Is your cat able to read your emotions from your facial expressions? I don’t expect a cat to be able to read the subtle emotions and feelings of others. But is your cat able to know when you’re happy or sad? Is your cat able to tell when you are angry or relaxed and contented? If so, can they do it through facial expressions?
We know that cats have feelings and empathy. They have emotions. We don’t know how refined their emotions are but they are there. We also know that cats can understand when you are displeased. They understand through the tone of your voice. If you are angry the tone changes and cats pick up on this. Cats may also pick up on your general body language and demeanour. I think it is more about tone i.e. the sound of your voice which conveys your mood to your cat. I don’t mean shouting which is cruel.
So, as mentioned if the sound is harsh your cat will know that is done something which displeases you (not necessarily something that is wrong). Conversely, if you speak gently to your cat it reinforces the bond. But we don’t know for sure whether companion animals can read and understand the signs of our emotional state.
A recent study with dogs conducted by Austrian scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna indicates that dogs can read the emotions of their master. This apparently is the first indication that any non-human species can read the emotions of another species.
The study involved 18 border collie dogs. They were trained to identify happy and angry faces by pressing their noses on a touchscreen. When the dogs could just see the mouth or the eyes and forehead they were able to tell with a reasonable degree of accuracy which person was smiling or which person was angry.
The person who led the study, Corsin Muller, says,
“our results show that at least some dogs realise that smiling eyes mean the same thing as a smiling mouth, and angry eyes mean the same thing as an angry mouth.”
I don’t think this study is conclusive partly because the border collie is a particularly intelligent dogs, which been bred for close interaction with humans. This makes them better able to read human emotions. Also the testing method may mot be precise enough.
Personally, my experience indicates that my cat picks up my emotions but I don’t know if it is through my facial expression. I don’t think it is but I don’t know. As mentioned at the beginning, the sound I make and my body language are perhaps the sorts of signals which he picks up enabling him to understand to a certain degree my emotional state.
There is one remaining topic. Is there anyplace in our relationship with our cat for our anger or annoyance; to be annoyed with our cat? And if so should we express it? Ideally, we should not. This is because our cat can do no wrong. All they can do is displease us because they don’t fit in with what we want or expect. This is not doing wrong. In which case we should accept it. Therefore we should not be angry. In an ideal world our cat should only see us happy or neutral. This makes for a better environment for our cat companion who will instinctively be cautious and defensive. We don’t want to bring that defensiveness out of him/her.