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Think your cat doesn’t like you? Think again

19 October 2020

 

We’ve all been there – you’re crouched on the ground, trying to look friendly, your hand gently outstretched while you whisper, “Pssst pssst come here kitty!”

If you’re lucky, perhaps the object of your affection will deign to sniff at your hand before sauntering off. If you’re one of the unlucky ones (and let’s face it, most of us are), the aloof floof will totally ignore you and, to rub salt in the wound, may even raise their tail at you while they walk away. Nice.

Ever since cats allowed humans to cohabitate with them, a question as old as time has run through cat parents’ minds: Does my cat even like me?

Luckily, science has an answer – and all it takes is learning the secret cat ‘handshake’.

Why your cat doesn’t seem to like you

Often, cat owners think their cat doesn’t like them because they’re struggling to read their cat’s love language. Unlike a dog, who will happily show you boundless love and affection, many cats show their affection in more subtle ways.

As the saying goes, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” in the case of cat parents – If you judge your cat by its ability to act like a dog, you’ll go your whole life believing your cat hates you.

Let’s clear this up right away: Your cat doesn’t hate you. Animals don’t have the capacity for hate; what we interpret as ‘hate’ could be fear, anxiety, mistrust or simply boredom.

Here are a few subtle signs your cat really does love you:

  • They sleep with you or around you. Being asleep is a vulnerable time for these little creatures, so dropping their guard around you shows that they feel safe.
  • Rolling around. Cat’s bellies are a super sensitive spot; if they lie on their backs and expose their bellies, it means they trust you.
  • Scratching your furniture. Bet you thought this one was a sign that they hate you! In fact, cats mark their territory by scratching — it means they consider your couch and curtains home.

A slow blink study

Researchers at the University of Sussex conducted two experiments to see whether the ‘slow blink tactic’ really works. It’s pretty self-explanatory: If you blink slowly at your cat, chances are they’ll slowly blink back at you — a symbol of their trust and affection.

In the first study, 21 cats from 14 different households were studied. In each of the cats’ homes, the psychologist showed the owner how to slow blink at their cat. In the second experiment, the researcher (who was unknown to the cats) tested the slow blink on 24 different cats themselves.

The results of both experiments were the same: the cats were more likely to slow blink to a human who blinked at them first (versus the human having a neutral expression), and the cats were more likely to approach a stranger who employed the slow blink.

Why the slow blink sticks

Researchers aren’t totally sure why the slow blink works so well.

In fact, Tasmin Humphrey, a PhD student in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, theorises that the slow blink works because we made it work.

She points out, “Cats may have learned that humans reward them for responding to slow blinking. It is also possible that slow blinking in cats began as a way to interrupt an unbroken stare, which is potentially threatening in social interaction.”

What if the blink is a bust?

So you’ve taken this article to heart and spent the past few hours following your cat around blinking at them (don’t worry, we’re not judging), and your cat still won’t show any signs of affection.

Before you start worrying that you’re the one and only person on Earth whose cat really does hate them, check whether you’re doing any of these things to agitate your cat:

  • Hugging, picking them up, or otherwise restricting their movement. Some cats simply aren’t cuddly and putting them into a situation they don’t want to be in may cause them to avoid you. A good rule of thumb is to let them come to you in their own time.
  • Touching their bellies. Remember we mentioned that displaying their bellies is a sign of trust? Well, actually going for their bellies (as inviting as they may be) breaks that trust. Very few cats enjoy having their stomachs petted, and you’re likely to get a handful of scratches if you try.
  • They find your smell unappealing. We’re not saying you need to take a shower, but if your cat has a sudden change in attitude it’s worth checking if any new products (shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant, perfume, etc.) are upsetting their delicate noses.
  • You’re in a bad mood. While we’ve all heard anecdotal stories of people’s pets doting on them when they’re sad, cats are actually less likely to approach you if they can sense you’re upset, stressed, angry, or irritated.

While the slow blink is a great way to show your cats you love them, the best indicator of love is giving your four-legged friend the care (and cover!) they really deserve. Get an obligation-free quote that suits your budget in under 3 minutes!

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