Selective breeding “may have impacted cats’ ability to communicate” – study

According to scientists, the selective breeding of cats may have impacted their ability to communicate effectively through facial expressions.

Flat-faced (brachycephalic) purebred cats with large eyes or “cranky” features are often known to have difficulty breathing, eye problems, and other health issues.

Despite their painful medical issues, these breeds have grown in popularity in recent years, with celebrities like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran fueling the trend.

But in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, researchers also found that these exaggerated characteristics can also negatively affect a cat’s ability to express themselves through their face.

Principal Investigator Dr Lauren Finka, Feline Behavior and Welfare Specialist at the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Our work suggests that the problems associated with breed can not only affect the physical health of cats, but also their communication skills. .

“During the domestication of the cat, we dramatically altered its physical appearance, creating a diverse range of modern cat breeds.

“Our preference for them to have characteristics that we find cute or similar to expressions we recognize in humans – such as kindness, vulnerability, or a cranky, scowling appearance – may have unintentionally disrupted their ability to express themselves and to communicate clearly. “

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed images of nearly 2,000 cat faces, which included popular breeds such as Persian, Bengal, Norwegian Forest, Egyptian Mau, Devon Rex and Scottish Fold.

They found that many flat-faced breeds appeared to display more “painful” expressions, although they were not considered distressed, compared to those with more proportioned features (mesocephali) and elongated faces (dolichocephali). .

For example, the researchers said Scottish Folds facial features scored higher for painful expressions, compared to domestic shorthair cats who were actually in pain.

Dr Finka added, “Many cat owners will be aware of the different facial expressions their cats display and that these expressions can change depending on the cat’s needs or how they are feeling.

“Our results suggest that at the species level, these signals may be disturbed; if certain breeds have been inadvertently selected to appear cranky or in pain, we might be motivated to take care of these cats or give them more attention than they would like, or conversely, be unable to say when they might actually be in pain and need our help.

“Cats can also have difficulty communicating with each other, which can lead to increased conflict in multi-cat homes. “


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Jeanetta J. Stewart

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