What does it mean when a cat winks

What does it mean when a cat winks

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What does it mean when a cat winks at you? Is that just a friendly cat greeting, or is it a sexual invitation?

This question has perplexed cat lovers for centuries, ever since cats learned how to communicate using their sensitive faces. It is the oldest form of flirting in the animal kingdom.

What the eyes can't do, the tongue can: that's how animals communicate — and it's especially true for cats. The ability to use their facial expressions, a skill cats seem to have perfected, is what helped them gain such a large social and reproductive success in the wild.

So, when a cat winks at you, are they just being friendly, or are they asking you out?

Cats are born knowing how to wink

Cats have an amazing talent: they know how to wink.

As a newborn, they're already able to open their eyes, follow their mother's gaze, and move their head around in the blink of an eye — and they use this ability to communicate.

The skill is called 'vocal eyeblink', which is one of a few motor skills cats are born with, says Professor of Neurology at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Fiona Moss.

"Cats are born with this innate, instinctive skill. Other motor behaviours, such as grooming, scratching, and preening are behaviours that they develop over time," she told The Huffington Post.

"But their eyeblink is innate. They know how to wink before they're even born."

As humans, we have been born without this motor skill. This is why it's so much easier for us to be taught how to wink. It's also why so many of us have a hard time remembering what it feels like.

But despite being born without it, we are born with a natural ability to learn to wink, explains Moss.

"Cats are just born knowing how to do it," she said.

"Cats and humans alike have been born with the ability to learn to blink, but cats are able to learn to blink quite easily. Humans are born with different abilities than they learn, but we are born with it."

Dr. Fiona Moss, professor of neurology at the University of Edinburgh. Courtesy of University of Edinburgh

It's not just cats who are born with the ability to blink.

Dr. Moss says it's a motor skill that's unique to our feline friends.

"Our research and other scientists' research has shown that not only are cats born with this skill, but the way they blink is completely different to humans and other animals. Cats and humans are the only animals in the world that blink with the 'closed eyes/open eyes' pattern and cats only blink one eyelid, not both."

While our human counterparts have an almost even split of left to right and right to left blink patterns, cats have one-to-one.

A blink is all it takes to read a cat's facial expressions. Dr. Moss says cats instinctively do this to communicate with each other and it seems to come in handy.

"Cats know where to go and when to leave things alone by just knowing if the other cat is interested or if they're just ignoring them," she said. "They also communicate with another cat by winking."

"Not all cats do this, but as a species it seems to be really useful for cats, and they're born with the skill."

Dr. Fiona Moss explains that cats and humans have several differences in their brains, but there's one that they share.

"We have about 60 billion neurons in our brains," she said. "We are born with the same number of neurons. However, we have about 50 billion connections in our brains and cats have about 65 billion connections in their brains."

But while we learn what not to do, cats learn what not to do. "And that's what we do with our brains, and that's where we differ, we don't go on to change our brain to what we see, what we see, what we see," Dr. Moss said.

And what about cats like Fudge who just can't seem to do the double-blink?

"They are cats, they are just like you, they don't have a problem doing that," Dr. Moss said.

Cats are considered more intelligent than dogs. They use language, they can read body language, and even play chess. But cats are still only one rung on the ladder of mammalian intelligence. Humans take the lead, but they share the planet with all kinds of other mammals, from elephants to whales, and that's where the real intrigue lies.

"We are the only animal that has the ability to reason, to solve problems, to plan, to remember, to dream and all of those things that are so important to us," Dr. Moss said. "And then we're only one part of a whole host of animals that have all of these abilities."

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Watch the video: Cat wink really cute (May 2022).

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