Some cats are so cute you can't tell how they're feeling

For decades, people have selectively bred cats and dogs to show exaggerated features – especially in their faces. When it comes to cats, the very flat, round faces of the modern Persian and exotic shorthair are classic examples. These breeds are likely the result of humans’ preference for infantile traits that can appear directlyUse our nurturing instincts.

While it may be cute for humans to look at, animals have various disadvantages when it comes to looking like that. These flat-faced features, known as “brachycephalic,” are usually associated with a very shortened snout, narrowed airways, excessive skin folding, and shallow eye sockets. This can also cause all sorts of health problems Difficulty breathing and in dogs an increased risk of fatal conditions like heatstroke.

Health problems aren’t the only difficulties these traits can cause, however. in the a new studyMy colleagues and I have shown that breeding these exaggerated traits can negatively impact animals’ ability to communicate and express themselves effectively.

Cats’ facial expressions can change depending on how they feel. Their faces can look different depending on whether they are afraid, frustrated or in Pain, for example. However, drastic changes in the underlying facial structure can affect the clarity of their expression.

After analyzing images of nearly 2,000 cat faces, we found that brachycephalic face types displayed more “pain-like” expressions, although these flat-faced cats were not considered painful. This was particularly the case with Scottish Folds, whose facial features performed better on pain-like expressions even compared to short-haired domestic cats who were actually in pain.

Additionally, there are huge racial differences when it comes to it the shape of their faces – For example, the Siamese and Abyssinians have more narrowed, elongated, or “dolichocephalic” faces compared to both brachycephalic cats and the more proportioned or “mesocephalic” faces of short hairs. We found that the positions of viewpoints that are known to change position during different expressions only vary significantly by breed of cat, even when their faces are in a “neutral” position. Effective communication problems therefore cannot only affect flat-faced cats.

These results show that we are attracted not only to animal faces that look cute or childlike, but also potentially to faces that are more vulnerable, injured, or in distress. Unfortunately for our pets, this means that we may continue to prefer – and even encourage – the existence of breeds with serious health problems who may also have difficulty communicating with us and possibly other animals.

Such individuals may get more attention from us than they would prefer because their appearance motivates us to want to care for them. Likewise, we can also miss when they are actually in pain because we may not be able to tell the difference from their usual appearance. In such cases, it may be better to try to understand how our pets feel because of their behavior or posture than because of their faces.

However, this may also be problematic as we have changed many other physical characteristics of our pets, such as: B. their general height and shape and the length of their limbs and tails. These problems are unlikely to be limited to cats only, as other domesticated species, especially dogs, will emerge similar types of selection for extreme properties.

Choosing a cat

The value of companionship with pets has never been so great. Responsible and regulated sources for acquiring pets, such as rehab centers and registered breeders, have been inundated with new research throughout the pandemic.

But with longer waiting lists than usual and a large percentage of owners who admit it Impulse buying your new petsMany people may have sourced their new companions from less reputable sources such as puppy or kitten farms.

The prices for kittens and especially puppies remain at a bonusThis paves the way for an increase in these types of disreputable but extremely lucrative breeding practices that meet the high demands placed on designer pets.

Our research shows that people should think carefully before choosing a particular breed of cat or dog. When buying a pet from a breeder, make sure that the breed you want does not usually suffer from chronic health problems, and choose the breeder carefully.

From a communication standpoint, it can be a good idea to avoid buying breeds with severely exaggerated traits, including very flattened or elongated faces – but also miniature breeds, e.g. B. with shortened legs or without a tail. It is important for people who already own a breed with such traits to be aware of the potential problems they face when interacting with other animals, and how we may also have difficulty getting their behavior and expressions right to interpret.

Lauren Finka, Postdoc, Nottingham Trent University

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.

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