Cat lovers everywhere will be overjoyed to hear Lincoln University is set to embark on a project to further our understanding of what cats are trying to tell us.
University researchers have been awarded a grant of nearly £400,000 to map feline facial expressions to better understand when cats are in pain.
A spokesperson for Feline Friends, the Sunderland charity which donated the money, said: “We owe it to our cats to try to achieve this.”
Professor Daniel Mills, a leading veterinary behaviourist at Lincoln university who will be carrying out the research, said: “Cats are often quite independent and they haven’t evolved sophisticated facial communication – so we don’t often realise they’re ill, or in a lot of pain.”
The research will help owners realise when their animals are in pain by using computers to carefully map the numerous expressions cats make.
Professor Mills said: “The project will be about focusing on the emotional impact of suffering for cats.”
It’s hoped by mapping their expressions researchers will be able to understand why your cat is really making that face at you.
According to the Petfood Manufacturers Association survey there were 7.5 million domestic cats in the UK in 2011 and there are an estimated 50 different breeds recognised nationally.
Although Professor Mills didn’t think there would be much difference in facial expression between breeds, he conceded: “Cats facial expressions are very subtle.”
Researchers hope the ambitious project could help to radically improve animal welfare by focusing on the emotional impact of suffering for cats, rather than the more traditional physical method of detecting pain.