Dogs we get, mostly because they are so easy to get. They have expressive faces and body language that we can read pretty accurately, according to researchers who study animal behavior. Cats, on the other hand, are known for their emotional opaqueness and standoffishness; even the cat-ladiest of cat ladies might think that their pets don’t seem altogether interested in communicating with them, as long as the food arrives on time.
But that’s probably not entirely accurate, say the researchers who study cat-human communication — and, yes, this is a real field of scientific study, albeit a small one. Deciphering meaning in the behaviors of pets — meaning that went much beyond feed me now, anyway — was once dismissed as mere anthropomorphism, but that’s no longer the consensus among this community of researchers.
Rather, there’s a growing belief that cats are as expressive as dogs, argues Sharon Crowell-Davis, a professor of veterinary behavior at the University of Georgia, who recently gave a presentation on the subject at a conference for cat behaviorists in Atlanta. It’s just that we misunderstand or don’t see what they’re trying to communicate. (continue reading)