Slow blink eye closure in shelter cats is related to quicker adoption

Tasmin Humphrey*, Faye Stringer, Leanne Proops, Karen McComb*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The process of domestication is likely to have led to the development of adaptive interspecific social abilities in animals. Such abilities are particularly interesting in less gregarious animals, such as cats. One notable social behaviour that cats exhibit in relation to humans is the slow blink sequence, which our previous research suggests can function as a form of positive communication between cats and humans. This behaviour involves the production of successive half blinks followed by either a prolonged narrowing of the eye or an eye closure. The present study investigates how cat (n = 18) slow blink sequences might affect human preferences during the adoption of shelter cats. Our study specifically tested (1) whether cats’ propensity to respond to human-initiated slow blinking was associated with their speed of rehoming from a shelter environment, and (2) whether cats’ anxiety around humans was related to their tendency to slow blink. Our experiments demonstrated that cats that showed an increased number of and longer eye closures in response to human slow blinks were rehomed faster, and that nervous cats, who had been identified as needing desensitisation to humans, tended to spend more time producing slow blink sequences in response to human slow blinks than a non-desensitisation group. Collectively, these results suggest that the cat slow blink sequence is perceived as positive by humans and may have a dual function—occurring in both affiliative and submissive contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2256
Number of pages11
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2020


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