Most cats are highly sensitive to human body language

I believe that too many cat owners don’t give sufficient credit for their cat’s extraordinary sensitivity to human body language. Cat owners should be aware of this sensitivity as it changes the behavior of their cat and it may explain some so called cat behavior problems. They adapt their behavior to the people they interact with.

Cat picks up human body language

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Dr Bradshaw1 carried out a study on whether it is true that cats make a beeline to people who dislike cats. People who dislike cats complain that cats come to them if, for example, they are visiting a friend who has a cat.

The first interesting experience Dr Bradshaw had in this study was that he was unable to find a woman who disliked cats. All the cat-phobic participants were men. Say no more….

The participants – both those who liked cats and those who disliked them (all men) – were instructed to sit on a couch and to stay still when a cat came into the room even if the cat jumped up onto their lap – difficult for a cat phobic.

The cat phobic men tended to initially look at the cat and then within ten seconds look away. The cats sensed the disposition of the participants within a few seconds of entering the room.

Contrary to what cat-phobics believed the cats in the study ‘rarely approached them’. The cats preferred to look away from the participants and position themselves near the door.

Dr Bradshaw is unsure how the cats detected the difference between the two types of men. He surmises that the cats could sense that those who disliked cats were more tense, smelled different or they nervously glanced away from the cats.

I am sure cats can detect tenseness, anxiety and uncertainty in people who are scared of cats.

The cats’ reactions showed how perceptive they were when interacting with someone for the first time. One of the cats did the opposite to the rest by liking the company of the cat-phobic men. Perhaps it is the memorable experience of having to be close to a cat that makes those who dislike cats say that cats come to them. The study concludes otherwise.

Note: 1 – Cat Sense.

4 thoughts on “Most cats are highly sensitive to human body language”

  1. Additionally, I’ve found that tilting your head to the side and speaking in hushed tones are very effective in conveying affection and a “you can trust me” message.

  2. I’m always disappointed that cat cognitive and behavioral studies are limited. This notion that cats go to people who don’t like them is folklore. If people would broaden their life experiences concerning natural phenomena like interacting with pets (something you’d expect we as humans would have a clue about by now), then scientists could deepen their studies a bit. I think when it comes to the general public, to get any notice (just as with most media) they pander to a low common denominator and rely on confirmation bias to interest readers. I’ve known that body language is the chief means by which cats “read” us, they are VERY good at it and that most pet owners only give tacit credit to them. Indeed I’ve narrowed down that cats watch our hands and feet the most to gauge what our intentions are at any given moment, then look at our faces and listen to our tone of voice to narrow it down further. It’s to their and our benefit as companions to explore that a little in our daily routines and get joy out of feeling that we’re truly communicating in a way that is almost telepathic in contrast to how humans communicate or fail to communicate by way of words alone. Look at how we misread each other on social media without benefit of hearing nuances in our voices or watching our facial micro expressions. Michael Broad and PoC is the only widely read cat interest media that delves into this to a better degree than any other periodical I’ve ever read. Thank you Michael.


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