Crazy cat faces may have made Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Colonel Meow internet sensations, but a new study speculates facial expressions do not help homeless cats find forever families. The study, published in the journal, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, says kitties boosted their chances of adoption by rubbing on toys and furniture in their cages in front of potential adopters.
A 2013 study of homeless dogs showed that pooches who raised their eyebrows more frequently were adopted more quickly than dogs who were less facially expressive. Dogs who raised their eyebrows 20 times in front of a prospective family went home with them more frequently. Researchers believe the dogs with raised eyebrows looked more puppy-like. And who can resist a puppy?
Building on the canine research, three British scientists conducted a similar study using the Cat Facial Action Coding System. Researchers us a similar system in primate behavior research. They coded facial movements, ear movements, and the use of the tongue, lips, nose, eyelids, pupils, body and tail. The study involved 106 cats in three different United Kingdom animal shelters.
Surprisingly, the facially expressive homeless cats didn’t get adopted any sooner than their less expressive counterparts; people selected the cats who rubbed more during their first encounter.
The study also claims neither coat color nor age affected the decision to adopt. Really? I take issue with that conclusion. Huge issue. Here in The Colonies, older cats and black cats are regularly ignored in favor of younger or more colorful kitties. Here, black cats and kittens are the last adopted, I believe because of a combination fear of black cats with bad luck and because you can’t see their faces inside a cage. The Brits associate black cats with good luck, so they are actually more desirable. Also I simply can’t believe there is no age discrimination (kittens vs. seniors) in England. If the English don’t favor kittens over adults, I need to talk to someone across the Pond. Maybe we can up our older cat adoptions.
Still, take away what you will. Maybe spraying Comfort Zone with Feliway inside adoption cages will encourage facial marking, making hard-to-adopt homeless cats more desirable. Shelter workers, let me know if it helps.
What do you think? Please share your comments in the box below my bio.
About Dusty Rainbolt
Author Dusty Rainbolt is an award-winning veterinary journalist according to her answering machine. She is an associate certified cat behavior consultant and member of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, as well as past president of the Cat Writers’ Association. Her books, columns, reviews and articles have been honored with more than 50 writing awards including three-time recipient of Friskies Writer of the Year. Her just-released award-winning cat behavior book, Cat Scene Investigator: Solve Your Cat’s Litter Box Mystery, is the consummate guide for dealing with a cat who sidesteps his/her appointed toilet. CSI, which provides science-based methods for determining the medical or behavioral causes of feline inappropriate elimination, teaches cat parents to view their cat’s litter box avoidance through the eyes of a detective to determine the cause and, ultimately, the remedy.