything in between.

In comparison, humans have 44 unique facial expressions, dogs 27, and chimpanzees 357.

Researchers studied 53 felines living at a cat cafe in Los Angeles.

Each cat expression combined roughly 4 out of 26 unique facial movements—including parted lips, dilated or constricted pupils, blinking, curled corners of the mouth, nose licks, and different ear positions—according to the study.

Cats are similar to humans, dogs, and monkeys, in way that they make funny faces or do their "common play face"—which is what happens when the corners of the mouth are drawn back, and the jaw drops to form a laugh—when they're having fun.

And just like us, they can go from playful to confrontational in a flash.

In the study, researchers also found that cats were more likely to exhibit friendly expressions (45%) than aggressive (37%) ones.

Researchers believe that the process of domestication, which occurred around 10,000 years ago, may have significantly influenced cat expressions.

They hope that this research will improve the understanding of cat owners and aid potential adopters in selecting the ideal cat for their home.