Facial Expressions

The shape of a cat’s face may cloud communication efforts

Researchers in the United Kingdom devised a study to look at the impacts of human selection and animal breeding on animals’ abilities to communicate via facial expressions. They used an analytical technique to understand the impact of breed variation on facial landmarks, such as for those expressing pain.

The researchers found that cats with brachycephalic faces appeared to display more “pain-like” expressions, even though these flat-faced cats were not considered to be in pain. The researchers found this particularly true for Scottish Folds, whose facial features scored higher for pain-like expressions even when compared to domestic shorthair cats that were actually in pain.

There was considerable overlap between pain scores in the domestic shorthair cats “pain” population and the neutral faces of other breeds. This suggests that pain may be more difficult to appreciate via facial expressions in some cats, including Scottish Folds and brachycephalic breeds.n

Front. Vet. Sci., 21 December 2020, https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.606848