Outside of Alice in Wonderland, you’ve probably never seen a cat with a literal grin on its face (debatable). But you likely have noticed that when your cat is happy and content they squint at you and blink their eyes slowly. This affectionate behavior is a sign that they trust you, and an October 2020 study showed that slow-blinking back at your cat can help build a bond.
The study, titled ‘The Role of Cat Eye Narrowing Movements in Cat-Human Communication’, showed that cats are more likely to slow-blink at you if you slow-blink at them first, even if they’re unfamiliar with you. Cats were also more likely to approach experimenters who had slow-blinked at them versus those who kept a neutral expression.
“This study is the first to experimentally investigate the role of slow-blinking in cat–human communication,” said study supervisor and University of Sussex School of Psychology professor Karen McComb.
“And it is something you can try yourself with your own cat at home or with cats you meet in the street. 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.”
Here’s to hoping this is just the first in a series of discoveries in this adorable new field of research.