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Want Better Rapport With Your Cat? Bat Your Eyes | Health News

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter


TUESDAY, Oct. 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) — When it comes to bonding with your cat, the eyes have it.

Narrowing your eyes — the so-called “slow blink” — may make humans more attractive to their feline friends, British researchers suggest. It also may make kitty smile back.

“As someone who has both studied animal behavior and is a cat owner, it’s great to be able to show that cats and humans can communicate in this way. It’s something that many cat owners had already suspected, so it’s exciting to have found evidence for it,” said Karen McComb. She studies animal behavior at the University of Sussex School of Psychology in the United Kingdom.

McComb said the study is the first to investigate the role of slow blinking in communication between people and cats.

It’s easy: Just narrow your eyes as you would in a relaxed smile, then close your eyes for a couple of seconds. “You’ll find they respond in the same way themselves and you can start a sort of conversation,” she said in a university news release.

In one experiment, the researchers found that cats are more likely to slow blink after their owners have slow blinked at them, compared with when they don’t interact at all.

In a second experiment, cats were more likely to approach a researcher’s outstretched hand after the researcher had slow blinked than when he or she had a neutral expression.

According to study co-author Tasmin Humphrey, a doctoral student, “Understanding positive ways in which cats and humans interact can enhance public understanding of cats, improve feline welfare, and tell us more about the socio-cognitive abilities of this understudied species. Our findings could potentially be used to assess the welfare of cats in a variety of settings, including veterinary practices and shelters.”

But why do cats behave this way?

Humphrey offered a theory: “Cats may have learned that humans reward them for responding to slow blinking. It is also possible that slow blinking in cats began as a way to interrupt an unbroken stare, which is potentially threatening in social interaction.”

The findings were published online Oct. 7 in the journal Scientific Reports.

Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Death of cat with coronavirus in Alabama being investigated

Alabama officials are investigating following the death of a cat that tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI) are leading the investigation, according to a news release from the health department. 

The cat, from Opelika, Ala., first tested positive for COVID-19, at The Thompson Bishop Sparks State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Auburn. 

However, “the laboratory veterinary pathologists found significant lesions in the nervous system that typically indicates bacterial infections, suggesting that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was NOT the primary cause of death,” officials said. 


The National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) was then sent additional samples, later confirming that the cat was indeed positive for the novel virus. 

Public health veterinarians with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “have found that in nearly all animal deaths associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the animals had multiple infections or had underlying health issues at the same time. Thus far, less than 10 animal deaths in the U.S. are thought to have been associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” per officials. 

“There is still a lot we just don’t know about how frequently animals become infected, so this has been an opportunity for us to gather information that might help us prevent more infections in companion animals,” said Dr. Dee W. Jones, state public health veterinarian, in a statement. 

“We’re working with the local veterinarian and the owner to gather more information about the animal’s medical history as well as other companion animals in the household. However, at this time during the pandemic, companion animals don’t seem to be at risk from suffering severe illness with the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he added. 

Since the pandemic began, there have been various reports of cats — both domestic and wild — contracting the virus from humans. A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, for instance, tested positive for the coronavirus in early April after likely being exposed to it by an infected worker. Then, later that same month, two cats in New York became the first pets in the U.S. to test positive.


However,  at this time, experts have maintained that there is limited evidence to suggests pets can spread the virus to humans. Indeed, “SARS-CoV-2 cases in animals are thought to be very rare, and have primarily occurred 5 to 10 days following exposure to a positive human,” Alabama health officials said. 

The CDC offers guidance to pet owners amid the pandemic, advising any sick owners to “restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people” until COVID-19 is better understood.

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