Cats are not as social as dogs. So it’s safe to say it is not easy to win them over. Now, scientists have discovered a great way to make friends with your cat by simply narrowing your eyes until they are half shut and hold them there for a bit.

Researchers from Sussex and Portsmouth universities said eye narrowing helps humans build a rapport with their furry pals, as it has a similar effect on them as smiling does on humans.

Thus, this facial action has been dubbed a “cat smile,” and researchers suggest it can be more effective if mixed in with some eye movements collectively known as the “slow blink.”

Slow blink is a series of half-blinks, where the eyelids move towards each other without fully closing the eye, the researchers say.

“It’s great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way,” said Professor Karen McComb of Sussex University. “It’s something you can try yourself with your own cat at home, or with cats you meet in the street. 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.”

The researchers conducted two experiments. In the first one, showed that cats are more likely to slow blink at their owners after their owners slow blinked at them.

The second experiment then found that the cats were more likely to approach the experimenter’s outstretched hand after they slow blinked at the cat, compared to those with a neutral expression. This explained that the slow blinking technique can provide a form of positive communication between cats and humans.

“Our findings could potentially be used to assess the welfare of cats in a variety of settings, including veterinary practices and shelters,” said Dr. Tasmin Humphrey, a PhD student at the University of Sussex.

The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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