File this under “Things That Make You Go Duh!” — scientists have finally come to the conclusion that the “slow blink” is a form of cat communication. As if any of you reading this didn’t know before — and haven’t been doing it for years. In fact, my human has known about it for a couple of decades.
Of course, it didn’t occur to the scientific community to look into this until recently. It was a team of psychologists from the Universities of Portsmouth and Sussex that put together the study. They published the results in nature.com’s scientific reports.
The experiment was done in two parts — one with cats and their humans, and one with the cats and a stranger (one of the researchers). The first part involved 21 cats from 14 households, and the second part included 24 additional cats. The findings were as follows:
- Cats slow blink at their humans most often when the humans slow blink at them first.
- When the stranger slow blinked at the cat, the cat would likely slow blink back.
- If the researcher held out a hand after slow blinking with a cat, the cat was more likely to accept the friendly solicitation than a stranger with a neutral expression.
While these results surprise no one, at least now there’s a paper about slow blinking! Just so you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time reading this, here are some pro tips for slow blinking with your cat.
- Take a slow, relaxing breath before slow blinking. If you can put yourself into a sort of zen state before doing it, you will be in the optimum frame of mind.
- You don’t have to smile with your mouth, but it helps if you smile with your heart.
- The blink should be deliberate. The first time my human read about doing it was in the first edition of Anitra Frazier’s The Natural Cat (Amazon affiliate link). It was explained as a slow, three-part “I love you.” I: you look at the cat; love: you blink; you: you open your eyes.
- When you finish the blink, glance away. Continuing to stare is rude in cat language.
- If the cat blinks back, that’s ideal. But that doesn’t mean you should immediately go up to the cat and pick her up, pester her, or stick your hand in her face. Sometimes the greeting is nice enough. If you do want to see if you can have more interaction, hold out your hand passively. If the cat wants more, she will let you know.
I hope you enjoyed my tips! If you have any to add, or if you want to share some slow blink experiences, feel free to do so in the comments below.