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You think you understand your cat's meows ? You're wrong

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If cats cannot speak, despite the emergence of an animal language translator based on artificial intelligence, they use several signals to make themselves understood by humans. But it is often complicated to really decipher them. And if you think you understand your feline's meows or purrs, a new French study shows the opposite.

Last month, French researchers published a new study in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science. As its name suggests, this journal is interested in the behavior of domestic animals. So this new study proves that many people have difficulty detecting the signs of an unhappy cat.

Cat meows are often misinterpreted

You think you know your cat well ? That's not so sure… For their new study, French researchers surveyed 630 participants online. They made them watch 24 videos of cats, with various behaviors. Thus, a third of the participants were unable to read the signals of an unhappy cat and nearly 10% of them were able to spot happy cats.

To make themselves understood, cats use several signals: vocal and visual. They can meow, purr, hiss, growl or even hiss. As for visual signs, the cat may have its tail erect or wag it, it may also rub against you or even flatten its ears. In short, there is a whole world of communication.

For this study, the researchers presented videos with cats communicating only verbally. Other videos showed cats using only visual signals to make themselves understood. The last third of the videos presented was a mixture of two. As Charlotte de Mouzon, lead author of the study and expert in animal behavior at Paris Nanterre University, points out, this is the first time that researchers are interested in signals that are both visual and sounds in the context of communication between humans and cats.

It seems that humans are generally biased when it comes to reading about their pets. Since we want them to be comfortable around us, we tend to want to see positive signs. Even when that’s not necessarily the case.

For example, the purring of your adorable feline can be misinterpreted. While purring is often associated with an indicator of comfort for your companion, cats can sometimes purr when they are stressed or in an uncomfortable situation. By purring, they seek to self-soothe.

It's the same thing for dogs: wagging their tails doesn't always mean they're happy. You need to look more carefully: does it wag more to the right or left, how quickly does it wag its tail? In some cases, this can be a warning sign of 'aggression.

Studies like the one published last month in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science make it possible to better understand our four-legged companions. Animal shelters can rely on such studies to educate future owners and strengthen the relationship between humans and animals.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116