Cats may seem like the most stoic of all house pets, or maybe they just appear that way because we have this notion that cats tend to be independent and standoffish. They don't show as much emotion readily as dogs let's say. It takes a while before a cat comes around and opens up to a human, but they do show affection, just in a different way. Brittany Florkiewicz had also thought that cats were aloof until she started studying them up close and observing their facial expressions.
Florkiewicz, a comparative and evolutionary psychologist and professor at Lyon College, and her colleague Lauren Scott, a medical student at the University of Kansas, recently published a study where they observed 53 adult domestic shorthair cats at CatCafe Lounge in Los Angeles, and found that cats actually make 276 different facial expressions as a means of communicating hostility or affection. This suggests that cats are social creatures as well, it's just that the way they express it can be more subtle than what we may be used to.
In order to tally these facial expressions, the researchers looked at different movements of the ears, lips, jaw, whiskers, and pupils using Facial Action Coding Systems designed for cats. Overall, there were 26 unique facial movements which combined into 276 distinct expressions, compared to 44 unique facial movements in humans, and 27 in dogs. Still, it's more than what many people believe cats can do.
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